This year was a memorable one for the agriculture industry. From passing the Farm Bill to the unpredictable weather and record harvests, farmers experienced many highs and lows. As we head into the new year, let’s take a look at what we experienced throughout 2014. Here are five of the top agricultural stories from 2014:

1.       Missouri Right to Farm

Missouri farm families celebrated in August when the Missouri Farming Rights Amendment passed, and again in September, when the amendment’s passage was upheld after a challenge. The amendment, often called the “Right to Farm,” provides constitutional protection to Missouri farmers and ranchers from any future attempts to pass laws regulating anything from how livestock are raised to the use of genetically modified crops.

2.       Farm Bill Passes

In February of this year, Congress gave final approval for a new, five-year farm bill. The $956.4 billion package was unveiled just a week prior and quickly made its way through Congress in just a few days. The bill will save billions by consolidating conservation programs by the government, and it also authorizes the end of billions of dollars in direct subsidy payments to farmers. In the place of direct subsidy payments is a new crop insurance program. The bill has been a huge win for our clients as well as the nation’s farmers.

3.       GMO

The debate over genetically modified crops continued throughout 2014. Late in the year, a meta-analysis was released. It revealed that the effect of GM crops on farming has been overwhelmingly positive. Additionally, in December, Chinese officials lifted the ban on Syngenta’s GMO corn trait MIR 162, along with two varieties of biotech soybeans, a huge step for a country that has been historically strict about GMO imports. Since the lift, China has signed contracts for 15 cargo shipments of dried-distillers grain for next year. We anticipate the GMO debate will continue in 2015 and beyond.

4.       Record Harvests and Changing Weather

2014 saw record harvests for both corn and soybeans. With USDA estimates reaching 4 billion bushels of soybeans and 14.5 billion bushels of corn for the year, farmers around the country were hit hard when demand could not keep up with the harvest. However, some states, particularly California struggled with a severe drought for the majority of 2014 and were forced to rely on water reserves, pushing farmers to be strategic with the crops they planted. With increased rainfall throughout the last few weeks, California farmers still need sustained precipitation through winter and spring to make up for the 36-month shortfall.

5.       Big Data

The term “big data” took off this year in the agriculture world. Crop farmers anticipate that precision farming might be the next agricultural revolution. Major players like John Deere and DuPont have become leaders in this sector, touting scores of information that, when compiled, could help provide an in-depth, comprehensive data model, providing farmers with more tools to make vital crop decisions. Controversy remains between these organizations and critics, who state that the companies that believe data should remain private. The topic continues to be debated and likely will continue to be discussed through 2015.

From making a record harvest in soybeans, to making history with the passage of Right to Farm, 2014 has seen a wide variety of issues and events affect both family farmers and large-scale operations. At Lathrop & Gage, we continue to stay updated and informed on all changes in the agriculture industry to better serve the needs of our clients, wherever they may need us. We wish everyone happy holidays, and we look forward to seeing you in 2015!