Hindsight is 20/20

Written by Ernie Verslues on .

A few weeks ago, we all turned the page on calendar 2020—a year filled with challenges and struggles. I’ve heard “I’m glad 2020 is over,” as a common conversational theme, and when you look at 2020 as a whole, I think that is a conclusion we all reached.

It couldn’t end fast enough, though. The year threw one last punch MFA’s way on Dec. 31. I’m sure most of you are aware of the explosion at our Adrian facility. We were fortunate that only one employee was injured and not seriously. We continue to deal with the aftermath of damage to grain and the facility.

Calendar year 2020 was a roller coaster. We started the year with optimism. Trade agreements were coming together, commodity and livestock values were good, and financial markets were strong. Then COVID-19 took all of that away.

As humans, we tend to remem­ber painful events more acutely than positive ones. We remember financial markets tanking, unem­ployment hitting record highs, and commodity and livestock values reaching 10-to-15-year lows.

But we should also make sure to remember how they recovered. The stock market is at record highs, unemployment is back to low levels, and livestock prices have re­bounded. As of early January, grain markets are approaching values last achieved in early 2014. It is quite a turn of events.

The year 2020 was filled with tough decisions. We’ve all used the term, “hindsight is 20/20.” It’s easy to know the right thing to do after something has happened, but it’s hard to predict the future.

Still, hindsight should be a guide, not a focus. What did we learn? How do we use it going forward?

Our focus should be on foresight. Planning for what we think will happen. Looking into our crystal ball. Using the best information available to make decisions. Such a focus helps eliminate emotions from the decisions we make. Of course, hindsight is 20/20. Fore­sight is more like 50/50.

Foresight tells us there are both opportunities and challenges in 2021. This is a given every year. Nothing new for agriculture.

We still face uncertainties in many areas. How long will the impact of COVID-19 linger? What will its effects do to commodity and livestock values, demand for the products we raise, the economy in general? How has it changed the way we do business? How will we adapt going forward?

We won’t go back to the old normal.

By the time you read this, the country will be under a new administration. If you can believe what you read, it will bring a different view on many issues close to agriculture. Sustainability (or regenerative ag) will be a focus. While most of agriculture does a good job in this area, we must document it better and participate in the conversation.

Regulations and renewable fuels are also topics getting a lot of at­tention. From a regulatory stand­point, Waters of the United States certainly appears to be on the table for revision.

Agriculture groups are involved in these conversations and are working to protect the interests of your industry. MFA continues to be active in these groups and to represent you, our members.

But most of MFA’s efforts are tied directly to our customers. We rec­ognize the opportunities we have to provide value to your operations.

In my last Viewpoint, I reported a significant loss for MFA during the fiscal year covering Sept. 1, 2019, through Aug. 31, 2020. However, when you look at calen­dar year 2020, company perfor­mance was not that bad for MFA.

We recognized a small profit. While it was volatile, the result was positive. September 2020 through December 2020 marked one of the best falls we’ve had as a company.

We look forward to building on this promising start of fiscal 2021.

I’m not an active social me­dia user, but I was entertained by a meme I saw referencing the movie “Back to the Future.” Marty (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) are having a conversation. Doc Brown says, “Marty, whatever happens—don’t ever go to 2020.”

Most of us would agree. But, don’t forget there were positives. It was a year we conquered, not the other way around. Maybe 2020 set us up for some really good things in 2021. Let’s make it so.