Agriculture not yet ready to jump off the cliff

From his classroom at North Carolina State University, Chuck Moore teaches economics. Some of the things he has to say prompts comments from his students like, “Aren't you for farmers?”

Moore assures his students that there isn't a more pro-farmer advocate than himself. His grandfather was a farmer; his father was a county agent and he grew up on a rural residence closely tied to the ag community.

When asked by newspaper reporters to comment on the “worst times” in American agriculture, Moore turns the statement around.

“These aren't the worst times in American agriculture,” Moore says. “The 1980s were much worse. Agriculture is not ready to be the next one to jump off the cliff.”

Some farmers have thrived despite the extended downturn in agriculture, he says.

“Some of the successful farmers I've talked with have had their best crops and have done well financially during these tough economic times by watching markets, knowing their costs of production, and refusing to go into debt,” Moore says. “They have become top-notch business managers.”

Some point to the 1996 farm bill as a touchstone for the downturn, Moore says. He disagrees somewhat with that statement. He says the last farm bill was hindered by the collapse of the Asian financial markets, as well as a five- or six-year worldwide span without a crop failure, glutting the markets and leading to low prices.

To back up his contention about the last farm bill, Moore points to stable land prices. “Equity is staying in the land and interest rates are low,” he says.

“The reason we have stable land prices is that the government programs have done what they were supposed to do,” Moore says. “The programs have taken some of the fluctuation out of the mix.

“I'm very bullish on agriculture,” Moore says. “Agriculture has a wonderful future, but those who really can compete won't be getting the high prices like they did in the 1970s. They will have to manage closer and tighter.”

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