Although farmers got a small respite in 2017, the agricultural recession is about to enter its fourth year with little sign of a full recovery soon. The current industry funk makes farmers wonder if they’re living through their own version of the movie Groundhog Day.
In that movie, actor Bill Murray plays a sarcastic weatherman who is sent to report on whether the famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow. Murray’s character can’t wait to finish his puff news report and get out of town, but a freak snowstorm forces him to stay another night.
When Murray’s character wakes up the next morning, circumstances seem eerily similar to those from the previous day, and he fairly quickly realizes that he’s caught in a time loop. Throughout the movie, he relives Groundhog Day over and over and over again.
The movie is hilarious and a classic, but it also offers some lessons for farmers living through their own economic groundhog days. After Murray’s character got over the initial despair and depression of having to face the same challenges literally day after day, he turned the tables to his advantage. For example, he used the extra time to do things like learn to play the piano.
Define Your Present And Future. Whether you’re Bill Murray in Groundhog Day or a farmer in the midst of a cyclical recession, the moral of the story is that making a better future depends on you. It was Albert Einstein who was attributed with saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” For many farmers, it is past time to make serious changes and tough choices related to the future investments made in their operations.
The sobering fact is that $3.50 per bushel corn is not the illusion—$7 corn was. It is time to get over that hangover and realize that we’re probably only halfway through this movie. To get better, we’re going to have to drive even more efficiency. Although it is not the magic bullet to all the industry’s ills, technology has been a primary driver of efficiency in agriculture for decades, and that treadmill is only speeding up and getting steeper. Continued strategic investment in technology and information services, even in down times, is essential to coming out of the tunnel on the other end.
The irony is that if farmers could go back to the start of this movie when corn was $7 and they actually chose to spend more of their profits on technology instead of freshly painted iron, then their current economic glasses might look more full than empty. As they say, hindsight is 20-20.
Before one goes to the field in 2018, it might be a good exercise to just step back and see where precision technology could make things a little better. You cannot manage what you cannot measure. At the end of the day, precision agriculture is simply a set of tools to measure and implement greater efficiency.
If it’s 2018, corn is still $3.50, and farmers are farming each acre for “average,” then their groundhog day in agriculture is going to go on for a while. Chances are that the movie is not going to end well. So wake up! It’s a new year. It’s time for everyone to sharpen their “precision pencils” and keep getting better.