Dr. Jay Lehr urged bankers gathered for the Community Bankers of Iowa meeting last week in Okoboji to spread the word about the importance of agriculture to the economy, our country and the world. Lehr, who said he has been active in agriculture for 55 years, said the average person knows almost nothing about agriculture.
“Devote 10 minutes per month for the rest of your life to tell at least two people who don’t know anything about farming, some of the important contributions agriculture makes to our world,” Lehr challenged. Among the key messages, he said, are: fertilizer drastically reduces the amount of ground space needed for farming; farmers are the best land conservationist, and they are the best environmental stewards.
Lehr predicted the world population will grow to 9 billion people in 50 years and level off. He said China will remain an important trading partner for the United States for the foreseeable future. Because of China’s need for our commodities, Lehr predicted corn, soybeans and wheat prices would remain high. He said he doesn’t expect prices to ever drop below $5 per bushel for corn, $10 for soybeans and $5.50 for wheat.
He said the high price of farm land is not worrisome given that only about 4 percent of the United States’ farmland changes hands every year. He said the number of farms in the country has stabilized at about 2 millions. The average farm in America is 451 acres. Only 2 percent of farms have absentee owners, he said. Eighty-five percent of farms are so small that its owners have off-farm employment to supplement their income.
He said the farm bill is misnamed, in that it is really legislation about food stamps. He said only about 15 percent of the expenditures authorized by the farm bill go to farmers.
Look for complete coverage of the CBI convention in the next edition of NorthWestern Financial Review magazine.