Jim Rogers, author, investor and founder of the Rogers International Commodities Index, speaks to a group of more than 500 land brokers, investors, landowners and farmers at the sixth annual Peoples Land Co. Land Investment Expo in Des Moines, Iowa. Rogers urged his audience to look toward the east, specifically China, as the 21st century will be the “Century of China.”
Jim Rogers, author, investor and founder of the Rogers International Commodities Index, speaks to a group of more than 500 land brokers, investors, landowners and farmers at the sixth annual Peoples Land Co. Land Investment Expo in Des Moines, Iowa. Rogers urged his audience to look toward the east, specifically China, as the 21st century will be the “Century of China.”
DES MOINES, Iowa — Do your children speak Chinese? Jim Rogers’ little girls do.

While Spanish may be the language being promoted in schools, investor, author and commodities index founder Rogers is making sure his daughters, Hilton and Beeland, learn Mandarin Chinese.

“Everybody knows something is happening in China, but most people are not fully aware of the full depth and breadth of what’s happening in China,” he said.

Rogers, along with George Soros, founded the Quantum Fund in the 1970s. Rogers is an international investor, an author and often called upon to provide analysis on economics and investments on network TV.

He is the chairman of Rogers Holdings and Beeland Interests Inc. and the creator of the Rogers International Commodities Index.

In 1999, Rogers and then-fiancée, now-wife Paige Parker, set off on an around-the-world driving journey that earned them a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. They drove through 116 countries and traveled 152,000 miles on the trip that lasted from 1999 to 2002.

In 2007, Rogers, convinced that Asia was the place to be for him and his family, sold his home in New York and moved his family to Singapore, where they currently reside. His daughters have learned to speak fluent Mandarin from their Chinese governess.

“The best advice that I can give you, the best advice of any kind, is to teach your children and grandchildren Chinese. It’s going to be the most important language in their lifetimes,” said Rogers, who explained his rationale for moving his family to Singapore.

“Paige and I sold our house in New York and moved to Asia because I think the best skills I can give two children born in 2003 and 2008 is to know Asia and to know Mandarin.”

Rogers was one of the keynote speakers at the sixth annual Peoples Land Co. Land Investment Expo.

After Rogers finished, Steve Bruere, president of Peoples Land Co., joked about working to get Rogers as one of the keynote speakers for the event, which drew more than 500 guests from 25 states and three countries.

“I’ve got a 4-year-old son, and he’s got a 4-year-old daughter, so I was trying to do some matchmaking,” Bruere said to laughter from the audience.

“Steve, I will tell you, we’re in the market for some rich 4 year olds, and I told you what I think is going to happen in Iowa, so make sure that boy knows how to drive a tractor. I’ll bring my daughter to meet him,” Rogers said.

What he thinks is going to happen in Iowa — and any agricultural-producing state — is boom times.

“For the past 10 years, the world has consumed more than it has produced of agricultural products, which means when you consume more than you produce, you have to work down your inventories, so inventories are at historic lows for nearly all agricultural products, so we’re going to have more problems in agriculture,” he said.

“The price of agricultural products is gong to go much higher over the decade, but it’s not just because we have too much consumption. It’s also because agriculture has been such a terrible business for the past 30 years we’ve got a shortage of farmers developing worldwide.”

He noted that the median ages of farmers around the globe range from 58 in the U.S. to 66 in the Japan and elsewhere. The problem isn’t one that can be solved by technology and automation.

“Yes, I know about automation. Yes, I know about computers. Yes, I know about new seeds and fertilizer. I know about all of it, but in the end, somebody has got to go into the field,” Rogers said.

“OK, you’re going to have a robot driving your tractor. OK, somebody’s got to tell the robot where to go and what to do. Agriculture faces staggering problems. It means prices are going to go much, much higher. I am extremely optimistic about agriculture going forward.”

He also is extremely optimistic about China’s future.

“The 19th century was the century of the United Kingdom. The 20th century was the century of the U.S. The 21st century is going to be the century of China, whether we like it or not,” he said.

China is following the patterns that the United Kingdom followed to become a world leader in the 1800s and that the U.S. followed to become a world leader in the 1900s.

“In China, they save and invest over 35 percent of their income. In America, we save 3 percent of our income. In China, when they come to work, they don’t say, ‘How many holiday days do I get?’ They say, ‘How many days can I come to work?’” said Rogers, who said China’s rapid and continuing growth can be good for those who are in the right place at the right time.

And Iowa, he said, is one of those right places.

“There are one billion, 300 million Chinese, and they are on the rise. It doesn’t have to be bad for the world. It can be very good for the world. It has been good for Iowa,” he said.

As China’s star is ascending, Rogers pointed out factors that could indicate America’s star is descending, at least as far as economic health is concerned.

“What those guys in Washington have done is astonishing, staggering. As recently as 1987, the United States was a creditor nation. That’s only 26 years ago. In 26 years, we have gone from being a creditor nation to being the largest debtor nation in the history of the world, and the debts are going through the roof,” he said.

Rogers said Ben Bernanke’s habit of continually printing money is driving the value of the dollar toward doom.

“Dr. Bernanke is going to continue to drive the dollar into despair. The politicians are going to continue to spend money as fast as they can. This is going to end badly for all of us,” he said.

But even with the dire warnings, Rogers — and the examples of his two young daughters — provided ways to guard against currency debasement.

“You’ve got to understand it and learn ways to protect yourself,” he said.

The soil they were standing on was a good start.

“Iowa is one of the better-placed states in the U.S. going forward because throughout history, when people debase the currency, one way to protect yourself is to own real assets, whether it’s rice or silver or Iowa farmland. When the money is debased and destroyed, you own real assets in order to make a lot of money,” Rogers said.

He emphasized that holding real assets is going to be a key moving forward.

“Right now, Iowa is benefiting from the huge exports of farm products, and that’s going to continue, in my view. You still have to understand what they are doing to our currency. One of the best ways to protect yourself, if you can buy more assets in places like Iowa, especially at artificially low interest rates like they are now, and with fixed rates, if you can get a fixed-rate, 30-year mortgage, I urge you to do it as fast as you can,” he said.

Rogers also urged those holding bonds to sell off the bonds due to the expectation that Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, will keep rates low.

“I cannot conceive of lending money to the U.S. government for 30 years at 2 percent or 3 percent or 4 percent. It’s absurdity as far as I’m concerned. It’s one of the bubbles which is developing in the world, so if you have bonds, I would urge you to sell them,” he said.

Throughout his talk, Rogers reminded the audience that he is bullish on commodities — and not just agricultural commodities — and that his daughters share his beliefs.

“My little girls have never owned a stock. They’ve never owned a bond. They’ve only owned commodities throughout their lives. They are very happy only owning commodities. It certainly beats the socks off the other little girls at the playground, sitting around talking about their portfolios,” he said.

“I urge you all to learn from my little girls, learn about China, learn about the U.S. dollar and learn about commodities. I know most of you know about agriculture, but learn about them all.”

Rogers added that his daughters are U.S. citizens and have bank accounts, but not in the U.S.

“They know that, in their lifetimes, the U.S. dollar is going to be problematic at best, so my little girls are trying to protect themselves. They have their bank accounts in Asia,” he said.

Rogers predicted that agriculture will rule the next decades, following a cyclical pattern.

“The smart stockbrokers will learn to drive tractors, so they can come to work with all of you. Finance is finished. We’ve had long periods in history where financiers were the movers and shakers of the universe followed by long periods where producers of real goods, whether it’s agriculture or mining or whatever, have been the rulers of the universe,” said Rogers, who noted that America produces 200,000 students with Masters of Business Administration degrees annually, but only 10,000 agriculture degrees.

“You are in the right place at the right time. If you’re young enough to survive, you’re going to make a lot of money because there’s no competition.”