This week the ag media has been dominated by the Farm Journal's Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour. But it’s just one of the big releases of information about the growing crop that now clamor to get our attention. We had the August Crop Report a few days ago, and several other tours and estimates. Especially after the government numbers were released, I began to notice a pattern in how farmers respond to what seems like very bad news.
That pattern seemed familiar. It resembles the famous Kubler Ross Stages of Grieving. Beginning with denial, we work our way through anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. This framework for understanding the grief process is not definitive but has proven helpful for grief counselors and those who have suffered a loss.
After going through the crop report process about over a hundred times, I think there may be a very similar overall process for farmers, at least for unwelcome reports – which most tend to be seen as. It might look something like this: disbelief, outrage and blaming, acceptance, depression, and capitulation. When unexpected price-dropping information comes out our conversations and social media explode with “this-makes-no-sense” statements.
For example, the astonishing idea farmers intended to plant over 100 million acres of corn was assailed as nonsense. We rapidly moved on to outrage and blaming, ascribing nefarious motives to report authors and agencies, along with some pretty wild conspiracy theories. Then after a few days, I began to see comments from market watchers that while still undoubtedly wrong, it is just barely conceivable that farmers were clever enough to try to game the crop insurance system by planting corn in mid-summer for a higher revenue guarantee. Maybe that 100M+ acres weren’t totally impossible.
Lately, I’ve noticed more than a few analyses with grudging acceptance of both the possible size of this crop and the demand outlook. As Tyne and the rest of the ag media know, there are lot of growers now moving into the depression stage – a serious mental concern, and really hard on families and rural communities. I don’t know how long it will take or whether final numbers in January will move us on to acceptance, but I suspect the delay in getting there will damage our marketing plans and lives until then.
This whole analogy may be a stretch, but about the twentieth time you go through this process, it dawns on you: “Hey – I’ve felt this way before.” Then you also realize while you may not remember how, you lived to tell the story.