Happy cotton pickin’ New Year


While other prophets and forecasters fill the first week of January – and endless inches of newspaper space – with predictions of what will happen this year, permit me 600 or so words to predict what won’t happen in 2008.
First, let’s get the tough calls out the way. The Chicago Bears will not win the Super Bowl.
Sure, both forecasts are blindingly obvious today, but neither was a month or so ago when I offered them to my very smart office mate, Maggie the Aggie Dog.
Second, I will not embark on another two-week binge of butter, beef and beverage like the one just (successfully) completed until, oh, a week or so before Christmas 2008.
Farm bill. Third, the 2007 farm bill, when completed 2008, will be the last commodity-based, farm group-driven farm bill.
Indeed, the ever-narrowing coalition of big farm groups-big agbiz barely beat back the ever-broadening trinity of food, faith and consumer groups in 2007, which demanded more reform and more accountability in farm policy.
The reformers, not farmers, will drive the next farm bill fight.
Also, the Senate’s inclusion of a meatpacker ban on cattle feeding prior to slaughter in its farm bill likely will not be in the final version Senate and House conferees will hammer out when they return from their four-week winter nap.
Bold prediction, eh? Not really. In 26 years of reporting on agriculture, I’ve yet to see the packer-lackey (to quote Iowa’s Republican Sen. Charles Grassley) lobby – livestock groups whose nests are well-feathered with meatpacker cash – get beaten in the Washington influence game.
Cowboys. While the giant meatpackers uniformly hate the ban, Congress won’t toss it for that reason alone. So, enter the vote-roping, packer-owned cowboys of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association who will – are, in fact – arguing that the ban will be costly (“billions, sir”) to the current market-strangling “alliances” between packers and cattlemen.
Costly to packers and their lackeys, yes; fair to hundreds of thousands of nonlackey cattlemen, no.
Similarly, slam-dunk predictions of Democrats adding to their congressional majorities while waltzing to an easy White House win in 2008 should be balanced against the party’s dismal performance in 2007.
Congress, under the Dems, saw its approval ratings skydive nearly 50 percent, from 70 percent to just 20 percent, in but 10 months last year.
On the other hand, if a chicken can learn to type, perhaps Democrats can yet learn that stepping on their collective tongue is a poor way to inform a badly split nation on ways all might unite to face a very uncertain future.
Then again, it just could be that some chickens are innately smarter than most Democrats. (That’s an observation, not a prediction. I reserve the right, however, to convert it into a prediction sometime in, say, mid- to late October.)
Best for last. And now for my boldest prediction for the coming year: Energy prices, unlike home prices, will not go down in 2008.
There are a dozens of reasons for this unparalleled gutsiness, but one, seldom-cited fact should scare the carbon out of all Americans: the two most populous nations in the world, China and India, currently posses the fastest-growing economies as well as the fewest cars per thousand drivers in the world.
That means that when enriched (by us) Chinese consumers boost their car ownership from today’s eight cars per 1,000 eligible drivers – India has 11 per thousand; America an incredible 1,020 per thousand – to, maybe, 10 or 12 or 16, there will never be enough ethanol anywhere to ease your and my pain at the pump.
Happy cotton pickin’ New Year.
(Alan Guebert’s Farm and Food File is published weekly in more than 75 newspapers in North America. He can be contacted at agcomm@sbcglobal.net.)


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Alan Guebert was raised on an 800-acre, 100-cow southern Illinois dairy farm. After graduation from the University of Illinois in 1980, he served as a writer and editor at Professional Farmers of America, Successful Farming magazine and Farm Journal magazine. His syndicated agricultural column, The Farm and Food File, began in June, 1993, and now appears weekly in more than 70 publications throughout the U.S. and Canada. He and spouse Catherine, a social worker, have two adult children. farmandfoodfile.com