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8 Highlights From the Land Investment Expo

More than 900 attendees attended the 12th annual Land Investment Expo on Friday in Des Moines, Iowa. Started in 2012, the expo brings together farmers, landowners, investors, economists, and policy leaders to discuss the challenges and opportunities involving land investment, market forces, and the growing impact of technology in land management.

The event is known for bringing in big names for the keynote speaker and this year did not disappoint with Martha Stewart in that slot. Here’s what Stewart had to say about food and farming, plus notable nuggets from the other sessions and speakers.

1. Farmers, tell your story

“Most Americans are really ignorant in knowing where our food comes from. There is room for more exploration and teaching in that area. All the farmers in this room should promote more about how it happens,” said Stewart during her keynote address.

2. Growing interest among consumers in organic food

“The whole organic food movement is terribly important,” says Stewart, adding that all of the produce grown on her 150-acre farm is organic. “As consumers, we are paying more attention to where our food comes from, what is good food, and how we can make it more affordable.”

Read more of what Stewart had to say about food, farming, and consumer trends.

3. Feel confident in today’s food supply

Despite claims to the contrary, botanist James Wong says there’s no good evidence to suggest that crops nowadays are lower in nutrients compared to older varieties.

“Today’s food supply is the most affordable, the most varied, the safest, the most widely spread, most nutritious of any food supply in the history of our species,” he explains.

4. Bullish outlook for commodities

"Commodities are bloody cheap, historically cheap, stupidly cheap. I think $9 soybeans are unbelievably low, think $3 corn is unbelievably low, think $5 wheat is unbelievably low," says Dennis Gartman, publisher of The Gartman Letter, about why he’s bullish on the commodity market.

5. The U.S. needs trade with China

“We should be sponsoring free trade as aggressively as we can. We should sell more grain and more stuff to the Chinese," says Gartman, adding that we should stop worrying about the trade deficit.

Get more insights from Gartman on the tariffs, building a wall, land prices, and more.

6. Good and bad news coming out of Brazil

There are five main factors to consider when looking at Brazil’s future as a major ag producer, says geopolitical strategist Peter Zeihan.

  1. Brazil has the most expensive input cycle for agriculture, using 3-4 times as much fertilizer
  2. Brazil has the highest transport costs for ag
  3. Brazil has one of the most unequal economies
  4. Farms in Brazil are 10x the size of the U.S.
  5. Brazil just elected a law-and-order president, Jair Bolsonaro, who is a supporter of big agriculture

“As the global order breaks down, Brazil’s agricultural challenges will increase. In the next year or two, depending on how fast things globally go to pot, Brazil looks really good,” Zeihan explains. “After that, you are looking at a catastrophic collapse in Brazilian output because the inputs such as fertilizer are going to be harder to get. Brazil agriculture doesn’t work without massive inputs.

“Brazil today is as good as it’s going to be. It has the perfect environment,” he adds. “Outward finance is strong, the ability to tap the international system for fertilizers and fuel is strong, and the government is very pro-ag. All of that turns inside out in the next three years.”

In short: We are in the final years of facing Brazil as a competitor, he says.

See more of what Zeihan has to say about international trade.

7. Hemp is hot

“Farmers are looking for ways to diversify and create new markets. Hemp produces high-quality oil and protein products, plus we get the bonus of textiles,” says Michael Bowman, founding chair of the National Hemp Association. “We produce fiber, oil, and protein. There is a growing consumer market, even a preferential market, for hemp-derived products. If we make the necessary investments in infrastructure to grow these acres, I am convinced the market demand is there for a hemp-based suite of products.”

Learn more about growing hemp and the future of this industry.

8. Get Better, Not Bigger

“Get better, not just bigger. Bigger alone is not going to solve your issues,” says Jim Knuth, a senior vice president with Farm Credit Services of America. “It’s not the seed, chemicals, fertilizer. It’s not production, not the color of your equipment…  it’s not the biggest yields. It’s the farmers running their operations like a real business."

In this article, Knuth shares more of the attributes of farmers driven to succeed in such a challenging environment.

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