In December 1998 we wrote a “What If” column trying to forecast 1999 and on. This is always a tricky thing to do. Here at the beginning of 2002 we have the advantage of 20/20 hindsight as well.

We asked in 1998 what if then President Clinton left office and Al Gore became president — would environmental regulations become even more political and stringent? Would a bare Republican majority have the guts to step forward and insist that EPA use good science?

Well we didn't get Gore; we did get Bush and we have remarkable efforts on the part of EPA and the administration to move toward “good science” and cooperation. Let's hope this will continue into the remainder of Bush's term(s). At least there seems to be hope.

Then we asked if it was possible for the environmental lobby to stop trying the “scare of the week”, etc? Here nothing has changed though in the immediate aftermath of the tragic events of Sept. 11, they did quiet down as public interest focused on more important issues.

As time goes by though we see them up to their old tricks and their congressional supporters beginning to seek ways to push their agenda under the guise of increasing “security”.

The national media has followed and for the most part supported the enviros. Expect in 2002 more of the same — little effort to achieve better understanding and balance.

Under other questions to ponder we asked if with all the new rules in place would our food supply be any safer? Would pesticide use reporting be in place? Would TRI information be used by enviros to create more scare stories? What would be the enviro buzz words for the coming year? How would farm prices and industry mergers affect farmers, dealers, distributors, manufacturers and trade associations?

Well Sept. 11 at least took care of some of the “release of any and all information.” Security concerns that were always there suddenly rose in perspective as the potential for misuse of worst case information became all too evident.

Use reporting momentum at least for now has slowed. Low farm prices and industry mergers still are most important and high on everyone's radar. The farm economy drives the profitability of all agriculture and related agribusiness.

Mergers are simply a sign of the times and attitudes. All are seeking to improve profitability and cut costs. Trade associations took their licks like everyone else. All seek greater efficiency and ways to cut expenses and provide needed services.

For 2002 and on we continue to hope for true regulatory reform but see little hope for this to come from Congress with its present makeup. The 2002 elections are up for grabs. Possibly the effort to unite behind the President will carry over into the elections. Already, however we see the partisan jockeying for positions and partisan advantage.

We and agriculture will survive and grow stronger though the immediate future will have lots of bumps.

We firmly believe that the ballyhoo against biotechnology and innovations will run its course — especially if we are allowed to heed our own good common sense. We must be on our guard not only as it relates to physical security of our products but equally as important to continue — even reinforce our efforts toward acceptance of new technology and ways of doing business.

Let's be cautious, but innovative and be willing to use common sense but not afraid to dare!