Double U Trouble

The “it’s the economy, stupid” discussion continues this week, largely because of the testimony of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Speaking before Congress last week, Bernanke uttered the following phrase when answering a question about the health of the U.S. economy.

“Even as the Federal Reserve continues prudent planning for the ultimate withdrawal of monetary policy accommodation, we also recognize that the economic outlook remains unusually uncertain,” he said in a prepared statement. Naturally, these last two “u” words sent the stock market into a freefall and confirmed fears that the danger of a double-dip recession is more real than ever.

Back in the agricultural world, the mood isn’t nearly as glum. As I wrote in my column a few weeks back, agriculture seems to be weathering the economic storm pretty well. From what folks I’ve talked with have said, money is being spent by grower-customers, crop inputs are moving out into the field, and custom application work is brisk. Despite some drought and flooding in the Midwest, the nation’s corn and soybean crops seems like they are on pace for a strong harvest year. This was particularly true during my recent visit to Maryland and Eastern Pennsylvania, where most of the corn and soybeans I saw were a healthy shade of green.

However, ag suppliers are still very, very cautious. While on my trip, I visited two companies that cater to the ag retail marketplace – one in construction and one in manufacturing. Both reported having good sales during 2010, at least compared with the inactivity that plagued the whole industry in late 2008 and 2009. But both longed for the giddy days of 2006 and 2007, when orders poured in with little or no marketing effort.

“Yes, customers are buying from us this year vs. last year,” said one marketing manager. “But they aren’t just buying to buy new like they did a few years ago. Now, they are being very selective about what they buy, performing much due diligence before making the decision to place an order.”

If this is the new normal in ag retail, I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing. Being historically cautious has been a hallmark of agriculture for hundreds of years, especially when a one-day severe storm or natural disaster can wipe out months of effort. For one thing, this is making suppliers plan better and work harder to capture market dollars. Looking at this year’s equipment show line-ups, I’ve been amazed at the number of new product offerings being launched for the 2011 season. It seems as if nothing spurs innovation like a little market caution.

In conclusion, I would describe the state of agriculture as anything but unusually uncertain. Things may be unusual in 2010 compared with the past, but they are far from uncertain.

Leave a Reply

Latest News
Crop Protection Products in storage
Crop InputsNewsweek: World Is ‘Awash In Glyphosate’
February 11, 2016
The world is awash in glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, produced by Monsanto. It has now become Read More
Crop InputsEPA: Let’s Talk Imidacloprid, Bees On February 18
February 11, 2016
EPA will hold an online technical briefing on its preliminary pollinator risk assessment for imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid insecticide, on Feb. Read More
ManagementThe latest on Syngenta-ChemChina Deal
February 11, 2016
Executive Editor Paul Schrimpf invites Jackie Pucci and Dave Frabotta from sister publication AgriBusiness Global to discuss the latest developments Read More
AdjuvantsUniversity of Illinois Confirms Adjuvant’s Perfor…
February 11, 2016
An independent University of Illinois study has shown that WETCIT adjuvant, now with TransPhloem technology, provides greater herbicide uptake and Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta’s Acuron Flexi Receives EPA Approval
February 11, 2016
Growers looking to control their toughest weeds with flexibility will have access to Acuron Flexi corn herbicide from Syngenta, now Read More
EquipmentAGCO Showcases White Planters 9800VE Series Planters AT…
February 11, 2016
AGCO unveiled the new White Planters 9800VE Series planter during the 2016 National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, KY. The Read More
EquipmentCase Unveils 2000 Series Early Riser Planter At NFMS
February 10, 2016
Case IH revealed the all-new 2000 Series Early Riser planter to media and attendees at the opening of the National Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsSyngenta: Keep Ag In Mind During Election Season
February 10, 2016
As presidential candidates stake out their 2016 election platforms and key priorities, growers and their business partners should seek opportunities Read More
Crop InputsMarrone Bio Innovations Submits New Bio-Fungicide For E…
February 9, 2016
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. (MBI) today announced that it has submitted a new biological fungicide (MBI-110) to EPA. The broad spectrum Read More
Crop InputsWeed Expert: Adding A Second Herbicide Not Always Easy
February 9, 2016
In my last post, I reviewed some recent research that suggests one of the best ways to delay the evolution Read More
Crop InputsGenetic Literacy Project: Farmers Need More Herbicide C…
February 9, 2016
There are two things that I think just about every weed scientist can agree on, writes Andrew Kniss for The Read More
HerbicidesWeed Expert Warns North Dakota Growers Of Coming Herbic…
February 9, 2016
Ford Baldwin painted a bleak picture of weed control at a recent workshop here exploring the future of ag production, Read More
HerbicidesWSSA Announces New, Updated Free Web Resources
February 9, 2016
Today the Weed Science Society of American (WSSA) announced that new and updated educational materials for both weed scientists and Read More
Soybean field
FungicidesFour Arysta Fungicide Formulations Given FIFRA Approval…
February 8, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the issuance of Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 2(ee) Recommendations for Read More
FungicidesAgri-Fos Systemic Fungicide Plus Receives EPA Registrat…
February 8, 2016
Vivid Life Sciences has announced the EPA registration of Agri-Fos Systemic Fungicide Plus, a highly concentrated active ingredient phosphite fungicide, Read More
Crop InputsBayer Contests EPA’s Decision On Valuable Insecticide F…
February 5, 2016
Crop Science, a division of Bayer, has announced it has refused a request by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to Read More
Wheat Field North Dakota
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Wins Seed Fraud Suit Against South Dakota Grow…
February 5, 2016
Syngenta has obtained a $25,000 settlement from Paul and John Mayclin, Mayclin Farms, Plankinton, SD, in response to their Plant Read More
ManagementOABA Annual Conference Wraps Up In Columbus
February 5, 2016
More than 300 Ohio AgriBusiness Association (OABA) members and industry professionals were on hand to engage in collaborative learning and Read More