Viva Las Vegas!

I just finished my 29th consecutive American Bankers Association Agricultural Bankers Conference in Las Vegas, NV. This year’s conference had over 600 in attendance, from 32 states, Canada, Australia, Nepal and the Republic of Georgia.

Yes, I had my picture taken with Elvis, got to hear a Bill Clinton impersonator, just missed the Rolling Stones and, no, I didn’t lose any money on the tables or slot machines. Beyond that, as with any of the ABA’s well-organized, information-packed conferences, there was much food for thought.

The following are some thoughts and perspectives.

Flu Outbreak
· A major avian flu or pandemic flu outbreak would cost America 12% of its GDP and impact 142 million people.
· If a major flu broke out, quarantine, social isolation, social distancing and time would be the cures.
· Just-in-time inventory systems for food and energy could create major shortages throughout the world during a pandemic flu outbreak.

View From Down Under
· The Australian bankers indicate they have been in drought for nearly half a decade.
· Land values have doubled because of off farm investment. Does this sound familiar?
· Farms with debt are outperforming those that are debt free because of focus, accountability to third parties and proactive management.
· Australia has 131,000 farms and ranches, employing 670,000 people, which is 6% of the total Australian economy.
· The country’s largest enterprises in descending order are beef, wheat, dairy, wool sheep, wine, cotton and sugar.
· Margin compression and farm and ranch business transition are some of the biggest issues
· Australia and New Zealand eliminated government supports for agriculture overnight, which eliminated 17% of farm numbers.
· The Australians have a very successful program in farm management, which consists of pre-tax deposits that producers can build up in good years and draw upon to supplement their income and meet costs in low-income years. This sounds like an idea that is long overdue in the next U.S. Farm Bill.

Next time: More from Vegas.

Editor’s note: Dave Kohl, The Corn And Soybean Digest Trends Editor, is an ag economist specializing in business management and ag finance. He recently retired from Virginia Tech, but continues to conduct applied research and travel extensively in the U.S. and Canada, teaching ag and banking seminars and speaking to producer and agribusiness groups. He can be reached at sullylab@vt.edu