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A look at 2005: A retrospective
The agriculture industry saw its share of ups and downs in 2005 - from the resurrection of beef exports to floundering global trade deals to catastrophic agricultural losses. While countless circumstances and issues vie for the year’s top story, five events stand out as what will likely be recorded in the history books.

As far as agricultural losses, Hurricane Katrina, without question, wreaked the most devastation on farmers, ranchers and rural America. In an instant, producers lost what they had spent their lives building.

The storm impacted thousands of miles of farmland, ravaging crops, livestock, dairy and the timber industry. In all, farmers experienced billions of dollars in direct economic losses, not including indirect ramifications suffered by rural America because of job and infrastructure losses.

A sigh of relief was heard throughout the nation in July when Congress passed the energy bill. After years of pushing for comprehensive energy reform - not to mention skyrocketing prices at the pump - farmers and ranchers helped secure passage of the legislation.

Encompassing a renewable fuels standard of 7.5 billion gallons by 2012 and extensions of biodiesel tax credits and the renewable production tax credit for wind, biomass and other energy sources, the energy bill put the country on a positive path toward energy independence.

July also will be remembered for the passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Producing nearly $1.5 billion per year at full implementation in agricultural exports to the CAFTA-Dominican Republic region, the agreement provides significant opportunities for U.S. farmers and ranchers.

As 2005 progressed, we saw an impasse in other trade negotiations when World Trade Organization talks stalled in Hong Kong. While the United States offered a significant proposal to achieve real trade liberalization, other countries hid behind false rhetoric and sensationalized tactics in an effort to delay meaningful agricultural reform. As the old adage goes, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowin’.

Rounding out the year, the angels smiled upon agriculture when both Japan and Hong Kong decided to resume limited U.S. beef imports. Although long overdue, U.S. cattle ranchers can begin 2006 with these hurdles out of the way.

As for all of the issues that impacted agriculture this past year, we should be reminded that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Here’s to 2006.

Tracy Taylor Grondine is director of media relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Published in the January 4, 2006 issue of Farm World.