Tyler Cowen, an economics professor at George Mason University, speaks with farm producers about the future of the economy and where agriculture fits into that picture.
Tyler Cowen, an economics professor at George Mason University, speaks with farm producers about the future of the economy and where agriculture fits into that picture.

INDIANAPOLIS — Regardless of the industry, the biggest factor that affects business typically is the state of the economy.

At the recent Indiana Livestock, Forage and Grain Forum, Tyler Cowen, author and economics professor from George Mason University, talked about the current state of the economy and how it might look in the future.

When it comes to agriculture, he is genuinely optimistic. There is good news on the horizon, but with that comes bad news first, he said.

Cowen noted that the amount of income people are making in terms of percent keeps falling, while costs for health care and education continue to rise. “Last decade, job growth was extremely slow for the entire decade,” he said.

Part of the problem, Cowen explained, is attributed to the nation as a whole not being educated.

The number of Americans graduating from high school peaked in the 1960s. Cowen noted that this number has not gone up significantly in 45 years, and he doesn’t see it changing anytime soon.

However, not wanting to just be the bearer of bad news, Cowen said good news also is occurring that will have positive effects on the future economy. One, he noted, will be the availability of cheap energy again, and the second is all the innovation that takes place on a daily basis.

Cowen said the development of computers and the Internet has opened many doors and will continue to do so in the future.

A specific market he addressed that always will be in demand is agriculture and the food business. “People or cows are still going to eat, and there is a long-run speculation built in notion that you have to eat,” he said.

He added that once someone builds up a taste for a meat, it is hard to give up. The economist said that the market for meat is arguably more stable than the one for fancy cars.

He noted that food may be a volatile commodity at times, but it is a durable one, and when there eventually is a rise in income in other countries, people will spend much more for food.