January 17, 2020

Farm Bill; Trade; Biofuels; and the Ag Economy

Farm Bill Issues and Policy- Budget and Appropriations Issues

Stephen Gandel reported recently at Time Online that, “If you want to become rich, Jim Rogers, investment whiz, best-selling author and one of Wall Street’s towering personalities, has this advice: Become a farmer. Food prices have been high recently. Some have questioned how long that can continue. Not Rogers. He predicts that farming incomes will rise dramatically in the next few decades, faster than those in most other industries — even Wall Street. The essence of his argument is this: We don’t need more bankers. What we need are more farmers. The invisible hand will do its magic. ‘The world has got a serious food problem,’ says Rogers. ‘The only real way to solve it is to draw more people back to agriculture.’

It’s been decades since the American heartland has been a money pump and longer since farming was a major source of employment. Old rural towns have emptied as families — and the U.S. — have moved on. Technology, service jobs and finance have been the basis of the economy since at least the 1980s. Farming became the economic equivalent of a protected species — supported by a mix of government handouts, lax regulation (agriculture is one of the few industries shielded from certain child-labor laws) and charity concerts.

But in the past few years, thanks to a wealthier (and hungrier) emerging-market middle class and a boom in biofuels, the business of growing has once again become a growth business. At a time when the overall economy is limping along at an anemic growth rate of 1.9%, net farm income was up 27% last year and is expected to jump another 20% in 2011. Real estate prices in general are again falling this year. But according to the Federal Reserve, the average farm has doubled in value in the past six years. Farmland is quickly emerging as one of the year’s hottest investments on Wall Street.”