3 Predictions for 2021 and How They’ll Impact Agriculture

Welcome to another New Year, 2021! Given how things ultimately played out for much of the world during 2020, I’m sure not many people across the globe are all that sorry last year finally ended.

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So, with 2020 over, what can the agricultural marketplace expect to happen in this brand new year? Throughout January, we will post various stories looking at just this question, reviewing what might happen for many of the crop input sectors and the industry as a whole. In that spirit, this column offers up some of my own predictions for how 2021 will end up.

A Better Year Ahead. Kicking off my predictions, let’s start with the 40,000-foot view — how will 2021 perform for agriculture compared with prior years? To figure this out, consider the findings from the 2020 CropLife 100 survey of the nation’s top ag retailers. On the survey, we asked respondents to tell us how they would rank their business optimism for the upcoming growing season. This is done by assigning a number to their level of confidence in the year ahead — one being the lowest and 10 being the highest. In most years, the majority of ag retailers generally fall somewhere in the middle range, rating the upcoming year between a four and six on a scale of one to 10.

This doesn’t seem to be the case for 2021, however. According to the survey, 68% of respondents rate their level of business optimism for this year between a seven and a 10. The middle range, four to six, was chosen by only 28% of respondents. The remaining 4% thought the year would rate between a one and three. Perhaps most significantly, five ag retailers rated their outlook for 2021 as a perfect 10 — something that’s never happened in the more than 20 years I’ve overseen our CropLife 100 survey results!

In-Person Events Will Return. Throughout most of 2020, in-person trade shows and conferences were either cancelled outright or “went virtual” to curb the potential spread of COVID-19. Now that several vaccines seem to be on the way, I would anticipate in-person events to begin again appearing on many calendars, perhaps as early as late June, but certainly by September. And I further expect these returned shows/conferences to break previous attendance records in the process!

“Piling On” Glyphosate Will Continue. When news first broke of Bayer reaching a settlement to eliminate most of the pending litigation concerning glyphosate in 2020, I thought perhaps things would finally settle down for the world’s most popular herbicide. But I was wrong.

Since that time, countries such as Mexico and France have announced plans to “phase out” glyphosate use, following the examples of places like Germany and Vietnam. Then, in late November, the EPA released a report saying that more than 90% of endangered species are “likely to be adversely affected” by the use of glyphosate (though mostly through non-agricultural uses).

So, it appears that glyphosate will continue to be the “go-to whipping boy” despite high-profile court cases no longer being a key driver for its critics.

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