I feel a bit like I imagine Barack Obama must feel. I’ve concentrated on the task in hand, worked hard for over a year, often in almost impossible conditions and against long odds to get the job done. Finally harvest was finished and we were all drilled up, and there was a moment of euphoria as the target was reached. Then reality hit.
The size of the problems ahead crowded in on me as they must have last week on the US President elect. Prospects that looked exciting at a distance now became daunting. Why did he, why did I, ever think we wanted the job?
OK, I’m being presumptuous in comparing my problems to those of the forthcoming tenant of the White House. But from where I sit they are just as serious. Further, whereas the 44th US President will need to make financial decisions of earth-shattering scale and complexity, it won’t be his money he’s spending. When I make decisions about much smaller dilemmas every penny at risk will be mine (or borrowed from my bank – if it still exists).
Moreover, there are a number of other ways in which my situation is potentially worse than that of America (or the UK come to that). I planted wheat last autumn anticipating it would be sold on a rising market. Some of it was, thank goodness, and I am grateful for that. But the farm economy (like that of the world) imploded and there’s still some unsold in the barn.
We’ve just completed this year’s drilling against a background of falling prices (and in horrible wet conditions that do not auger well for good yields next August. I also fear for the late-drilled oilseed rape). Meanwhile sharply increasing prices of essential inputs have pushed up production costs to an all-time high.
If it all goes pear-shaped (the equivalent of the US mortgage crisis that led to the world financial collapse) will the International Monetary Fund or Middle Eastern oil barons bail me out? I think not. It’s far more likely, if my bank gets a sniff I’m having a bad year, that they’ll demand a higher interest rate on the basis of their greater risk, making my position worse.
And if, because of my bad management or bad marketing or bad luck, I am in desperate need of extra cash to invest in future production, might I, as governments do, be able to raise it by claiming more money (governments call it taxes) from those with whom I trade? What a silly question.
Then, just to reinforce the fact that the party was over, Russia announced it would place new nuclear weapons on its border in retaliation for US missiles in Poland. And the Environment Committee of the European Parliament confirmed the EU’s intention to ban some of the agrochemicals I need to grow profitable yields. The crises continue. Being US President isn’t fundamentally different from being a farmer. But I gather the perks are better.