Whew! I'm not sure I remember a time when I was so glad a year ended. The use of the roller coaster analogy hardly does justice to what we lived through last year from record highs to new records lows, it appears we've seen plenty. But what's ahead in 2009?
If I knew exactly what was ahead, I'd probably have a totally different kind of job, but there are some trends on the horizon you'll want to watch. Here are some I see, if you're curious about others you could add a comment and guide the discussion.
Engines and emissions. Looks like the emissions moves by major manufacturers will be more interesting in 2009. I've already written in our magazines about interim Tier 4 moves by the majors and their work in that area. Now comes word that Agco has something up its sleeve that we'll learn more about at the Louisville Show.
Essentially, you'll start hearing more about these lower emission engines and the different ways that manufacturers are aiming to meet the more-stringent requirements of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. If you're in the market for new machinery, keeping up on what's coming will be valuable.
Adding tech for 2009. New technology shouldn't go out of style and with the cost-price squeeze farms are facing this year, any moves that'll maximize inputs will have value. Growers that have moved to autoguidance tech may be looking for more variable-rate technology next. The controllers and the mapping software is up to the challenge to help you put just what you want on every part of each field you farm.
But to have that tech ready for planting, now's the time to connect with the local dealer for the technology. The crunch of people pushing ahead with this technology could be huge.
Smartphones and your future. Sure, businessmen and women have been carrying their trusty Blackberry's and other smartphones - are you ready for one? If you're suppliers are increasingly using e-mail to keep in touch, you're going to need your e-mail in hand - literally. And Web providers - including Farm Progress - are making it easier to get to key information using these Web-enabled tools.
In fact, you can always know what the markets are doing, just check out mobile.farmprogress.com to see what I mean.
Put a pencil to it. Farmers who survived the mid-1980s are now nearing retirement. Yet their expertise and knowledge isn't being lost. This is the year to dredge up those skills that carried you through the last farm crisis. I'm not calling 2009 as a new farm crisis, we're better positioned than we were back then - and frankly, I think we're smarter.
The farm credit system and those community banks that serve agriculture have the money you need. But given today's credit crunch...well plan on giving them more information for sure. That means having even better records than you had last year, especially if you're looking to expand.
Keep on planning. While grain prices are down 60% from their meteoric highs of last summer, they remain historically stronger than in past years. That's going to put pressure on your management skills in ways you never considered as you buy for this year. From seed prices to fertilizer costs, you'll have to deal as hard as possible, and knowing your plan will help you determine when to pull the trigger on a purchase.
Remember, world grain stocks remain at historic lows, which means a hiccup somewhere else in the world could bring a run-up in prices again. Is that the sound of a roller coaster going back up the tracks?