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Mackinac

Fall

Late summer and fall were extraordinarily busy for us. Primarily due to the uncertain economic situation and high demand from some of our primary segments, especially agriculture.
I spent an especially interesting time with the Ag Industry Council of the National Corn Growers Association. Not only was the Mackinac Island location one of the more beautiful destinations but the discussions were fascinating. I don’t know of many associations who do a better job of integrating with their industry partners. This is one of America’s best-run associations with major perception issues.
Their industry council covers the range of agribusiness companies like Syngenta, Monsanto, Dow as well as big players like John Deere, BNSF, and CHS. They have many mutual interests and issues to discuss. The presentations ranged from foresight to social media to discussions of major issues. There was a fascinating side meeting on a future development that I hope to be able to write about some day.
I tire of the talking points from some quarters who keep referring to “millionaire corn farmers.” In order to even be in the agriculture sector today an operator has to have substantial financial resources and very high credit access. There are millionaire retail owners, millionaire dry cleaners, millionaire grocery store owners, even a lot of millionaire consultants around.
But none of the “millionaires” in other sectors roll the entire enterprise out on the line every year like a corn farmer does. This last year was an example. Weather caused most operators to have to replant their crop in the spring due to too much moisture, massively spiking their overhead. Then, when it came time to harvest their crop, they ran into the same situation and couldn’t get equipment into the cornfields to get the crop.
The risks are huge in this industry. The producers are families. The economics force them to operate on large acreages. But these are not what the image of millionaire evokes. They are modest, practical, middle-class families who love the land and the life they live.