As I (and others) have written in recent months, the nation has just experienced one of the most offbeat election years ever. Many beliefs from years past were upended in the process, including conventional wisdom, pre-event poll results, and long-held historic norms. So why should the agricultural marketplace be any different?
As I mentioned in last week’s column, the annual Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) meeting usually serves as a great venue to talk with the nation’s largest ag retailers. And since the meeting typically takes place within the last month of a given year, it normally serves as a great place to figure out which direction everyone believes the upcoming agricultural year will go: up, down, or remain stuck in place. Generally, after I attend this event, I have a pretty good handle on which trend seems likely to drive the market going forward.
But not this year.
Over the course of this year’s three-day ARA event, I had the chance to speak with dozens of ag retailers, asking all of them how they thought 2017 would play out for agriculture financially given what’s taken place in 2015 and 2016. The results were dead even, with one-third expecting a better year financially in 2017, one-third expecting a worse year, and one-third believing that things would remain exactly where they were this year.
For every “we had much stronger fertilizer demand this fall than I expected” I heard, there was a “we had much slower fertilizer demand than I expected” or an “our fertilizer demand was definitely flat.” This situation held true no matter what crop input/service area being discussed, from crop protection product demand to seed sales to requests (or lack thereof) for custom application work.
So what kind of year will 2017 turn out to be for agriculture? At this point, based upon what I heard over and over again at the 2016 ARA meeting, I can only offer two words of wisdom: Stay tuned . . .