I love the 1990 fairy tale movie Pretty Woman that stars Richard Gere and Julia Roberts (although I admit a prostitute is not standard fare in fairy tales). One of the turning points in the movie is when Gere’s character — a corporate take-over specialist who buys companies on paper and dismantles them for profit — realizes “We don’t build anything. We don’t make anything,” and scraps his take-over deal in favor of keeping the company intact to build ships.
I thought of that line when I read a recent interview by CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo with investor Jim Rogers. That’s because Rogers, at the very close of his conversation, says he’s bullish on agriculture.
“For decades, the money shufflers, the paper shufflers, have been the captains of the universe,” Rogers told Bartiromo. “That is now changing. The people who produce real things [will be on top]. You’re going to see stockbrokers driving taxis. The smart ones will learn to drive tractors, because they’ll be working for the farmers. …
“You should find yourself a nice farmer and hook up with him or her, because that’s where the money’s going to be in the next couple of decades.”
OK, so we won’t be rolling in the dough this year — 2009 farm input costs will be substantially above 2008 costs and farm returns are expected to below those experienced during 2000 through 2002 — but our industry is not going away. We build things.
Rogers has been touting ag investments for some time, long before the current crash, but in his own blog in early March, he reminded folks why: “We’re still going to eat, probably; we’re still going to wear clothes, probably.”
“If I’m right, agriculture is going to be one of the greatest industries in the next 20 years, 30 years.”
Although he’s talking about agricultural commodity investments, I’m equally as bullish about farms and farmland.
This country needs producers of food and fiber now more than ever. This country needs you. We need farmers as conservationists, as environmentalists, and as specialists. We need farmers as caretakers, as innovators, and as risk-takers. We need food security. We need to grow our domestic biofuel security. We need plants and we need animals.
This country will not be fed by urban farmers nor by victory gardens. Food production on all scales plays a role, to be sure, but there are 306 million people in the United States and 6.8 billion people around the globe. Who will feed them? We need full-time farmers. When did “commodity” become a four-letter word?
There’s a reason the FFA creed begins, “I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds…”. Farmers are thinkers and workers. We grow things. We feed the world. We are builders.