A few years ago, I was asked by the then dean of the business college at Fort Hays State University to begin teaching some courses in journalism (which is under the college’s umbrella). A couple of years ago, FHSU’s college of science, technology and math has since asked me to teach a lunch hour topics class twice a week in agricultural communications.
It’s a survey class to enable the students to become better communicators in the message of their profession, whether they’re marketing cattle or hogs; selling for a seed, feed or chemical company; or lending in a bank or the local Farm Credit office.
The class is composed of all final semester seniors raised in Kansas, with the exception of one young woman from a Denver suburb.
We usually start the class by talking about what’s going on in the students’ world, then onto whatever’s going on in ag, then I deliver a lecture or have a student activity.
My most recent class discussion, however, centered around two topics that seemed to hit close to home for many in the class: the tariff situation affecting farm prices and the floods across the northern portion of our readership area.
“Wonder what this flooding will do for prices?” said one of the students who wants to go to work in grain marketing. “These guys have lost stored up grain, and now they’ll likely be prevented from planting. Then you add in what Trump is doing with the tariffs and I don’t know what to think.”
Good questions. I wish I had all the answers, I told them. Since I’m three times their age, all I could share was what I’d seen before and let them compare and contrast on their own.
The first thing to remember, I told the students, is that Ronald Reagan removed the embargo on wheat to the Soviet Union following his defeat of Jimmy Carter. Reagan knew the embargo was a failure and only hurt our farmers. Even though the Chinese recently purchased its largest amount of U.S. corn in over five years, President Donald Trump is still planning to keep the tariffs on Chinese technology going while the Chinese will go tit-for-tat with us on agricultural products.
“We want to look strong. The Chinese do not want to lose another trade fight, as they have so many times in the past,” I told the students. “Nobody wants to get to win-win, since that would mean both sides humbling themselves. In this very political war, someone has to lose. Who’ll win? Beats me.”
The talk then centered on the awful flooding and how the government would be of assistance. I told the students to be watching for a vote later in the day to at least allow debate on a disaster assistance bill.
“You’ve got bridges out. Prevented planting. Ice floes. Can they handle anything else?” one student said.
“They just need help,” I said. “Only problem is, some folks are too humble to ask for it.”
One of my usually quieter students spoke up from the back of the room. What he said spoke volumes.
“We need to do something. That’s for sure.”
By the way, if you want to help, we have a list of organizations, ranging from the Red Cross and the United Way to the Nebraska Farm Bureau and Nebraska Cattlemen that are handling donations. Find it at hpj.com.
Larry Dreiling can be reached at 785-628-1117 or email@example.com.