John's World: I’ve Got My Eyes on 2014

December 6, 2013 06:34 PM

What do you get when you cross the intellect of an engineer, the heart of a farmer and the charm of a TV host? The ever-witty John Phipps.

You all can keep an eye on commodity and land prices for the upcoming year. I’m looking out for stuff from left field. And outer space.

1. Campaign contribution deregulation by the U.S. Supreme Court. In McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court might allow unlimited campaign contributions from individuals, similar to the ruling for corporations. Legislation could actually be auctioned off on eBay as a result. Legislators will be sold separately.

2. Seed price outrage. Far-reaching seed corn prices could trigger farmer calls for investigation intocollusion among companies under anti-trust laws. Farmers will burn hoarded seed sacks in protest, but bulk boxes will fail to ignite. WikiLeaks will publish a complete table of identical hybrids sold under different numbers by different companies, revealing there are only seven distinct plant lines after all. Three of them are highly susceptible to green snap, to boot.

3. Falling oil prices. Driving will become even more passé among children under 30. World oil production continues to mount as economies continue to stagnate or grow slowly. Lifestyles in North Dakota will rival luxury locations such as Minneapolis or Fresno. The nouveau riche will display their wealth and heritage with strikingly realistic Thor costumes and cosmetic beard implants.

4. The genetically modified organism (GMO) labeling continues to vex the biotech industry. This zombie issue won’t go away. GMOs will be accused of eating brains. Monsanto will be indicted for "biotech bullying," which will be surprisingly hard to dispute

5. Leaps in farm productivity with smarter machines. Subsequently, large farm employment will drop. A retirement wave from outsmarted Boomers will leave surprisingly few holes. They will be replaced by only slightly younger Gen X members, who will enjoy several months in control before being overrun by Echo Boomer Millennials.

6. Machinery inventory gluts on dealer lots, especially combines. Many discouraged farmers will finally take the plastic off their combine seats in an act of surrender as they realize their one-season stand has now become "a relationship." Add-on technology will sell well, especially if it can be mounted on farmers themselves like Borg implants. The first self-Tweeting tractor will attract thousands of followers, but mostly by other tractors.

7. Increasingly desperate forecasts of skyrocketing interest rates and inflation. Both will continue to flat-line. Unfazed, the same forecasts will continue from the same folks—very much like Chicago baseball fans.

8. Lower crop insurance participation. From a farm program standoff, lower subsidies and sequesters added to unattractive spring guaranteed revenues will make buyers at the margin (good ground) think twice. Curiously, insurance companies will remain robustly profitable.

9. More women in commercial agriculture. As self-employed businesses get full access to health insurance, women will work off the farm less. In a strange coincidence, commodity marketing will improve on many of the same farms.

10. Peak cover crop. Peak fungicide. Peak Facebook. Peak olive oil. Peak outrage. Peak gun sales. Caveat: If the Democrats gain an unexpected majority in both houses of Congress, there might be one last round (heh).

11. Increasing wealth and income inequality in the U.S. and globally. "Average farm" statistics will describe no farm in existence. Subsidies will still be targeted to this category, nevertheless.

12. Strong growth in people categorizing themselves as political independents and religiously unaffiliated. "None of the above" will be cool.

13. Federal marijuana legalization will be an eventuality. It will not be the fabled "third crop" producers hope for, however. CDL-qualified drivers will become easier to find.

14. The politics of scarcity will not be fully understood by agriculture in 2014 but will be apparent by early 2015 at tax prep season, when 1099-G numbers are a digit too short.

The future cannot be predicted, but it can darn sure be argued about.

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