How optimistic are you about your future in agriculture?

August 11, 2016

4 Min Read
How optimistic are you about your future in agriculture?

Watching the Olympics this week, I can appreciate what makes America so great. We have the privilege to enjoy the freedom to pursue our own version of happiness, chase our dreams and achieve success if we work both smart and hard. This has been shown time and time again in the Rio Games as Team USA continues to bring home the hardware.

For example, the USA’s first gold medal was received by Virginia Thrasher in shooting sports, highlighting many American’s firm belief in Second Amendment rights. As I write this, Team USA swimmer Michael Phelps has earned 21 gold medals in his Olympic career, showcasing that success doesn’t have to be a flash in a pan, and with decades of time and training, one can become an expert in their chosen field. And Olympic champion gymnast Simone Biles is a true rags to riches fairytale — a child of the foster care system, she was adopted, and with her new family, she was able to achieve her dreams.

It just goes to show that no matter where you start in life, in America, the opportunities are endless, and with determination, sacrifice and a strong focus on the goal, anything is possible in the land of the free.

READ: Olympics, Westerns or ranching -- just do it!

For the most part, I’m a very optimistic person, but I’m also pretty grounded in reality. As a millennial rancher, I’ve seen the struggles of the generations before me, and I know that my career in production agriculture comes with its fair share of hurdles to overcome. Combine these challenges with volatile markets and an upcoming presidential election with two major candidates like we’ve never seen before, and I’ll admit, it’s sometimes hard to be confident in what the future holds for myself and my peers in this industry.

A recent poll conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Agricultural Economics and the University of Nebraska Rural Futures Institute looked at how optimistic rural Nebraskans are feeling compared to five years ago. While it’s a small sample size considering it’s only one state, I’m curious to know if the survey’s findings represent your thoughts on the present and future of the agricultural business.

According to the survey, “Fifty-two percent of respondents said they are better off this year than five years ago, holding steady from 53% last year, the highest proportion in all 21 years of the study. Only 16% said they were worse off. Forty-six percent believe they will be better off in 10 years. The results were similar to last year's 48%. The percentage of those who thought they will be worse off increased slightly, from 17% in 2015 to 20% this year. “Respondents' assessment of their current situation reflects a general pattern of growing optimism over the 21 years of poll results, with bigger declines occurring in 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2013. When looking to the future, there has also been a general trend of increasing optimism over the past 21 years, with two bigger declines in 2003 and 2013. This poll was conducted in the spring.”

READ: Prophetic optimism

“There can be quite bit of annual variation in these confidence measures resulting from timing with regard to large events and statistical error,” explains Randy Cantrell, Nebraska Rural Futures Institute rural sociologist. “However, the trend over the poll’s entire 21 years has been for that confidence to slowly increase. If one considers the array of the things that affect an individual’s day-to-day life, many if not most have, in fact, improved. If nothing else, technology has made a lot of things easier and created a new set of possibilities for individuals to learn, to participate with others in pursuing their interests, to engage in commerce, and in general to see more opportunities for themselves and their surroundings.”

I’ll admit I was surprised by the findings, as was Brad Lubben, agricultural economics assistant professor, who said, “I would have expected the ag sector to be less optimistic. They may still be better than five years ago from accumulated wealth, but the outlook for the next 10 years is surprisingly strong. Maybe they are looking past the short-run difficulties at the long-run opportunities for growth.”

READ: Are you the best ranch manager you can be?

Other findings showed that most rural Nebraskans are satisfied with their marriage, family, friends, the outdoors, their safety and general quality of life. Meanwhile, 55% of respondents disagreed that people are powerless to control their own lives; however, there was a commonality of concerns about lack of job opportunities, current income levels and the ability to build assets, wealth and financial security for retirement.

Complete results of the survey can be found here.

What do you think about the survey results? Are you fairly optimistic about the next five years in agriculture? How about the next five months? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Penton Agriculture.


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