Ag group reflects on 2020 and looks ahead

An uptick in major commodity prices provided one farm organization with measured optimism heading into 2021.

Various speakers provided insight about their expectations of President-elect Joe Biden and a new Congress in January, during the recent annual Kansas Farm Bureau convention Dec. 3 to 5. All of the speakers noted that 2021 will mean new opportunities and challenges as work begins on a 2023 farm bill. They noted that climate change in particular will likely be discussed more than it has in the past four years under President Donald Trump.

Andrew Walmsley, director of congressional relations with the American Farm Bureau, said that climate change is not a new issue as 10 years ago it became a major topic, although agriculture was not brought into the mix early on. He expects that if Congress seeks climate legislation, it will include much more input from agricultural organizations and those organizations, including the AFBF, have forged a broad-based alliance.

While much of the early discussion will be on the environment with a Biden administration and may play a part in the next farm bill, Walmsley expects that many popular components of the current farm bill will remain in place, including crop insurance.

Matt Hines from Loewen and Associates, Manhattan, Kansas, and Tom Leffler of Leffler Commodities LLC, Augusta, Kansas, both liked the uptick in commodity prices for High Plains crops and livestock in the final quarter of 2020. For example, sorghum was one of the most profitable commodities in recent months.

“We had an excellent milo crop,” Leffler said. Usage and exports led to positive pricing opportunities. “We had good yields and over $1 a bushel over corn.”

Although the spread has come down some, there is still a good margin.

“There is still an opportunity to lock in a higher price,” he said while noting it is off its recent peak. “You have an opportunity. Do not wait to place an order. All of it depends on China. No one saw this coming down the pike.”

Hines also noted that wheat has also seen a nice increase in price.

Hines offered similar advice on those commodities and corn and soybeans. He said market signals are likely to indicate producers will plant more sorghum in 2021.

They agreed that this winter will be one for producers to pay attention to the global scene, and one of the unknowns each year is trying to estimate planted acres for each crop. “What changes acres more than anything else? Mother Nature,” Leffler said.

The traders said livestock producers need to focus on their cost of gain and opportunity, regardless of the sector they serve.

“There is a cost to everything,” Hines said, which puts the onus on each producer to know his bottom line expenses so he can calculate his own risks.

Keynote speaker Vance Crowe, director of communications at Articulate Ventures LLC, St. Louis, Missouri, encouraged farmers and ranchers to not adopt a “read only” culture that does not allow for dialogue and from a practical standpoint, “Read only cultures cannot be passed on.”

Crowe was the former director of millennial engagement for Monsanto.

Producers need to be good listeners and interact with people who may at first seem to be opponents. Dialogue is an opportunity to share information and that is beneficial for all sides. He said always try to learn from an argument to gain insight into another person’s perspective.

He predicts that Americans will continue to look closer at what free social media really means to them and they are quickly learning it is designed to sell goods and services. He expects more people to sign up for subscription-based services. Those services can provide an outlet for farmers and ranchers to learn and ask questions. Instead of “unfriending” people growers can ask questions and learn without having to tolerate emotional venting that free social media often thrives on.

Also during the recent convention, Montgomery County farmer Rich Felts was re-elected as president. Others elected to the board of directors included George Pretz, Miami County; Steven McCloud, Harvey County; Doug Zillinger, Phillips County; Joe Jury, Gray County; and Kevin Holle, Rawlins County.

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A townhall meeting was conducted with members of the state’s congressional delegation, including Sen. Jerry Moran, Sen.-elect Roger Marshall; Rep. Sharice Davis and Reps.-elect Tracey Mann and Jake LaTurner. The KFB also honored Sen. Pat Roberts for his decades of service to Kansans, especially his dedication to ensuring farmers and ranchers had their voices heard in Washington, D.C.

This was the 102nd annual meeting. County Farm Bureaus and volunteers were recognized for their 2020 achievements.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].