Reporters often call me in the wake of floods, droughts and other calamities that strike the risky business of agriculture. They want to know, “How will this affect food prices?”
The answer, at least in the short term, is “not very much.” Our market is global now, and meeting our needs with local food is more hope than reality. Not everything will grow everywhere.
But in the long term? To know that, we would need to understand how many farmers will go out of business due to unacceptable risk or bad policy.
That’s hard to predict, but conditions are right this year to force many farmers out of business. Prices are low and the trade environment is hostile. There is still no farm bill. Farmers count on the farm bill’s risk management tools for the certainty that agricultural lenders demand before approving loans.
If substantial numbers of farmers are forced out, it not only affect prices, but also the ability of our country to grow most of its own food.
How many is too many to lose? We do not want to find out.