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Agriculture’s 2023 trajectory is up to you and me

As I write this, another blizzard is sweeping through South Dakota. We’ve prepped as best as we can. The cattle are fed. Wind breaks have been positioned in all the right places. Bedding has been laid. Waterers checked. And now we hunker down waiting for the storm to pass.

Warming up in front of the fire with the kids on my lap, I got to thinking about what’s ahead for 2023. I don’t have a magic ball to know what challenges will be thrown our way, but I’ve always been the type to try to plan and prepare for anything that might come our way.

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that our lives can be turned upside down in an instant, so some level of readiness is not a bad idea.

What’s on the agenda for 2023? I’m making my predictions here, and I would love to hear your thoughts on what you would add.

For starters, while this blizzard is on my mind — weather will be a huge factor on our food supply. In the last 12 months, we have seen flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, and derechos. While these are normal weather patterns, what these storms have revealed is the vulnerabilities in our critical infrastructures. 

As an example, last year, one freak storm in Texas was able to wipe out the state’s power grid. The winter storm that swept across the nation over Christmas left many stranded and without electricity. Other weather events knocked out the water supply in some areas for days. The essentials of life should not be taken for granted, and I think bolstering up our food, fuel, and water supply should be a top discussion for our nation’s security and prosperity. 

In the food and agricultural space, interest rates will become a growing concern for producers. If you’re old enough, you remember or lived through the horror stories of the 1980s, when many producers lost it all due to sky high interest rates. 

Although I don’t think we are headed in that drastic of a direction, the Federal Reserve’s actions in 2023 will play a huge role in many operations. Couple that with rising prices on land sales, rental rates, and inputs such as fertilizer and seed, and we can all recognize that a spike in interest rate would place a ton of pressure on America’s farmers and ranchers.

In the land of politics, the farm bill will be a focus in 2023, with the current bill set to expire in September. With a change in leadership following the 2022 midterm elections, now is a great time for producers to get on the phone with their elected officials to ensure the agriculture industry’s top priorities are emphasized and fought for in Congress. 

And while much emphasis is placed on what the federal government is doing, state legislatures will also be reconvening soon to discuss proposed bills for the upcoming year. Don’t forget that the closer to home you get, the more leverage and impact you can make. Take some time to get to know your state legislators and pay close attention to what’s happening in your state. 

Meanwhile, “sustainability” is the new buzz word that won’t be going away anytime soon. Farmers and ranchers with boots-on-the-ground knowledge of how to manage the land, water, and natural resources should not stick their noses in the sand on this issue. We need to ensure that our voices are heard, and that discussions on environmental stewardship aren’t hijacked by those who want to strip producers off the land with burdensome and costly regulations. It’s time to hold the line, and celebrate what we do well in agriculture, instead of cow-towing to demands from those who make heavy demands with no skin in the game. 

Also, you better believe that geopolitics will play an impact on the volatility of your operation at home. I’m keeping a watchful eye on the Ukraine and Russia conflict, as well as what China is up to. War-time uncertainties or another pandemic breaking out could wreak havoc on our supply chain and prices, as well as creating huge vulnerabilities for our nation’s citizens.

Finally, rising food and fuel prices have impacted the American people greatly. The chasm between the “haves” and “have nots” continues to widen, and as the middle class continues to shrink, we need to be mindful that there are more people experiencing food insecurity during these uncertain times. I don’t believe our politicians are part of the solution. Instead, I am placing my faith that those of us in rural America — who provide the essentials of life — hold the solutions to ensuring everyone has access to safe and affordable food in this country.

We have plenty of work to do in 2023. We may be tired from the last couple of years, but it’s time to pull on our mud boots and wade right in it. The future of agriculture and our nation’s food security is up to us. Let’s get to work. 

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