Golly, crop ads have gotten hot all of a sudden.
Hot and controversial!
What kind of wonderful craziness in ad companies produces these gems below?
(Like a sassy Angelina Jolie for people with a construction fetish, methinks)
(That’s bound to be popular with the people with fire and combustion fetishes, as well as those literalists who have never understood what TV airheads mean when they describe an attractive person as “Hot!!!!!”)
(Now that’s a saucy cowgirl! And the cause of a delightful controversy gripping the Western grain industry.)
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a fan of the objectification of women. I have three young girls that I want to grow up in a gender-equitable world and my wife is a professional woman who I met while she was working at a university Women’s Centre during the heyday of feminist identity politics. But I’m also a journalist covering the grain industry and farming, and – let’s face it – it’s just not usually a wild, controversial, or outrageous a thing to cover. The cowgal ad has given us all something to be shocked by, to express outrage over, to giggle about, to titter at, and to yack on and on about.
This is a good thing. Better than another five minutes spent discussing whether or not the Midwest drought will continue, or whether farmers will seed 18, 19 or 20 million acres of canola this spring.
But inevitably it makes me wonder about how this plays into the long term commodity bull market we’re in. I can’t help but think that this sort of euphoric, throwing-caution-to-the-wind approach of these ads fits perfectly the booming returns and exuberant mood so many thousands of farmers are in across the West, with sky-high returns for crops, ballistic land prices and projections that prices just have to stay high forever to feed all the hungry mouths of 2050. Ads like these seem to me to represent an irreverent, goofy, fun-filled and sassy approach to some things that are pretty dull and serious: ag chemicals and marketing programs. Who wouldn’t want to spice those things up a bit in a time when everyone’s pretty mellow?
Would companies dare to create or use ads like this in a time of dourness and distress, when farmers are hanging on for their financial survival? I don’t know, but I doubt it. I can’t think of too many examples similar to these. We’re in a prolonged period now, since 2007, in which crop prices are well-above break even and the profits are totally changing the outlook and situation of thousands of grain farmers. Everyone’s getting a bit glib and drunk on confidence and optimism, perhaps, but that’s a nice change from the decades of drear and depression that seemed to grip the industry from 1982 to 2006. I covered most of that period, and let me tell ya, grain farming and relaxed optimism, cheery irreverence and in-your-face sauciness were not things you’d connect.
For grain farmers I hope it goes on for a few more years at least. Not the glibness or casual confidence, which can lead to irrational exuberance, overextension of businesses based on too-positive assumptions, ill-considered actions whilst at conventions in Vegas, and second homes in Arizona, but the good times based on booming profitability based on high crop prices and good production methods – and good weather. I covered 15 years of dreariness and it’s a nice change to be covering goofy good times for a few years.
I’m positive it’ll all end at some point. I don’t buy-into the “How are we going to feed nine billion people by 2050″ idea that supports the assumption that crop prices are going to inevitably stay high for decades, and therefore crop growers’ profitability will stay high. I expect this whole thing to go the other way a few years from now, at least the profitability bit, and I hope grain farmers are prepared for that. I’ve been covering the theory of the long-term commodity bull market since 2004, when Jim Rogers issued his Hot Commodities book, and I still see nothing that refutes or seriously challenges its central premise. In fact, almost everyone now seems to be mimicking the view, and many are trying to say that’s what they always thought. Little attention is being paid to the back-end of Rogers’ theory, which is when the end of the commodity boom will come, but his theory and those of most commodity analysts call for commodity booms to end at a certain point and be replaced by the next long-term equity bull market. I’m still plugging for that to happen between 2016 and 2018. Who knows? But end some time I’m sure it will. (Did Yoda just speak through my keyboard?)
So I hope grain farmers enjoy this ride of profitability, embrace a period in which imminent failure is not a big concern, and revel in the goofy atmosphere that sees saucy ads appear in the normally-restrained pages of The Western Producer.
I’m giggling about the ads, but they’re making me pull out my old Bibles of the present market and think once more about when it’ll all go away.