Pam Dudding Contributing writer
The local Farm Bureau Insurance Company recently hosted its annual meeting, with a guest speaker who kept everyone’s attention as well as partook in several questions afterward.
As people entered the high school auditorium on October 3, they were handed a raffle ticket for door prizes.
“I’m looking forward to hearing this professor,” one person said. “I’ve kept up with him for quite a while now.”
President Mary Hunter welcomed everyone and started the meeting which included many forms of business such as the introduction of the board, minutes approved and several reports.
The meeting was then turned over to their guest speaker, Dr. David Kohl, who talked about his vision for the future of agriculture and shared his views on the challenges farmers will face in the future and how to not only survive them but grow them too.
Kohl is a professor emeritus in Virginia Tech’s Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics and is sought after in the U. S. and internationally. He received his M. S. and Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from Cornell University. He has served in his current capacity for the last 25 years. He has traveled the world and conducted more than 6,000 workshops and seminars, published four books and written over 1,300 articles. He is currently President of Agri-Visions, LLC which is a knowledge-based consulting business providing cutting-edge programs to leading agriculture organizations worldwide. He is also a business coach and part-owner of Homestead Creamery.
He spoke of International Trade, stating that one out of every five dollars comes from export markets. “If we don’t have those export markets in agriculture, we really struggle,” he said, suggesting that all farmers be attentive to and involved in current legislation and NAFDA.
Kohl believes the U. S. is in a worldwide recession in manufacturing. “We are very integrated in trying to get parts and supplies,” he said.
He also spoke of the importance of energy and trade power. “We are the number one energy producer in the world. The Saudi oil fields were bombed, but it did not move our prices, whereas several years ago, it would have really affected us. Remember that eight out of every ten dollars we spend on a farm or ranch is related to energy.”
He noted that if one combines Canada who is number four in energy, Mexico who is number eight and the United States, that makes 28 percent of the entire world economy.
Kohl has a concern that China is focusing on long-term plan and the U.S. does not. “I’m going to be critical of both the Obama and Trump administration,” he said. “When we pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement, China went in. Many farmers and ranchers are waiting for a grand deal that will solve many of our problems, but it’s not going to happen.
He added, “In 1990 China was two percent of world economy and is now 14 percent. They got ‘Most Favorable Nation’ status and grew its economy fast. There was some inappropriate action, but he reminded everyone that years ago, they were at 32 percent, and are not happy where they are now.
Kohl noted that China is making substantial investments throughout the world of 248 billion dollars in 68 countries. “They actually took a play out of our old playbook, that was successful and are using it successfully,” he added.
Concerning the economy, he noted a trend of more people moving to cities in the U.S., therefore decreasing the birth rate.
Kohl added, “Remember when the U.S. economy does well, agriculture seems to struggle. There are storm clouds on the Verizon brewing for the U.S. economy for a possible recession in late 2020 and 2021.
“We are already in manufacturing recession,” he said.
A positive note he made was that demand for beef is up by seven percent.
“We are allowing the alternatives, like no meat burgers, to come in, therefore we have to sell the benefits of our products,” Kohl said. “The consumers of the future want to know where the beef comes from.” He added that he spoke with Senator Warner, concerning the need for more local processing.
He said that he is optimistic about agriculture, however, “we have to be attentive of the big companies like Walmart and Kroger as they want to own from the farm to the store,” he noted. “I don’t think that is really good and we see it first-hand at the Creamery.”
A teacher posed that, “People don’t believe something until they feel something.” Adding, “The average American has enough food in their house to make it for only three days before starvation. We have a very complacent society that hasn’t felt any… ‘hunger.’”
He reminded everyone that 75 percent of people buy experiences. There was positive discussion about the FFA in America and the classrooms.
“We’re not tied together anymore, with college and agriculture,” said one local.
Kohl added, “People don’t yet understand the skills that are available in agriculture, both technical and entrepreneurial.”
Some talked about the 2018 Farm Bureau legalizing CBD. “We have young and small farmers jumping all over this,” another local said.
Kohl reminded everyone about the importance of supply and demand. “Too much supply and not enough demand can cause problems for those running into areas too quickly,” he said.
He encouraged anyone that chose that avenue to be thinking about the next and new ideas down the line.
“Production is way ahead of research,” another added.
Kohl agreed, “It’s consumer-driven, and the government came in and got it all ‘hemped’ up.”
The evening concluded with drawings for door prizes, as Hunter thanked everyone for attending.