2015 has been an unpredictable and interesting year, and it’s not yet over.  Weather, politics, scientific advances, agriculture, well…a great many facets of life, were atypical this year.

During this year’s weather in the U.S. we had no devastating hurricanes, too much rain–or not enough, and now El Nino is having effects on pretty much the entire world.  Simultaneously, ice is multiplying in Antarctica while the rest of our planet is warming up.

Politically, the U.S. and much of the world are dealing—er…, mostly struggling with an enlarging minority of ideological extremists who want to exterminate anyone who doesn’t profess similar religious views but whose men are afraid of women warriors, such as those in all-female Kurdish military units.  ISIS men fear they won’t go to heaven if a woman kills them. 

Who would have guessed (except Donald Trump) that a 2016 presidential candidate many people call self-absorbed and unsuited for national office–while others say he strikes the right chord, would generate both shudders and enthusiastic applause.  Most of us haven’t seen such drama on the American and world political stages previously. 

Would registration of Muslims in the U.S. and deportation of undocumented immigrants, as some politicians propose, resolve worries about terrorists?  My wife’s parents experienced the internment of Japanese American citizens that began in 1942, because some people of Japanese ancestry were assumed to hold allegiance to Japan after the invasion of Pearl Harbor. 

However, the 442nd Infantry Regiment, made up of Japanese Americans, became the most decorated unit in WWII for overpowering the Nazis.  Was the U.S. better off when these citizens lost their livelihoods, like Marilyn’s father who could not continue farming in California?

Regarding scientific advances, in 2015 we’ve witnessed the identification of genetic markers and new treatments for a vast array of deleterious health conditions.  Space explorers have accumulated fascinating new knowledge and photographs of Mars, Pluto and black holes. 

Research provided new understanding of how original species emerged and their sensory perception cells evolved on earth.  Scientists might even someday reproduce a wooly mammoth if viable DNA can be found.  However, many people believe science is wrong about a lot of matters, such as climate change and the emergence of life on earth.

Recession is arguably the biggest story in the agriculture industry for 2015, and unpredictability occurred in agriculture too.  For most of the year, cow/calf producers experienced record high prices for their animals and the bird flu epidemic enabled unaffected poultry and egg producers to capitalize unexpectedly on the resultant shortages.

Despite unusual weather, U.S. farmers harvested the largest soybean crop and the second largest corn crop ever, which along with the largest wheat harvest worldwide ever, are reducing prices for these commodities.  U.S. livestock and grain producers are trying to figure out how to retrench for 2016.

Almost always, global recessions have followed agricultural business declines; 2016 looks like it will be a “hang-in-there” year for most American farmers.  

The recession doesn’t portend as much hardship as it normally would, if input costs for items such as new equipment, fuel and fertilizer stay low and farmland rent, seed and farm chemical costs also reduce.  It’s harder to say what will happen in 2017; if history is a guide, agricultural profit-making will slowly climb out of the doldrums, but it may take several years. 

What can consumers expect?  Retail prices are in an era of reduction for most consumables like food, fiber and fuel, after many wholesale and retail merchants accumulated substantial recent profits to make up for their slimmer margins during the agricultural and oil boom period that ended in 2014. 

Retail merchants may have to compete with increasing direct sales of many food, fiber and fuel items to institutions and home-run outlets, while also having to compete with online sales.  Almost all industries are looking for cheaper ways to survive, except for a few that maintain monopolies.

How do we best deal with the dramatic changes and unexpected events that are likely to occur in 2016?  For one, not to worry too much, because unpredictable changes have always occurred.   

The pace of changes is actually picking up, and for a number of reasons: the world’s population is increasing; human lifetimes are now the longest ever; people are becoming ever better educated.  All these factors are expanding the range of knowledge.  Political strife, changeable weather and geologic conditions will continue to occur and we have to respond reasonably and not be over–or underreacting. 

Our survival depends on our ability to adapt to perceived extremes.  Working together with people we disagree with has survival value.

We will always have challenges to figure out what is important–it’s not money, fame or power.  It’s about getting our adjustments correct.

As we prepare for the holidays, I wish you a wonderful Christmas season, followed by positive expectations and excellent joy in 2016.

Dr. Mike and Marilyn Rosmann live on a farm near Harlan, Iowa.  He can be contacted at: www.agbehavioralhealth.com.