By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, Dec. 3, 2021
H. Louis “Lou” Moore of State College, Pennsylvania, died peacefully Nov. 9, 2021 at the age of 91. His official obituary is as humble as the man. A man who spent his life loving and supporting his family, his wife of 69 years, Jane, their five sons, four grandchildren and two great grandchildren, it read.
Lou was also a man who touched many lives in his long career. He spent 57 years as a Penn State extension ag economist and educator, retiring professor emeritus in 2011.
Beyond Pennsylvania, Lou touched the lives of countless freedom-loving agriculturalists as they emerged from the communist regime of the former Soviet Union.
He spent time year after year, over more than two decades, in Eastern Europe. There, he worked intensively to help the farmers and educators understand the fundamentals of marketing, of markets, of economics, of agriculture, food, supply and demand, profit and loss, trade and currency.
Through the faculty exchanges, he brought many here to learn too. Each visit, he would take them to New Holland Sales Stables to see beef cattle “price discovery” — auction-style. He’d bring them to the former Livestock Reporter office where I spent the first 17 years of my journalism career. He wanted us to explain how we put the market news package together each week. Every detail. I’ll never forget the questions about the USDA teletype where market reports came through day and night.
As we talked about the cattle markets, the teletype would start tapping and they were confused. Lou just smiled and conveyed to us that they just could not understand how we could receive and trust this government price information. That’s when we would explain that we also visited the four cattle auctions in our county at the time – the bellwether of the eastern seaboard. We would record the weights, grades and prices, talk to the buyers, read through the USDA reports from Joliet, Peoria, Omaha, Sioux City, Sioux Falls, St. Josephs and write a parallel analysis of the trade each week. We explained that USDA market reporters meet to do correlations annually and that they take their job of objective market reporting quite seriously. Those were the days of price discovery — available every day of the week.
Lou was someone I learned from as I heard him deliver market outlooks at numerous winter meetings every year from day-one of my career in January 1981 when my first newspaper assignment was covering the Lancaster County Cattle Feeders Day at the Farm and Home Center — all the way through 2015, when he came back for a post-retirement encore presentation at the annual Fulton Bank ag seminar. Lou was the man I looked forward to hearing from and talking with at these meetings during most of my 40 years in ag journalism.
He delivered hundreds of outlooks in the days before instant news and 24-hour news cycles, making his lists, producing the charts and graphs, and delivering the straight deal – the information farmers were looking for to plan the year ahead.
Even when high-powered economists flew in from NCBA’s Cattlefax or a Midwest university, it was Lou’s outlook the farmers came to hear. He gave it to them straight, always starting with the macro-economic figures, and narrowing into the ag commodities to the target of projected prices for the coming year.
Sprinkled into the deal were tidbits from articles he’d read and current events and pearls of wisdom a casual observer might miss. When giving an outlook in an election year, he made a note on the slide. “It’s the funny season,” he’d say — a polite way of indicating that election years were wild card years and wild things could happen.
When talking about commercial disappearance of meat and milk, he’d remind in an offhand way, that the figure is mostly driven by production because everything that gets produced, disappears. The question is where did it go and at what price? What were the sales?
He would sprinkle in stories from his trips overseas to former communist countries. So casual and interesting they were that we asked him to occasionally write about them in the Livestock Reporter. He’d write about the rich black soil of Ukraine, about the unrealized production powerhouse potential of that country and many other emerging former Soviet countries, about the people, the food, the hardships, the small steps in trying to establish themselves in a new age of freedom, without the context for it — something that we in America take for granted and may have lost the context for as well.
During an interview a few years after his retirement in 2013, Lou said the potential of these countries was still marred by the struggle of decades under communist rule. He told of how difficult it was to restructure a functioning economy out of the ruins of centralized communist control. He talked about the inefficiencies of the large centralized dairies, the depressing big gray block buildings that lay vacant or continued fragmented as the people began anew with a few cows here and a few there, harvesting grasses from the roadsides for feed and selling extra milk to neighbors.
He described an almost primitive, start-over-from scratch emergence with a very important missing ingredient – trust and communication. This was something that had to be re-discovered. After years of communist control, years of hearing the sound of the trains in the night taking food grown in these countries out of these countries and leaving families there hungry, they had to re-learn how to take what they grew and produced, value it, trade with each other, how to communicate value, to discern it, convey it, how to understand supply and demand, how to publish and communicate market value in common terms of understanding, how to trust each other party to party after decades of centralized control.
Lou would write of the foods enjoyed in these countries, the ways in which gratitude was shown. When meeting some of his exchange groups on their visits to the cattle auction or the Livestock Reporter newspaper office, their respect for Lou was obvious. Here was a man who they could see was giving them the straight deal. He didn’t pretend to know things he didn’t know. He gave them his knowledge and insight and urged them to think critically for themselves.
Lou was never earnest or self-impressed in his delivery of a market outlook. His infectious smile and good-natured character let you know that he’d done his homework and was sharing his best assessment of how the numbers lined up – always quick to point out a few possibilities on the margins that could push things one way or the other.
Lou was a man who didn’t seek the limelight, nor did he want a lot of attention on himself, but that didn’t mean he’d refrain from making a dry outlook entertaining.
One year at the Pork Congress, he showed up at the Lebanon Valley Expo Center wearing a pink pig-eared cap. We learned later it was auctioned for a tidy sum to benefit the youth events and scholarships by the Pork Producers Council.
Another year, he tried to describe for the farmers the persuasions of emerging vegan animal rights activists. It was the 1990s, and the concept was still a bit foreign to many. He started his outlook that year telling of his drive down 322 from State College seeing a car pulled over along the road with two people looking down at something laying on the ground. He pulled over thinking someone was hurt, only to find that they were proceeding to give CPR to try and resuscitate…. a ground hog. Well, in a room full of farmers, you know how that story played out. Even he had trouble staying straight-faced for that one. But the point was made.
Lou also made the rounds at the annual seminars put on by ag lenders, and was always a guest at Fulton Bank’s winter seminar.
In February 2012, a few months after retiring from Penn State, Lou was honored and roasted at the Fulton Bank seminar. It was a surprise. He was presented with a Senate Citation for honorable service, awards from the Governor and Lieutenant Governor.
The CEO of Seltzer’s Bologna presented him with a 27-lb “baloney” — tongue in cheek as Lou gave what he thought was his last market outlook right after the keynote speaker, a weatherman, talked about how the technology had improved for looking at big picture events, but the investments in day-to-day weather forecasting had been lacking.
A 27-lb baloney between an economist and a weather forecaster and you know the life of a forecaster means taking it on the chin sometimes. But Lou loved it. He was all smiles in the straw Amish hat with a Penn State logo across the center, another gift that day.
Lou Moore touched the lives of people in Pennsylvania and around the world – students, farmers, faculty. Many benefited from his deep knowledge, quiet insight, honesty, clarity, generosity and infectious smile.
Lou was born in 1930 in Ellerslie, Maryland. He earned his B.S. and M.S. in ag economics at Penn State in 1952 and 1956, where he served 57 years and retired professor emeritus of agricultural economics in 2011, but was spotted giving outlook presentations a few times after that, as recently as 2015.
In the 1970s, Lou started the first educational programs in agricultural futures markets so that farmers could understand them. In 1990, he began the intensive extension work throughout Eastern Europe in cooperation with the USDA and the Copernicus Society of America. His work included training hundreds in extension. In 1997, he started a 13-year USDA faculty exchange program that brought faculty from the former Soviet Union to the United States for intensive marketing training. He and his colleagues raised nearly $1 million to support this program.
Throughout his career, Lou wrote hundreds of articles and delivered hundreds of ag market outlooks. He worked closely with county extension educators, farmers and people from all aspects of agribusiness.
A life member of the Penn State Alumni Association, Lou also appeared regularly on WPSU-TV’s “Weather World” program and its predecessor, “Farm, Home and Garden.”
He was honored with many awards, including the PennAg Industries Association Distinguished Service Award, the USDA Faculty Exchange Award, the Outstanding International Spirit of Extension Award, the W. LaMarr Kopp International Achievement Award, and the Bankers’ Association 56 Year Service Award.
Lou and Jane lived in a restored, 200-year-old log barn outside of State College.
When I started the Milk Market Moos column in Farmshine in 2006 as an outgrowth of a series on milk marketing vocabulary, I received an email from Lou just to let me know he enjoyed reading the column, describing it as interesting, informative, and just the right assembly of valuable information. It meant a great deal to me coming from him.
I am thankful to have known Lou, to have read and heard some of his experiences. He led an exemplary life in the quiet service of others as an agriculture educator — teaching market fundamentals some of us didn’t fully realize we were learning, and he enjoyed learning from the farmers, respecting the many hats they wear as professionals producing food and often remarking that as he talked with farmers at these meetings, hearing about their plans, it in turn informed his analysis.
To honor Lou’s memory donations can be made to State College Area Meals on Wheels or the H. Louis Moore Program Endowment in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Education at Penn State University.