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2017: Eye of the hurricane for Mid-South farmers

“We need to capitalize on this by replenishing working capital to get us through the balance of the cycle.”

Greg Cole says 2017 was like the eye of the hurricane for Mid-South farmers.

The storm, which began when commodity prices dropped 50 percent in 2014, has been blowing almost nonstop as farmers tried to adjust from a “super-cycle” of high prices and strong profits that ran between 2007 and 2012 followed by crushing low prices in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

“Mid-South crop producers caught a break in the down cycle in 2017 with having a profitable year,” says Cole, CEO and president of AgHeritage Farm Credit Services. “I still call this the eye of the hurricane. It’s not over with. We need more plywood, which, to me, is liquidity and working capital.

“We need to capitalize on this by replenishing working capital to get us through the balance of the cycle,” said Cole, speaking at the Mid-South Agricultural and Environmental Law Conference, which was held June 8 in Memphis, Tenn.

“The key to the game is we need a positive disruption and not a negative disruption,” he said, referring to developments that could occur between the U.S. and some of its major trading partners, including China, Canada and Mexico.

“I’m asked who the producers and lenders are who will be there in the future,” said Cole. “A farm producer and an ag lender takes risks. The key is to identify the risks, quantify the risks and manage the risks.

“Warren Buffett has a good take on this. He says that when the tide rolls out you’ll see who’s swimming exposed. When the water flows in this supercycle from a high tide to the low tide what we’ll see and what we are seeing now is the producers who are exposed, the lenders who are exposed, and, who knows, we may see who’s a good ag lawyer and a not so good ag lawyer.”

 

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