We can argue over what economic policy works best, but the one thing we can be sure of is this: the federal government and the Federal Reserve are not working with a scalpel, but rather performing surgery on the economy with a chain saw. No one should expect our present monetary policy to be unwound in such a manner that farmland prices can be gently slowed to a more sustainable path — one that reflects the slow but steady increase in demand for food and fiber.
The federal government spent billions of dollars in the 1980s supporting farm income and writing off bad debts from various government farm lending programs. Those resources clearly aren’t available today, and agriculture is facing a grim future.
The Kansas City Federal Reserve recently had a symposium examining whether we are experiencing a farmland bubble. Bubbles are impossible to truly define until they burst, but when the Fed is sponsoring seminars on the topic, it occurs to this Eeyore that straws may well be floating in the wind. The ripples from a crash in farmland prices would not have the long-lasting effects on the economy that the subprime debacle did, but the chance of a crash in farmland prices should still concern policymakers. Farmers may well be collateral damage in the quantitative easing battle and are rightly worried that the next victim of our monetary policy will be wearing overalls when the music stops.