Will the “Ground Shift Under Our Feet” in 2017?

Here we are in 2017.  This is not science fiction, it’s actually real.  It seems like eons ago that we worried about Y2K and the changing of the new millennium.  In fact, people like me wondered all their life what it would be like when we change to the year 2000.  Here we are 17 years later with the world still changing.  On the farm, like I’ve said a million times, change is our only constant.

That is getting to be a bit of a cliché.  However, what happens when change is so large that the “ground shifts under your feet”.  In other words, change comes along that completely re-works your planning outlook.  Most of the time, that comes along at a slow pace, but sometimes not.  In 2017, I’m asking myself if the “ground will shift under my feet.”  Those changes are the ones that really change our paradigms.

At the end of 2016 I was touring for BDO Canada, which is a very large accounting firm here.  Every year they put on an agricultural roadshow, this year with me speaking about politics, trade and the grain markets.  I had one slide prepared at the beginning of the presentation where I showed one of my farms in approximately 1977.  In the slide I have a picture of an old Farmall 230 tractor, which I drove through 1000 acres of soybeans at that time.  My next slide showed a computerized monitor of a Case International combine.  The point was to draw the dichotomy of the two times.  Oh, how things have changed.

If you could take that young man from 1977 and put him into 2017, it would be hard to know what he would say.  I could not envision what we have today.  For instance, that particular tractor had no power steering and as I drove to that thousand acres of soybeans with the cultivator trying to take out weeds it was all about me.  I was sucking in dust and at the same time trying to keep on the row.  40 years later, I simply dial in my A-B line from last year and press Auto Steer.  I could’ve never imagined the ground shifting as much as it has.

Through that time, there were many changes that did shift the ground under my feet, maybe the biggest one being my one-year transition to no-till.  Where at one time, I worked the ground 3X in a cloud of dust, the next year I sprayed Roundup on burn-down and went through with a no-till drill.  In one fell swoop, I leaped ahead into the future.

A few years later I was asked to write a feature article for a Canadian magazine on something new called light-bar guidance.  Long story short, I connected a rudimentary light bar to a now departed tractor, set an A-B line and the rest was history.  I actually waited till almost dark, turned it on and let the guidance take me through the field.  I even turned the tractor lights off.  To me, it was like when Grandpa got his first tractor after the horses.  It was like science fiction. Auto Steer soon followed.

In 2017, I know change will be my only constant especially when I hit the fields in April making micro decision after micro decision amid my hands-on farm management minute-to-minute planning.  The question is, will there be something come along that will completely “shift the ground” under my feet.  Technology would be one thing politics is another. We all know that we have a new carbon policy in Canada and that will do what it does and then of course we have our good friends to the south.

Donald Trump is still a couple weeks from assuming the presidency, but he is not been shy about what he intends to do once in office.  In my mind, clearly, he is the wildcard of 2017.  I have always maintained that he will do what he says he is going to do, which is quite a radical shift for our trade and policy world.  I didn’t expect any of that pre-election.  So knock me over with a spoon.  Sometimes good planning doesn’t mean a thing.

Robots may come into the fore in 2017.  I know I want one to take over my weed control.  That would save me thousands of dollars and possibly make a sprayer obsolete.  Is that hard to imagine as we head into this New Year?  It sure is, although it is much closer than we expect.

So expect the “ground to shift under your feet” this year.  Nothing ever stays the same and in agriculture that is our mantra.  The difference now to me is that change is accelerating.  It should lead to an extremely intriguing and compelling 2017.