Gophers Falling From the Sky & Other Things to Keep an Eye On


I heard a loud thump on the pickup hood just as I sat down in the MSU parking lot.  After a quick glance up, I realize that a chunk of raw meat and fur is now my new hood ornament (this doesn’t really fit my style).  My second thought is what fool would toss half of a dead gopher onto my hood in the middle of the day while I am sitting in the vehicle.  Was someone trying to hit me?  After a bit more thought and a careful look around (of course this look around was from inside the pickup, just in case the other half of the gopher is still out there somewhere).  I see no one. The parking lot is surprisingly quiet.  I come the conclusion that the gopher must have fallen from the sky. I don’t see any trebuchets, cannons or sling shots.  The weather report didn’t mention a potential for rodent showers.  Maybe a bird was involved?  I may never know the full details of this event, but it was unexpected.

Recently, President Trump release his proposed 2018 federal budget.  This was expected. The budget includes significant reductions to the USDA budget, supplemental nutrition assistance program, commodity programs and places some income restrictions on certain farm programs.  The current farm bill is set to expire in September of 2018 so these budget priorities may have some relevance to the development of next farm bill.  It is early in the process and some have called this budget dead on arrival (similar to the gopher that arrived on my hood).  Even if this budget isn’t of much importance it does signal that is it time to starting paying attention to legislative process that will eventually lead to a new farm bill.

Another unexpected event occurred last week, an Agricultural Economist from Great Britain stopped by our department.  We had a great discussion over coffee and tea about US and UK agriculture.  Growing conditions, rain fall, GMOs and farm programs all were discussed.  The UK is currently part of the European Union but they are in the process of exiting (Brexit) the EU.  This means there is an incredible about of uncertain for UK farmers about what the farm policy environment will be post Brexit. I believe his specific comment about farm policy was “we know a cliff is coming on December 31, 2017 but we have no idea what is after the cliff”.  Talk about uncertainty.  Agriculture is a small part of the UK economy so the UK agriculture industry is concerned their voice may not be heard in the post Brexit policy environment.  I wonder if gophers will be addressed in their new farm programs?

I have three take away points from all of this:  1) Keep any eye on the development of the new US Farm bill.  2) Uncertainty is somewhat relative and I don’t envy British agricultural producers. 3) Watch out for dead gophers falling from the sky, you just never know.

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About Author

Joel Schumacher

Joel Schumacher, an extension economics associate specialist in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics at Montana State University. Much of his research has focused on understanding the economics and public policy implications of small and community scale alternative energy projects. Joel also researches and provides extension training in retirement planning, saving and investing. Helping Montanans stay up to date on the ever changing laws and regulations affecting consumer issues is an interesting and challenging area.

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