Change Is The Only Constant

Change Is The Only Constant

The most difficult task for any columnist is to project, due to publishing deadlines, what the major industry-related issues will be and what readers will be interested in three months down the road. But one would literally have their head in the sand not to recognize that the upcoming elections in November will be one of the issues causing the buzz when this issue hits the streets.

Everyone already knows the 2010 elections are significant and competitive. Let’s add record-setting to that description. Why?

– 2010 features the most U.S. Senate seats on the November ballot (37) since 1962.

– 2010 also has the most elections for governor ever on the same ballot (also 37).

– 2010 has produced one of the highest percentages of Democratic-versus-Republican House lineups in modern history. Fully 405 of 435 House races have both a Democrat and a Republican running for the seat. Democrats have nominated 410 candidates for the House and Republicans have an even larger number, 430. For the GOP, this is the most congressional districts they have ever contested.

Elections always matter, and citizens should vote. But if the past is predictive, only about 40 percent of adults in the United States will cast a ballot in 2010, as opposed to a much larger 63 percent in 2008. Perhaps the record number of elections–not to mention the high stakes–will encourage more Americans to participate this fall.

Economic Analysis

If history shows us anything, we know the state of the economy leading up to elections is often an important factor affecting the outcome. The latest recession has been the most egalitarian of all the 11 recessions since World War II. In various ways, it has touched every social class through job loss, pay cuts, depressed home values, shrunken stock portfolios, eroded retirement savings, grown children returning home–and anxiety about all of the above. The Great Recession (as it is widely called) has changed America psychologically, politically, economically and socially. Just how will be examined and debated for years.

All of this reminds me of one of my favorite passages from Paul Seabright’s “The Company of Strangers.” The author refers to “politicians,” but the discussion may as well refer to any member of the crew. It goes like this:

“Politicians are in charge of the modern economy in much the same way as a sailor is in charge of a small boat in a storm. The consequences of their losing control completely may be catastrophic (as civil war and hyperinflation in parts of the former Soviet empire have recently reminded us), but even while they keep afloat, their influence over the course of events is tiny in comparison with that of the storm around them. We who are their passengers may focus our hopes and fears upon them, and express profound gratitude toward them if we reach harbor safely, but that is chiefly because it seems pointless to thank the storm.”

Nonetheless, the lackluster performance of the economy has prompted some to refer to the post-Great Recession as the Great Stall. In fact, since the recession started in the fourth quarter of 2007, the common theme has been about Americans cutting back on their spending. But the latest numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis show aggregate personal consumption expenditures are up 2.9 percent, or $285 billion. So we must be spending more on something!

In reviewing the data, right there at the top is America’s love affair with mobile devices, where spending has soared almost 17 percent since the recession started. Some would even go so far to say we are in a bit of a communications boom, as spending on wired, wireless and cable services has risen by 5 percent.

In addition, Americans still care about their pets, their children, their hair (a highly overrated commodity if you ask me) and their guns. Of course, the data also shows a big gain in spending on education, healthcare and housing, but it’s impossible to know how much of that increase is actually coming out of the pockets of households. Education spending includes government tuition aid and spending by private nonprofits out of their endowments and contributions; healthcare spending includes Medicare, Medicaid and employer-paid insurance; and housing includes a huge imputation for owner-occupied housing, which may or may not correspond to an actual increase or decrease in out-of-pocket spending.

Once we take those three huge categories out of the data, the remaining personal consumption expenditures have actually gone down by 0.6 percent since the recession started. If one looks at the types of spending categories that have gone down, you’ll notice Americans are spending a little bit less on clothing and hotels; a lot less on foreign travel, video and audio equipment (think big-screen televisions), and furniture. The big drop, though, has come in motor vehicles and associated goods and services, like gasoline. Luxury items, in other words, not necessities have been hit the hardest. So it’s all the more important for us to convey our value proposition so consumers view our products and services as necessities in their lives, not mere luxuries.

Making Strides, Slowly

However, as I have said in this column before, I believe the recovery will continue to move ahead, but at a modest pace and unemployment will gradually come down. Impediments to growth are slowly being removed. The functionality of the financial market is being restored. Private balance sheets are being repaired and necessary structural adjustments are under way. The past few weeks, however, have seen a slight retrenchment from the mindset of optimism and growing confidence that prevailed earlier in the year. One reason is the roller-coaster effect of recent economic indicators. More influential, in my opinion, is the heightened sense of uncertainty and risk surrounding the near-term outlook.

But it bears remembering that all deeply distressing experiences–whether they are national economic and financial crises, regional environmental calamities with associated economic pain, or traumas on a personal level–are followed by a strong impulse to return to normalcy. This urge also applies to our industry, so stay the course. In the words of R.I. Fitzhenry, uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don’t let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity.

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...
Laura Drotleff

December 6, 2016

Are You Driving Young Growers Away? [Opinion]

In a time when the industry is facing a critical shortage of both labor and skilled, educated growers, it's important that grower operations don't unwittingly turn candidates off to a career at their business or in the industry in general. Take a closer look at your hiring practices to ensure you are being inclusive and not breaking any laws.

Read More
Trays move on an overhead conveyor to the end of the production line, where workers carefully pack the cleaned, sized, graded, counted and sorted Calla tubers

November 29, 2016

Texas Judge Halts Overtime Rule; Here’s What It Means For Greenhouse Growers

According to Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort, the injunction against the overtime rule is welcome news for horticulture.

Read More
Craig Regelbrugge, senior vice president of AmericanHort - Feature image

October 25, 2016

Contribute To HRI To Help Honor Industry Advocate Craig Regelbrugge

In honor of Craig Regelbrugge's extraordinary contributions to the horticultural industry, AmericanHort and the Horticultural Research Initiative created a special HRI endowment fund in his name: "The Craig Regelbrugge - Advocates for Horticulture Fund."

Read More
Latest Stories
Laura Drotleff

December 6, 2016

Are You Driving Young Growers Away? [Opinion]

In a time when the industry is facing a critical shortage of both labor and skilled, educated growers, it's important that grower operations don't unwittingly turn candidates off to a career at their business or in the industry in general. Take a closer look at your hiring practices to ensure you are being inclusive and not breaking any laws.

Read More
Trays move on an overhead conveyor to the end of the production line, where workers carefully pack the cleaned, sized, graded, counted and sorted Calla tubers

November 29, 2016

Texas Judge Halts Overtime Rule; Here’s What It Means F…

According to Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort, the injunction against the overtime rule is welcome news for horticulture.

Read More
Craig Regelbrugge, senior vice president of AmericanHort - Feature image

October 25, 2016

Contribute To HRI To Help Honor Industry Advocate Craig…

In honor of Craig Regelbrugge's extraordinary contributions to the horticultural industry, AmericanHort and the Horticultural Research Initiative created a special HRI endowment fund in his name: "The Craig Regelbrugge - Advocates for Horticulture Fund."

Read More
Lucas Greenhouses Shipping

October 6, 2016

Greenhouse Shipping Costs Down, But Concerns Remain

Lower gas prices have led to lower shipping costs for some growers, but many continue to seek out ways to become more efficient.

Read More
Pansy ‘Cool Wave Blue Skies’ (Wave)

September 20, 2016

PanAmerican Seed Settles Alleged Trade Sanction Violati…

PanAmerican Seed, a division of Ball Horticultural Co., has been charged with violating trade sanctions to Iran over a number of years. According to a release from the U.S. Treasury department, PanAmerican Seed made 48 indirect sales of seeds to two Iranian distributors. The company shipped the seed to consignees based in countries in Europe and the Middle East. PanAmerican Seed’s customers then arranged for the re-exportation of the seeds to Iran. The release states that the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) determined PanAmerican Seed did not voluntarily self-disclose the alleged violations to OFAC, constituting an egregious case. “We believe that the settlement was extreme; however the alternative was to litigate with the U.S. government, which would take months, if not years,” says Todd Billings, Chief Financial Officer for Ball Horticultural Co. When asked what Ball Horticultural Co. has done to ensure that violations to trade sanctions do not […]

Read More
young-plants

September 20, 2016

The Top Young Plant Growers, And Four Critical Challeng…

In Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Top Young Plant Growers Survey, growers discuss the latest challenges and opportunities in fulfillment, shipping, labor, and crop protection.

Read More
Cavicchio Greenhouses

September 6, 2016

Cavicchio Greenhouses Wins Inaugural Sustainability Awa…

The Sudbury, MA, growing operation sustains more than 250 acres of annuals, perennials, and nursery stock, with a number of practices to mitigate its impact on the environment.

Read More
Charlie Hall Feature Image

September 6, 2016

10 Insights From Charlie Hall’s Green Industry Economic…

With the uncertain current economic climate, Texas A&M economist Charlie Hall says now may be the perfect time to invest — as long as you do it smartly.

Read More
Penn State Plant Bud

August 23, 2016

AmericanHort Is Helping Plant Importers Adjust To New R…

A report from Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort says the government is implementing a streamlined system for imports, in which all required data will be submitted electronically through a single window.

Read More
Plug Connection Assortment

August 9, 2016

AmericanHort’s Plug And Cutting Conference Will Feature…

This year’s conference, which takes place Sept. 19-21 in Carlsbad, CA, features discussions on water, pest and disease control, and production inputs, as well as a biocontrols workshop and tour of local cuttings facilities.

Read More
Cannabis In Greenhouse

July 27, 2016

The Top 5 Myths About Cannabis Production Cleared Up

There is a lot of misleading information going around about growing cannabis. Industry insider James Lowe makes sure you know the truth about cannabis production.

Read More
Joe Bischoff

July 26, 2016

SAF Partners With Cornerstone Government Affairs To Adv…

A new partnership between the Society of American Florists (SAF) and Cornerstone Government Affairs ensures that SAF will continue its highly effective work advocating for issues that affect the floriculture industry. “SAF and Cornerstone together provide experienced voices on Capitol Hill to protect our growers’ interests,” says SAF CEO Peter Moran. “We’ll continue to move major policy priorities forward on behalf of small business and agriculture.” Cornerstone is a public affairs firm specializing in government relations, strategic consulting, and advocacy. Its team of more than 50 senior professionals includes former senior professional staff from both authorization and appropriations committees and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as veterans of the horticulture industry. Agricultural and horticultural issues of primary concern to SAF members include access to labor, immigration, crop protection, international trade and other matters related to the day-to-day operations of growers. Before she retired this year, SAF lobbyist Lin […]

Read More

July 26, 2016

AFE Releases New Videos Highlighting Industry Successes

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) recently released five new videos, created to highlight floriculture successes through industry collaboration, support, and participation. “Each video shares real stories from industry members on career development through scholarships and internships, and true examples of research solutions that have shaped how the industry operates today,” says Laura Shinall, President of Syndicate Sales, Inc., and AFE Public Relations and Development Chair. “We’re excited to be able to share some great success stories in an effort to increase industry participation.” The introductory video “Heard of the American Floral Endowment?” helps educate those who aren’t currently aware of AFE’s programs, while other segmented videos (retail, wholesale, grower) share how Endowment programs complement each group and why it’s so important that everyone in the industry participates: Retail Florists Share Why They Turn to AFE New Resources for Floral Wholesalers and Suppliers AFE Helping Growers Profit Ready for a Career in Floriculture or Horticulture? […]

Read More
Briscoe White, Growers Exchange

July 6, 2016

The Grower’s Exchange Unlocks The Secret to E-Commerce

In the Internet era, Briscoe and Kenan White knew they had to adapt or die and specialize to survive. Here’s how they took The Grower’s Exchange online.

Read More
Brie Arthur

July 6, 2016

5 Can’t-Miss Events To Watch For At Farwest 2016

Whether it’s classes on biocontrols and gardening trends, or networking opportunities in and around the trade show floor, there’s plenty happening at Farwest 2016 in Portland, OR, in August.

Read More
Cannabis states 2016

July 1, 2016

Adult Use Of Cannabis On The Ballot In 2016

25 states have legalized cannabis and public opinion is increasingly positive. Here’s where things may be headed as we move toward the fall elections.

Read More
Practical Software Grower Vertical

June 18, 2016

Practical Software Solutions Increases Accessibility, E…

Practical Software will demonstrate Grower Vertical, its customizable and scalable enterprise management system for the horticulture industry, at Cultivate’16 in July.

Read More
Battlefield Farms Company shot

June 14, 2016

Battlefield Farms Is A Finalist For 2016 Operation Of T…

Battlefield Farms in Rapidan, VA, is one of three finalists for Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Operation Of The Year award and winner of the Excellence In Innovation award for 2016.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]