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Agriculture, despite economy, a good place to be right now

Several conversations lately have contained the same comment: “I sure am glad I am in agriculture.”

Daily doses of industry bailout with money numbers in the multiple billions; growing numbers of foreclosures and a lack of available credit are depressing.

Agriculture will not be spared from fiscal meltdown. Experts say interest rates will likely go up; credit will be tight; inflation is at hand with all the money the government is throwing at failing industries, all of which will impact farmers and ranchers.

However, by comparison, agriculture is still not a bad profession right now. It could be much worse.

Certainly agriculture has its internal issues, the biggest in California being the water crisis. It looms larger today than the global fiscal crisis. Bankers are reluctant to make production loans in areas like Westlands Water District because of the uncertain water outlook. A PCA told me recently farmers are selling their land on the West Side of the San Joaquin Valley to finance 2009 crops. These are not farmers with shaky credit, but farmers with good credit and cropping options that offer good income potential. No doubt growers with permanent crops are selling open ground to get production money or to raise cash to buy surplus water, if it becomes available.

Agriculture is not immune to problems during good and bad times.

However, it is a good time to be in agriculture, especially in this holiday season when we take time to count our blessings.

I appreciate the fact that my livelihood comes from writing about agriculture. I get to talk with many farmers and get to experience firsthand the pride they all have in doing the best they can to produce food and fiber.

I have been at this for more than 30 years, and people often comment that I know all there is about Western agriculture. I appreciate the compliment, but I quickly respond that if anyone says they know all there is to know about Western agriculture, they are either lying or a fool.

I cannot recall an interview I have done or a conference or field day I have covered over the past three decades that I did not learn something new that I was thrilled to include in an article. I have the best ag journalism job in the U.S., and I am very thankful for that this holiday season.

My only frustration is that the public perception of farming is so distorted by the popular press. I get e-mails from people who want to criticize agriculture without having the facts or have distorted information. And the more you try to set the record straight, the more frustrating it becomes. People don't want to listen. It is truly amazing how little the public understands or appreciates about farming.

However, I want to go on record as saying my family appreciates what you do for us more than you realize.

My hope and prayer this holiday season is that everyone involved in farming can take solace in knowing the world is being fed by you. Your dedication may not be appreciated as it should be, but rest assured there are many who value what you to with great admiration.

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