Once upon a time, August was the month when farmers sneaked away for a vacation, politicians left steamy Washington for the beach, Chicago commodity traders invaded Wisconsin and heat-dazed dogs dozed in the shade of maple trees.
No respite. Now, however, August offers little respite. Farmers vacate more in the winter, Chicago traders churn and burn 24/7 and my Heinz 57 (no relation to Teresa) mutt, like today’s politicians, openly cavorts in the noonday sun.
The markets need to take August off. Crude oil futures hover at a record $44 per barrel, corn futures, like wheat and soybean futures, dribble lower, lower, lower while feeder cattle futures are so high, high, high that buyers must be smoking more than their usual stogies.
Crop report. Big heat arrives today (Aug. 12) with USDA’s market shaking, baking, breaking or making Crop Production Report. Will there be a 10-billion-bushel corn crop, a record 3 billion bu. of soybeans, less wheat, more oats, more barley?
Probably, possibly, yes, yes and yes. And in one wag of dog’s tail later, barking Chicago traders will tell you and USDA what kind of year they, you and the government will have. The government, already well into a poor year, needs a vacation, too.
Scorching deficit. On July 30 the White House admitted the 2004 federal budget deficit will be another scorcher, a fat $445 billion, and that economic growth this past spring was nearly one percent less than hoped-for.
A few days later news arrived that the federal debt ceiling – that $7.384 trillion cap to restrain White House and Congressional spending – will be hit about the same time John Kerry and George W. Bush meet in their first presidential debate to swear allegiance to fiscal restraint.
Real sales effort. The president’s chief trade salesman, Robert Zoellick, will work August. He’ll spend his vacation declaring the WTO agreement to cut ag program subsidies 20 percent worldwide “a clear victory” for U.S. farmers.
Since it will be safer for Zoellick to make that claim to farmers in South America than in the American South, he could take a week off in Rio and no one would miss him. Or care.
Farmers and ranchers in Omaha’s farm credit district will spend August deciphering just what the sale of their biggest lender, Farm Credit Services of America, to Rabobank means.
Voting incentive. According to an Aug. 2 letter from Paul Folkerts, FCSA’s chairman, to Bert Ely, a Farm Credit System critic quoted in this space last week, the deal likely means the cooperative’s 51,000 owners will split $600 million to give each an average 11,747 reasons to vote for the buyout.
FCSA and Rabo bosses, however, will be in Washington trying to convince Congress and the Farm Credit Administration that the deal’s language -and contrary to rumor, it’s not written in Dutch- is good for American ag banking.
Hot dog. But before the nation’s farmers, ranchers, politicians, bankers, commodity traders, bureaucrats and, yes, even its dogs overheat too badly this month, let’s take a moment to recite the nearly-forgotten August Farm Creed.
All together now: “I promise to spend August not making any farm- or ranch-altering decisions unless I am either waist-deep in tall clover, neck-deep in a cool lake or eyeball deep in cold beer.
Taste is #1. “I will spend each day and night either on vacation and/or in the company of my family, friends, dog (but not the cat) and local liquor wholesaler. While with them I will hold only one tenet sacred: great taste is always better than fewer carbs.
“As such, if asked to go fishing, I will. If asked to go shopping, I will. If asked to wear shorts, I will. If asked to cook supper, I probably will. If asked to wash the pick-up, I will have a beer.
Solemnly, indeed. “And I solemnly pledge to spend this August like Augusts of the past: I will not bend, concede, buckle, adapt, submit, stoop, kowtow or curtsey to any issue, idea, initiative, intrusion, interference, insect, in-law, innuendo or invoice so help me Sir Arthur Guinness.”
Now, let’s get started. The second full week of August threatens.
(Alan Guebert’s Farm and Food File is published weekly in more than 75 newspapers in North America. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
© 2004 ag comm