Global market: American ag remains strong while facing hardships
Lusk – Ag News Daily Founder Delaney Howell discussed “American Ag in a Global Market” during the Wyoming Agriculture Bankers Conference on May 11. Howell acknowledged the disconnect between Washington D.C. and America’s farmers and ranchers.
“It’s very evident [lawmakers] don’t always know what they’re talking about when it comes to ag practices,” she said. “They have no idea how the legislation is impacting us in rural America.”
Howell also shared her thoughts on moving forward and how to be profitable during times of record-setting input costs and inflation.
“Farmers have the ability this year to produce as much as they possibly can because there will be a market place for it,” she said. “This year is the year to make money and be profitable in U.S. agriculture.”
Howell said COVID-19 shifted consumers’ tastes and preferences. U.S. citizens began to seek out trusted products during this time of uncertainty.
Pre-COVID-19, the U.S. was being introduced to alternative meats and dairy products, and people were being told alternative proteins were safer for the environment and better for their health, said Howell.
She mentioned people went “back to the basics” when it came to grocery shopping and protein markets soared during COVID-19.
“We saw meat sales accelerate extremely quickly,” she said. “Beef, turkey, chicken, deli meat – all of these different proteins prior to COVID-19 – had normal to average sales, then we hit COVID-19 and grocery store shelves were empty. We saw an interesting shift in consumer taste and preferences.”
“Post-COVID-19 and during COVID-19, we saw consumers shift back to buying proteins they knew were safe and reliable to feed their families,” she continued
Not only did demand for meat soar in the U.S., the demand for U.S. beef was seen across the global market. The U.S. Meat Export Federation reported beef exports were up 42 percent in 2021, Howell said.
“A lot of other countries were needing to buy high-quality U.S. protein because they had their own supply chain issues,” she said.
Supply chain issues
COVID-19, worker strikes and natural disasters damaged the supply chain during 2020 and 2021, said Howell.
“A lot happened in the food, fiber and ag sector, which contributed to some supply chain issues we see today,” she said.
Howell acknowledged the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying the invasion is leaving everyone wondering what will be planted and exported out of those countries this year.
“We have theoretically fixed some COVID-19 supply chain issues, yet here we are in the middle of 2022, heading into the key growing season for a lot of countries, and we still have a lot of questions,” she said.
Howell referred to Ukraine as a “bread basket,” referencing the fertile soil and the amount of people Ukraine is able to feed. She said Ukraine is globally ranked first in sunflower seed production, sixth in corn and barley production, seventh in rapeseed and nineth in wheat and soybean production.
“Ukraine is a really productive ag country,” she said.
Howell is concerned, even if Ukraine gets everything planted this year, they may not be able to export the products out of the country.
“A lot of areas with key production are close to Russia, so the areas getting attacked are some of the most key growing areas,” she said.
Ukrainian farmers are reportedly finding missiles, bombs and soldiers in their fields, but even though their land is war-stricken, the planting season continues, said Howell.
“They’re still continuing to farm – their families depend on it,” she said. “Some are wearing bulletproof vests to plant. They’re doing all they can to make sure this year’s crop goes in the ground, but there are factors they can’t control.”
She is expecting Ukraine and Russia to export significantly lower amounts this year than in the past.
“Famine is starting to come to light because of issues like this,” Howell warned. “This year is the time for U.S. farmers and ranchers to produce as much as they possibly can, knowing shortages are coming.”
Howell mentioned she’s concerned with the increasing disconnect between Washington D.C. lawmakers and rural America.
“It’s harder to get things passed in Congress,” she said. “Not only are we dividing politically, but we are also seeing more diversity in elected officials.”
Howell mentioned difficulties emerge when Congress members don’t come from an ag background or have any experience with ag.
“All of these different people, with different backgrounds and experiences, are coming together to enact legislation,” she said. “They’re enacting legislation for a rural America they have never even set foot on.”
Howell mentioned the 2023 Farm Bill is a major concern. She said the majority of the 2018 Farm Bill’s budget is dedicated towards nutritional programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, with only about 25 percent of the budget aimed towards assisting farmers and ranchers.
“A lot of politicians say we need to be able to feed people, focus more on nutrition programs and ultimately they have a limited budget to work with,” she said. “Where is the money going to come from?”
She is hopeful the 2023 Farm Bill will better represent farmers and ranchers and include their needs.
“The 2023 Farm Bill isn’t set in stone, but it’s very clear there are things changing, shifting and happening, and we in ag will have to take the hand of cards dealt to us,” she said. “We can’t control the things going on in Washington D.C., but we can be aware of those issues and plan ahead,” she said.
Room for growth
Howell acknowledged the slow start to this year’s planting season due to the wet spring in the North and the drought in the West.
“Everyone wants to be able to produce as much as they can, but Mother Nature may have different plans,” she said.
The uncertainty of Ukraine and Russian exports gives reason for U.S. farmers and ranchers to produce more than ever.
“It does provide a lot of opportunity for ag – to be able to plant, grow and raise as much food and fiber we can this year, because the market is going to demand it at some point in time,” she said.
The future of ag holds new opportunities, advanced technology and a younger generation, Howell said.
“We see diversification in the types of crops we are growing. We are seeing the shift in a farmer’s mindset – farmers are doing more with less,” she said. “We are also seeing a lot of cool technology – driverless combines and sprayers.”
Howell said this mindset of accepting change and willingness to advance will help farmers and ranchers find success during challenging times.
“We have to see farmers do more with less, we won’t be getting anything more from Congress anytime soon,” she said.
As farmers and ranchers continue to battle with inflation, input costs, natural disasters and other challenges, Howell said it’s important for producers to consider what to focus their attention and energy on.
“There are a lot of things we can’t change, so let’s focus on what we can change,” she said.
Kaitlyn Root is an editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.