Random musings as we slog through the heat and humidity of August’s dog days:
· It must be all that intense solar radiation: More than one financial analyst has expounded at length in recent days about how agriculture is a “red hot” investment.
Farmland prices are rising (in some cases more rapidly than for metropolitan real estate), insurance companies are investing heavily in agriculture, and the hedge fund boys, ever on the lookout for more billions (on which to pay minimal taxes), are pouring big bucks into ag investments.
Even things such as fertilizer company stocks are being touted as opportune investments. World potash prices, for example, have skyrocketed; one company’s stock has gone from $8 in 2002 to nearly $90 today, with record revenues for the second quarter. Another play, railways that transport all those agricultural products — some stocks have quadrupled since 2002.
One advisor says farmland prices will take “a quantum leap” over the next 18 months.
It’s not all fueled by the corn/ethanol/biofuels boom, but also by burgeoning food/fiber demand by increasingly affluent populations around the world.
· There is, of course, the old contrarian adage: When everyone else is getting in, that’s the time to get out.
· The awful collapse of the Mississippi River bridge in Minneapolis put a grim spotlight on the neglect that has surrounded this country’s highways/roads/bridges infrastructure for decades.
The federal interstate highway system was designed in the 1950s for projected traffic volumes and weight loads of 1975 — which were exceeded long before the system was ever complete.
Maintenance and upgrade funds for this national system, as well as the myriad of state and county roads and bridges that are important to the nation’s farmers, have been spread thinner and thinner.
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has given the national transportation infrastructure a D, and a recent Urban Land Institute report classed 83 percent of that infrastructure as inadequate to meet the country’s needs over the next 10 years.
· More than 73,000 bridges are rated structurally deficient. The ASCE estimates it would take $186 billion and 20 years to repair them. Analysts say as much as $30 billion more per year is needed in federal highway/bridge funds. Much of the money allocated by Congress goes to new construction, often for pet projects in members’ districts.
The likelihood of significant new money is adjudged slim.
· By contrast, $500 billion-plus has been allocated thus far to the Iraq war; total costs could exceed $1 trillion.
· And from the Obfuscation Is Alive And Well Department, this quote from a Homeland Security person following the Minnesota bridge collapse: “At this time, there’s no indication of a nexus to terrorism.”
Nexus? Geez, he couldn’t have just said “link” or “connection”?
Another that sets my teeth on edge, the Washington and New York writers who ever so superiorly note that something has been “redacted” rather than “edited.”
Or the everywhere-you-turn TV commercial for a sleeping pill that has caused sleepwalking in some users. “May cause somnambulism,” the announcer intones.
For these pretentious folk, I recommend defenestration…