It’s not always about the grain market: Some people have real problems

Page 1 of the Boston Globe, 4/17/13

It is easy in my business to become fixated on ag issues and on news that affects my grain markets, to the extent of ignoring bigger issues.

At the drop of a hat, I can bloviate about the reasons why corn and soybean prices have dropped the last two weeks, and the chances of a rebound. I can feel free to give advice to producers, knowing it is their dollars at stake, not mine.

Beyond the markets

Sometimes, however, the real world intrudes strongly enough to remind me that some people have real problems.

Sometimes that is seeing an old neighbor and realizing that she is wearing a turban where she had hair the last time you saw her. Maybe you glance at the obituaries and realize the husband of a school chum has died. Both of those happened to me in the last few days.

Yesterday it was turning on the TV and seeing the images of a world gone wrong enough to have bombs go off at the Boston Marathon. This morning I heard that one of the dead was a little boy who was waiting to watch his dad finish his race.

Yes, some people have real problems.

As I called my wife to watch the news with me yesterday, I had several thoughts. A couple of them I am not proud of.

I told Ellen, one thing about living in Wayne, Ohio — no one is ever going to set a bomb off here! And, I reminded her of the famous Saturday Night Live skit, “Buckwheat is dead!”  This satirized the news media’s need to report without benefit of facts.

We knew last night that we would see the same video loops, and hear the exact same “news” for hours. Eventually, some of the news would be recanted, and eventually we would have more than the bare facts to talk about.

Then, I reminded her, this is how we will live for the rest of our lives. But, how shall we live?

At the same time I thought of how insulated I was from such disasters, I remembered how the Israelis have lived for 65 years.

There is a mindset to living in a permanent war. If a bomb goes off in a cafe in Israel, the next afternoon the worst of the damage is cleaned up and the cafe is filled with people there to declare that they cannot be scared off.

I am not sure if we are ready to embrace this war the way the Israelis do. When the Boston Marathon is run next year, which it must be, will there be fewer runners or more?

Our answer to the 9⁄11 attacks was a new bureaucracy and grandmothers being groped by airport security. The Israelis answered airplane takeovers in the ’60s by announcing that there would be marshals on every plane, and that there would be shootouts every time a hijacking was attempted.

The Israelis were reminded that they lived in a state of war, and collateral damage to passengers would have to be accepted. After a couple of shootouts, the Muslims never tried again.

The knee-jerk reaction to the bombings in our country will be even greater security and a certain continued loss of freedom for the innocent. We are not yet willing to sacrifice lives for a continuation of our freedoms.

It should encourage us that we are told today that officials have succeeded in stopping untold dozens of attacks that have not been publicized. Instead, the reality is that we know we cannot stop them all. Boston proves that again.

At the heart of it, we remain under attack because we are Americans, and the world is watching to see how we react.

Back at the ranch

Meanwhile, our little problems in the grain business continue. USDA finally released a Crop Progress report Monday afternoon. The report for the previous week was canceled for lack of planting.

This week, we show that 2 percent of the corn is in, versus a normal 7 percent. Last year we had planted 16 percent by now.

The delayed planting has not impressed Chicago, where prices have not bounced much after USDA discovered more corn stocks two weeks ago. The cool, damp weather is being taken as a warning that the prospective drought may be a bust.

Also, the markets are focused on the idea that the huge difference between old and new crop prices will be decided by a decline in the old crop. May 2014 corn futures are a buck cheaper than May 2013.

Unless the planting delays extend for a month, the race to cheaper grain will continue.


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