This year will be recorded as one of the most memorable but only as a matter of the degree of difficulty, as farm and ranch families experienced challenges few thought were possible a year ago.

This year will be remembered for the gut-check pain Mother Nature delivered to producers whether in the form of blizzard, massive flooding or drought as High Plains Journal readers experienced. The trade war, Asian swine fever and a fire at a major Kansas meat packing plant generated much concern and buzz that carried beyond agricultural media and over into the nightly news.

All of this came during a non-election year, which is now about to kick into gear with all of its hysteria and madness that if allowed to seep into your holiday conversation, will likely mean hurt feelings. Political conversations should be off limits during a holiday.

For some readers it maybe a quiet time because of the loss of a loved one or a family member who lost his or her job. There are no easy ways to broach those topics yet addressing them can open avenues to inner peace. The holidays are also a time to check on neighbors who may have no place to go or because of their private nature have too much pride to ask.

As the holiday season nears, there is a sense of humanity and stories will abound about the generosity of our corporate neighbors or anonymous donors who help worthy causes that help those who are down on their luck. The donation of food to a local pantry or aid to pay a heating bill does make a difference. Plus, as many donors say, the thanks and smiles they receive more than offset their contribution. Rural churches will see a spike in numbers. More than a duty, it reminds those who attend that all gifts come from God.

In the High Plains regions, snowfall means important moisture for wheat and cover crops and to provide water and boost subsoil moisture for spring-planted crops.

Watching young calves spring to life even in the winter’s cold offers a reason to pause and celebrate.

Although today’s economic climate is tough in most sectors of production agriculture, there are several hopeful signs, which include the release of Market Facilitation Program direct payments to producers who have been hit hard in the trade war with China. Another sign is the opening of additional markets in the Pacific Rim as noted the Nov. 11 cover story by Associate Editor Jennifer M. Latzke.

Interest rates and fuel prices remain relatively low and stable headed into 2020, and consumers in the United States and around the globe crave the proteins raised in the heartland.

The nuggets of optimism won’t wash away some of the red flags that remain in the farm economy. The slog is going to be here for awhile but farmers and ranchers can take heart in knowing that a new day means a new opportunity and that should strengthen us all.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or dbergmeier@hpj.com.

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