At The Farm Gate
By Joanie Stiers
Agriculture hopes pain leads to long-term trade gain
On a recent winter night, my silent kids in the back seat reminded me of the bedtime car rides that rocked me to a light slumber as a child. With my childhood eyes closed, the car’s sounds and motions acted as my GPS between Grandma’s house and our rural abode.
As we neared home, the car drove smoothly down the stretch of state highway. My body shifted at the right turn onto the mile length of gravel road that led to our house. The tires crackled over frozen rocks under that dark and quiet wintry sky. I could have ridden in that car all night, as cozy and carefree as a rainy Sunday morning in bed. I felt safe with Mom buckled into the passenger seat and Dad behind the wheel.
Today, we in agriculture sit in the back seat and rather hold tight, hoping that our government at the wheel steers us to new trade opportunities. Months ago, our country entered this ongoing trade war with China, our nation’s top soybean customer and a big buyer of many other major farm commodities. Stifled trade has depressed crop values, especially for soybeans, to the necessity of government bailout funds. And the media believes that farmers, as a whole, don’t seem angry enough at the Republican president.
Farmers have dealt with struggles beyond their control before. In a few weeks, we return to the fields, fingers-crossed that our industry will experience only short-term pain for long-term trade gain. We also feel pretty good that 2018 ended with a new Farm Bill, an improved clean water rule proposal, and two rounds of financial crop price support from the market facilitation program.
We have voiced opinions, as one might expect from a backseat driver: End the trade war with China and expand global export opportunities. Meanwhile, the soybean planter undergoes updates and maintenance in our farm shop. We bought seed months ago. With crop rotations to honor and equipment intended to plant corn and soybeans, swapping out for another crop won’t happen this season. We need export markets back.
The motion of the Chevrolet Celebrity of my childhood slowed before entering our farmhouse driveway. Disappointment rushed over me. I knew I must trudge through the cold air between the garage and house. Then, I would begrudgingly change into cold pajamas before warming my sheets to a cozy state in bed. In the grand scheme, the discomfort lasted only temporarily. We hope for the same in farm country.
About the author: Joanie Stiers’ family grows corn, soybeans and hay and raises beef cattle in West-Central Illinois. She is a wife and mother of two farm kids.