This economic bull market we’ve been in for the past 15 or more years has been something, hasn’t it? No one alive has ever seen such an unbroken summer of growth and prosperity, with just the right amounts of rain, wind, sun and clouds to convince even the most hardened skeptic that this season of growth is for real.
The tallness and hardiness of our crop-projects bearing such heavily laden fruits-profit have made so many of us feel beyond comfortable with our full silo-bank accounts that we can’t help but see even more blue skies over the immediate horizon. It’s times like these that ply on our human nature to make us believe that the natural order of cycles as set by God and Milton Friedman doesn’t apply anymore.
By simply monitoring and adjusting the kind and volume of productivity fertilizers such as computerized estimating systems, computerized cpm job scheduling and New Age field management styles, it’s almost as if the laws of seasons won’t apply to our industry-farm economy. Not at least until, or if, there’s an outside shock such as another oil crisis.
Trust me, the laws of supply and demand and of business cycles haven’t been repealed, not yet at least. As long as there is more demand for good farmland and working capital than there is supply of it, a day of reckoning that marks a change from bountiful summer to chilling autumn will arrive; and it will arrive sooner than later, I believe.
Now is the time for you to begin assessing how many bushels per acre in the fields to harvest, and to do some educated guessing on what profits you can take out when harvest time comes. No, it’s not time to panic. It is time to realize that, yes, this is a season of plenty we’re living in, but there’s not been a reality shift.
During times of plenty, layers of unnecessary fat accumulate. It’s definitely time to get out the fat pinchers and see how much antipasto has accumulated around the middle of your organization. When seasons change from summer to fall, fat draws strength and nourishment from an organization instead of being a caloric-food resource to help it survive. Using processes of natural attrition, let the fat begin to leave the body of your company.
During summers of perfect conditions like we’ve had for so many years, most farmers bow to their human natures and begin collecting unnecessary new toys, trucks, tractors and the latest gizmos because they have the money to do so and the optimism to back it up. But when those toys bought for intended productivity enhancements become unneeded because a glut of competition hits the market in the form of other farmers also having sudden excess capacity because of a downturn in market conditions, then the lease payments on such gadgets become albatrosses around your neck. They’re dead birds that you can’t even plow back into the ground as fertilizer.
The later part of an extended summer of plenty is when you should prepare for the inevitable harvest to come.
Even though you’re busy, now is the time when you need to have your Ag Extension agents train you and your employees on the latest in crop management and harvesting. That way, when the first chill of coming winter winds hit, you can make better decisions on the fly than your competitors, reacting more quickly and correctly than your competition.
It’s also the time to retool, repair and rebuild equipment that you have bought and paid for so that it will have a longer life and become true net assets to the company, not money-draining liabilities.
It’s the time to maybe consider selling some timber, busting stumps, and plowing some new ground of new markets and new customers, so when that day comes you’ll have done a lot of the harder work first before your competition begins to do the same.
And maybe it’s also the time to consider the reality that the crops planted at the right time in the right conditions means that your total net profits might actually go up even during the fall and winter of economic seasons to come. Total yield as exhibited by total dollars is far more important than the fake status of having the largest farm in your area.
Do not be afraid of the coming fall, the snows of winter or even the freak snowstorm of summer. If you weren’t a gambler by nature and realist by choice, you wouldn’t have chosen farming or mechanical contracting as your profession to begin with.