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"Agriculture and manufacturing are the two bright spots in the economy right now,” says Abbott Myers, chairman of Mississippi Land Bank and a rice/soybean/corn producer at Dundee, Miss. But, he says, the growing federal deficit, the likelihood that Congress will eliminate direct payments and other farm program funding, the potential for interest rates and inflation to increase, and continuing higher costs for farm inputs pose challenges to farmers.
CYNDI HYDE-SMITH, center, Mississippi commissioner of agriculture and commerce, was a special guest at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Land Bank. With her are Gary Gaines, left, the organization’s president, and Abbott Myers, chairman of the board.
Adhering to budget critical
Consumers “are doing much better job of managing their money than the federal government is doing managing our money,” Myers says. “Our federal deficit is out the roof. Last year, our budget was $3.7 trillion, this year it’s over $4 trillion; the deficit last year was $1.65 trillion, and it will be more this year. We’ve yet to see a true figure. This is way too much.
“The politicians say, ‘It’s so hard to cut the budget — we just can’t do it.’ We in farming have budgets; businesses have budgets; most states have budgets, consumers have budgets.
“I don’t see anything hard about the need for the U.S. to have a budget and to follow it. It’s a reality that almost everyone can grasp — except the politicians in Washington. The federal government is going to have to bite the bullet and get a handle on this. If they don’t, it’s going to affect agriculture directly.
“It makes no difference if you’re Democrat or Republican — this affects everyone in a very definite way. We’ve got to get a handle on this problem.”
Skyrocketing energy prices continue to be a drag on the economy and a major concern for agriculture, Myers says.
“Our nation’s energy policy — what policy there is — needs some common sense. The U.S. and agriculture economies have been built on relatively cheap energy. And while green is good — we need wind, we need solar and thermal, we need new forms of energy — we also need to better utilize natural gas, coal, liquefied natural gas, and traditional energy forms.
“With the big surge in natural gas production in the U.S. and falling prices, we’re being told that more trucks will be running on liquefied natural gas instead of diesel. We have the largest supply of natural gas in the world, and we’ve found more oil in the U.S. than we’d ever thought possible 10 years ago. We need to get on the ball and develop common sense energy policies to take advantage of these resources right here in our own country.”
The international financial crisis also is a concern, Myers says. “Is the U.S. heading down the same road as Greece, facing financial default? The International Monetary Fund chief has called on the U.S. for $500 billion to help bail out the European nations. But if the U.S. can’t get its financial house in order, who’s going to come to our aid? We don’t want to go the way Greece is going. Democrats and Republicans need to get together and get this straightened out.”