Views from the Secretary

Views from the Secretary
Rains of confidence

A recent headline read, "Rural Confidence Hits Four Year Low."�The story was based on a bank's annual survey of Australian farmers. It concluded that drought and rising input costs caused farmers to lose "confidence" that next year will be better.

Among the farmers surveyed, 57 percent expected conditions to get worse in the next 12 months due to drought.�


Even though Australia's farmers are on the other side of world and the other side of the equator, they often suffer long-term drought the same time we do. Their drought has been ongoing for the last six years in some areas, just like the drought in the western United States.

In reading that story, it occurred to me that massive media coverage of drought and its threat to our future may be a greater threat than the drought itself. Discouraging words have an effect.

A farmer or rancher without confidence (I prefer to call it faith) is in deep trouble. Farmers and ranchers depend on a production system that is largely subject to all the whims of nature, whether it be fire, flood, wind or drought. Almost all our products can be lost to nature at any moment, leaving us only with that old familiar saying, "There is always next year."

Maybe that is why farming and ranching are not viewed as ordinary businesses. Maybe no sensible businessman could stand to live with the risks we face. The risk of enormous loss faced every year for the potential of a small or modest profit margin is not the most desirable business model. Yet almost every farmer and rancher does just that.

Isn't it amazing how a little rain can improve attitudes, build confidence, restore faith and press our plans for "next year," even if this one was a disaster? That is an unmeasured value of rain.

August rains came too late for many crops in South Dakota, but those rains restore us as much as they restore the vegetation on which we depend for our livelihoods and on which the nation depends for its food. They were too late for the wheat crop, but just in time for the wheat farmer's faith in the next crop.

It rained a little on the drought area of Queensland a couple of weeks ago, and the news story about the above survey said widespread winter rains in New South Wales improved the confidence of farmers in that state. News of those rains yields some hope of something similar to follow in the middle of America.

Crops and grass cannot grow without adequate water. They need a certain amount of it at the right times to produce.�Everyone recognizes that, but few notice the people's need for rain.

For the people of the land, every rain is a blessing that nourishes our belief that things will improve.�Rain gives us the faith to invest in next year.

The loss of faith is far more dangerous than drought. When our faith is watered, we believe all will be well, if not now, next year.�

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