AGRICULTURE: THE BRIGHT SPOT IN AN ECONOMIC DOWNTURN

In 2008, the economic downturn which has sent most of the country into financial turmoil began. Jobs continue to be difficult to find, the stock market has only just passed its pre-financial crisis level, many banks and other businesses continue to struggle, and yet, agriculture has been a sector that has thrived and strengthened despite the financial crisis. I am a student of agribusiness economics who comes from a family owned grain farm, and I plan to return to that farm when I finish school. A big part of the reason that I plan to return to the farm is because the agriculture industry has just demonstrated its ability to not just survive, but thrive whenever nearly every other sector of the economy is struggling.

Agriculture is fundamentally different than most other sectors of the economy. One of the biggest differences is how consumers behave when it comes to food. People will cut back on many things during tough economic times, but everyone has to eat! Whether a person is making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year or just barely getting by, their bodies still require the same amount of food. In an economy where more people are barely getting by, most other industries are not seeing the sales that they are used to, but because a rich person eats about the same as amount someone who is struggling financially, as many are in this economy, agriculture has been relatively unaffected.

That was an explanation why agriculture has not been harmed by the lousy economy, but how can those who have chosen a career in agriculture be having more success than ever? I would attribute much of the gains in the agriculture community to the innovations being made. Take corn for an example. Corn is a product abundantly available in America, and innovators in agriculture have been able to use corn as a solution to big problems like oil dependence. More uses for agricultural products drive the prices of those products up. There are also innovations that make agriculture products easier to produce. Genetic improvements on crops are increasing the production capabilities of American farmers. When the entire agriculture community has more product and prices are higher than they have been historically the stage is set for agriculture to have a successful future.

I am confident that we have barely begun to see the innovations that are possible with agriculture. I have faith that the innovators in agriculture will continue to develop new ideas that will make the agricultural community even more successful. If you are looking at the economy and looking for a place to put some optimism, I suggest looking to agriculture because I believe that agriculture has proven to be the bright spot in the down economy.

Nick Suess
Southern Illinois University Student

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