April 16, 2021

DrKohl_color The Ag Globe Trotter

Dr. Dave M. Kohl

Welcome to the weekly edition of The Ag Globe Trotter by Dr. Dave Kohl.


Who would have known that my flight out of Kansas City and a stay at the Kansas City Airport Marriott would be my last airline trip and hotel stay for a year? Driving to the Kansas City Airport on that full moon evening for an early morning flight while listening to the NCAA basketball tournament, I could not have imagined being shut down for one whole year. Let's reflect on what did and did not happen over the past year.

Fortunately, educational events did not come to an end. My team and I have done over 175 webinars, discussion forums and podcasts in the past year. Late nights of traveling and being stuck in inclement weather have been replaced by technology driven sessions with the occasional technology glitch. Last fall, I moderated a panel for an agricultural lender group comprised of farmers who were in their combines. More lenders are inviting producers to educational events while they are in their homes or at watch parties with other agriculture producers.

In April 2020, farm incomes looked tenuous at best, but they ended up the year in the range of returns during the great commodity super cycle one decade ago, particularly on the grain side. The livestock side found pressure in supply, marketing and processing which resulted in disruption and allowed the non-meat and non-dairy alternatives to gain a foothold. Government stimulus checks were pure profit with no cost. Others received household and unemployment checks that boosted their finances. Producers in the niche and value-added markets found new opportunities to reach consumers. A general appreciation for the importance of agriculture was enhanced as we saw empty grocery store shelves. 

You may have a new neighbor from an urban area attempting to relocate. Access to high-speed internet to allow for working from home and virtual learning is critical for those relocating to rural areas. 

In the past year, some have cut the cord to main stream and social media. Others have found solace by spending more time with families and close friends. The overscheduled environment of the past is currently on hold for some.

The pendulum of economic power is shifting very quickly. China, with its authoritarian capitalism strategy, is powering forward as many of the rich nations in Europe, Asia and North America appear to be disjointed. The growth of paper wealth, built in the equity markets and residential real estate, is being accelerated by accommodative action by the central banks and governments around the world. People with time on their hands are getting exposed to “get rich quick schemes” that are moving many investors further out on the risk curve. Cryptocurrencies and digital payments are quickly replacing money exchanges, some leading to fraudulent activities. 

This past year has been a challenge concerning what one can control and what has changed. The reemergence of “back to normal” and what that will ultimately look like will be food for thought in 2021 for many strategic planners, whether for a business, household or personal life.