Editors' Notebook

Confidence, It's in the Name

Greg D Horstmeier
By  Greg D Horstmeier , DTN Editor-in-Chief
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Pulling together the latest installment of the DTN/The Progressive Farmer's Agriculture Confidence Index was a puzzler. For several periods now, the more concern we hear from the ag lending and retail sectors, and the more anguish we get from readers at anything appearing to help "drive down the market," the more we'd assume ACI surveys would begin to reveal a growing, well, apprehension, if not something darker.

As you can read in our story on the latest survey, there's little apprehension in farmer attitudes about their current situation.

Index levels above 100 are considered optimistic, those less than 100 are viewed as a pessimistic attitude as compared to baseline scores when the ACI began.

Numerically, the latest farmer attitudes are at a near-neutral 97. Not astounding optimism, but then realize that is 53 points higher -- more than double the index value -- of just a year ago. On the income horizon, we're certainly not much better off than we were a year ago nor seeing signs of financial improvement.

The full story on our latest survey results are here:

https://www.dtnpf.com/…

I couldn't stop thinking about that relative optimism over the Christmas holiday. The more I ran through the numbers, the more the image of the audience of farmers at our recent DTN/The Progressive Farmer Ag Summit came to mind. As an aside, our event in Chicago took place Dec. 4-6, almost the exact time that the last of the ACI survey calls were being made.

In Chicago, too, we heard speeches about tightening working capital, no sign of any big drop in land or cash rent values, and little change in sight from good weather patterns, strong yields, and weakening prices. Still, what I kept recalling over the holiday was the demeanor Ag Summit attendees shared during session breaks and over dinner. The mood was strong, certainly not exuberant, but positive. Conversations were focused on growth and long-term plans, with little talk of survival or doom and gloom.

There was, in a word, confidence.

Perhaps that's what our Agriculture Confidence Index was revealing: Confidence.

I'm certain I saw confidence in the faces at Ag Summit. Most of those faces were, like mine, "of a certain age." If they weren't fully active on the farm during the 1980s, they were old enough to realize what was going on, and either learned the tough lessons of that period or now have elders with that experience at their sides.

To use a well-worn phrase, "this ain't our first rodeo."

Certainly, there are issues in need of our attention. Those also came through at Ag Summit just as they do weekly on our DTN and The Progressive Farmer venues: Preserve working capital, be extra shrewd in purchasing and get better at marketing to preserve those extra nickels and dimes when the opportunity arises. Keep tabs on export trade issues, and make your opinions known to those who make export policy.

But as I sorted through all the ACI data, I recalled those faces and conversations in Chicago and realized that the confidence, and maybe a little hope, was showing us that you are prepared for what 2018 throws at you.

That brought another phrase, this one more recently coined, to mind: "Here, hold our beverage, we've got this."

To hear more about the results of the Agriculture Confidence Index, check out Reporter's Notebook video at https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Greg D. Horstmeier can be reached at greg.horstmeier@dtn.com

Follow Greg D. Horstmeier on Twitter @greghorstmeier

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Greg Horstmeier