It is something we have talked about in the past, but it needs to be talked about again. The stress of farming has been tough. It has always been tough. There are always a host of challenges that producers are facing every year. Some of these stresses are widespread and some of them are yours alone. 2020 has certainly come with its share of challenges. There are very few people on the planet that have had much good to say about this year, and we still have four months to go.
It was a year that started out with so much promise, especially for the agricultural industries. We saw trade deals be struck and their implementation coming at the end of 2019 and into 2020. A Phase One trade deal with China was near the top of that list. It was a glimmer of hope after an almost two-year battle between the two largest economies on the planet.
We also had a phase-one trade deal with Japan. The pacific ally is another one of our large agricultural customers, and trade with them seemed to be in jeopardy after the United States pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This exclusive agreement with Japan gave us very close to an equal playing field as our competitors still in the trade pact.
Then there was the United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement. It took over a year of negotiation on Capitol Hill to make it happen, but the North American Free Trade Agreement was replaced. This ensured a partnership with our two biggest agriculture customers, our neighbors to the North and South.
The ethanol industry looked to have a year of promise ahead of them, notwithstanding the continued battle with the EPA over the small-refinery exemptions. Demand was coming up with year-round E15, and the Federal Court System upheld the Renewable Fuels Standard.
Then 2020 got its momentum.
The list I mentioned above had implications beyond the average Iowa farm, and Iowa soon had its share of problems in 2020. COVID-19 has affected everybody. It shutdown the foodservice industry and negatively affected farmers, especially the pork industry in the largest hog-producing state in the U.S. We have witnessed a drought that has spread around a good chunk of our state. Not many acres had not been touched. However, those “garden spot” acres soon felt Mother Nature’s wrath in the form of a destructive windstorm on August 10th.
Iowa certainly has had more than its fair share of agricultural setbacks this year. Last year, we were the number one corn-producing state. This year, we will be fortunate to crack the top five. The backlog in pork processing is dwindling, but not as fast as we would hope, and the list goes on and on.
Farming in 2020 is stressful. Nobody is going to argue that. We have had years of setbacks piled on top of setbacks. 2020 has been one catastrophe following another. If you are feeling stressed or scared, you are not alone. You do not have to face it alone. There is help available.
American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Zippy Duvall talks about the “perfect storm” that has been raging in the Ag sector.
Duvall says there is a stigma among farmers about asking for help. Farmers never complain, they just shrug and say, “maybe next year.”
The AFBF has partnered with the National Farmers Union and others to address the growing need for farmers to realize they are not alone and there are tools available to help them through a difficult time.
If you are an Iowa farmer who has been going through a difficult time or know of someone who is, get help. There is no shame in turning to someone else to vent your concerns, frustrations, and fears. There are people willing to listen. Be willing to talk.
Iowans are encouraged to call the Iowa Concern Hotline at (800) 447-1985. You can also find help at the Iowa Concern page of Iowa State University Extension. https://www.extension.iastate.edu/iowaconcern/