The following summarizes a few thoughts for 2003. To say the least, it was a year of extremes inside and outside of agriculture, which has implications on management.

  • Dry in the west and wet in the east, both hindered quality and quantity of crops.

  • High prices for beef and low painful conditions for the dairy industry.

  • Land prices continue to be strong because of urban pressures, government supports, low interest rates and the desire to own a piece of America.

  • My Canadian friends survived despite four major hits: SARS, the blackout, the Mad Cow breakout and forest fires in the West.

  • Top five concerns of producers going into the next year:

  1. Weather and water

  2. Healthcare costs

  3. Balancing time and family

  4. Consolidation of the food sector

  5. Global markets

The stock market and economy are making a fragile but nice recovery, but not for the workers.

Thoughts on managing in this environment:

  • Prices are established globally, and costs, locally. Low overhead cost per unit will be a critical element to examine in your business structure.

  • Analyze trends, not specific points in time. Is it a good year and good trend or bad year and bad trend?

  • Cash and financial liquidity is still king, allowing you to get through the valleys of low earnings and cash flow and capitalize quickly on opportunities.

  • What’s your people strategy? Whether it is suppliers, employees or acquaintances, getting the right people on your business bus in the right seats works well in any environment, whether it is farming, small business or coaching.

  • Balance, in a multi-tasking world with cell phones, e-mail, and a 24-7 environment, is a key word in everyone’s playbook. Occasionally sit down by the log cabin and old mill and watch the river flow.

We wish you a happy holiday season!

See you next year!

My e-mail address is:sullylab@vt.edu

Editors' note: Dave Kohl, The Corn and Soybean Digest Trends Editor, is an ag economist at Virginia Tech. He recently completed a sabbatical working with the Royal Bank of Canada. He is now back at Virginia Tech with his academic appointment, which is teaching, extension, and applied research.

To see Dave Kohl's previous road warrior adventures type Dave Kohl in the Search blank at the top of the page.

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