Mike Brady: It's time for us to ditch the 'moaning farmer' image and embrace change
As 2018 draws to a close, it is good to reflect on a difficult year for many farmers and see what lessons can be learned.
It is often said there are two certainties in life, death and taxes; in farming the two certainties are weather volatility and price volatility.
Many farmers live in hope of the perfect year - that year when the weather is perfect, and prices are good, but the reality is that such years are few and far between.
In any case, the weather or price which is favourable for one farmer may be unfavourable for another farmer. For example, when feed prices go up, it suits the tillage farmer but does not suit the livestock farmer.
This 'perfect year' mentality, perpetuating constant disappointment, is the root cause of the 'moaning farmer' reputation our industry has acquired over the years. Of course, when there is a crisis, the 'moaning farmer' interview on TV or social media feeds perfectly into the voracious appetite for negative news stories in media outlets.
This leads me to the first of what I feel are the four big lessons for farmers from 2018.
Expect and plan for crisis events
Farmers who take a longer-term view and who expect and plan for weather and price volatility are much better able to cope with such events. Take our pig farmers for example. They are in dire straits financially due to the combination of low pig prices and higher feed prices. Many are producing pigs below the cost of production which is costing them hundreds of thousands in losses, yet there is minimal moaning and groaning as most are just dealing with it and waiting for the price to turn.
The pig and tillage farmers have been through this below-cost-of-production-price cycle many times; their tenacity and endurance stems from this experience.