Along the Fencerow

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BRADLEY GOERING
Walking Main Street in rural communities can bring on a lack of enthusiasm. In some respects, we are fortunate in south central Kansas, as these downtown excursion show that these businesses are surviving the most recent economic downturn.

Rural America in other parts of Kansas may have a different story to tell. As the recession came along in 2001, manufacturing and small businesses that were struggling may no longer exist. It is challenging for the towns who depend on agriculture to stay open for business when there have been three, and in some cases four, years of drier-than-normal conditions.

In a recent discussion that I had with P.J. Griekspore, agribusiness journalist for the Wichita Eagle, dryland farmers in some locations out west won’t be able to withstand the effects of one more dry year. They have been too long without a good harvest. Because of this, communities will be impacted greatly.

As economists are predicting a rebound from the recession after the first quarter in 2002, the smaller, very rural communities won’t see the benefits that we may see in our area.

In past recessions, 1970 and 1991, rural places paced economic recoveries. The reason, they had a stronger service-based activity and a softer manufacturing slowdown. Neither of these hold true this time.

As for production agriculture, we continue to see rising land values, rising input costs, increase cost for machinery, and low crop prices.

On the bright side we are seeing some of the lowest interest rates in our history. Farmers also receive government payments so that consumers can continue to buy safe, cheap food.

When will agriculture rebound?

At the moment, there is too much momentum with hoof-and-mouth disease (everyone else calls it foot-and-mouth, but I have yet to see a farm animal with a foot), mad cow disease, and week foreign economies to be optimistic for commodities to go up in price.

If we see an increase in demand for existing products and we can reach new outlets other than our traditional food markets, then a rebound could start this year.

We will continue to work efficient and work hard so that we will eventually see these new markets emerge. That may be our best hope for now.

Bradley Goering can be reached by e-mail at bgoering@thecsb.com or by telephone at 620-327-4941.

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