In farming, as in life, choices are a good thing. That’s why I’ve always thought organic agriculture has a role in modern farming.
I’m not a scientist. I’m not an expert on nutrition or the environment. I’m not qualified to evaluate organic farmers’ belief that their way of doing things makes the most sense.
But I believe in free markets and people’s right to choose. Organic food provides another option for consumers, and organic ag provides another option for farmers. Those are good things.
The Podoll family of Fullerton, N.D., has played an important role for decades in the region’s close-knit organic farming community. In recognition of that, a prominent organic ag organization recently gave the Podolls a national honor. Read the story in the March 10 issue of Agweek.
The cover package in the March 3 issue of Agweek looks at the recently released 2012 Census of Agriculture. The census finds that the number of small farms has risen since the last census was conducted five years ago.
I’m planning to write more about this important trend. I’d like to visit with, and profile, area agriculturalists with small farming operations who earn most of their income from an off-farm job.
If your fit that description, please contact me by March 29. My direct line is (701) 780-1111. My email is email@example.com. My mailing address is Agweek, Box 6008. Grand Forks, N.D. 58206-6008.
No, you’re not farming thousands of acres. But you’re an increasingly important part of agriculture, and you have a story that should be told. Help me tell it.
Generalizations are always risky, but a lifetime of experience has taught me that agriculturalists, on balance, aren’t big science fiction fans. So I doubt most Agweek readers remember the TV show “Millennium.” It ran for a few years in the 1990s and offered up a strange brew of dark, apocalyptic, end-of-the-millennium craziness.
The show had nothing to do with agriculture. But the show’s main character belonged to a shadowy group with the motto, “This is who we are.” The phrase stuck in the back of my mind and came to the forefront as I worked on a story on the 2012 Census of Agriculture. If you’re part of ag, like I am, the census really does help to show who we are.
The story, running under the headline ‘This is who we are,’ is the cover story of Agweek’s March 3 issue.
I wrote an Agweek story a year ago about the Missouri State Legislature passing legislation that would allow farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming practices. The legislative action cleared the way for the measure to be sent before Missouri voters on a statewide ballot in November 2014.
Now, the Missouri Republican Party has endorsed the legislation, which still is scheduled to appear on the ballot this fall. The measure was referred to the ballot by the Republican-led State Legislature, so the recent endorsement is hardly a surprise. (It should be noted that some Missouri Republicans have expressed opposition, citing the possibility that someone could claim the amendment gives the right to grow marijuana, according to news reports.)
North Dakota voters approved a right-to-farm constitutional amendment in 2012, making the state the first to have one. North Dakota, of course, isn’t exactly an urban stronghold. So it will be interesting to see what happens in Missouri. Agriculture is important there, but the state has a large urban population.
Area agriculture’s “meeting season” has been in full swing, and aggies have had plenty of chances to learn about important topics.
There’s plenty to learn. The long list of subjects includes economics, marketing, tax accounting, politics, agronomy, precision agriculture and new farm bill provisions.
For me personally, sessions on economics and politics are the most enjoyable and easiest to follow. Marketing sessions are fun, too, though it’s a complex subject filled with uncertainty. I enjoy the agronomy stuff, but don’t always follow the science. The farm bill provisions often are dry and technical. Tax accounting is always dry and technical. Precision ag, at least some aspects of it, can be particularly difficult for me to follow.
My point is, all of the subject areas are important. Some just come a lot harder for me than others.
Is there any farmer, anywhere, who excels in every aspect of his craft? I doubt it. There aren’t enough hours in the day to master everything. Even if there were, I question whether anyone, no matter how intelligent, is mentally flexible enough to be an expert on everything. That’s why we have specialists — the tax accountants, agronomists, professional marketers and all the others — to whom farmers turn for expert advice.
Meeting season reinforces my conviction that farmers are generalists — folks who know at least a little about a lot of subjects.
A veteran of the U.S. potato industry once told me that he learns at least one new thing about his crop every day.
I always think of that comment just before the annual International Crop Expo at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D. Potatoes are a key part of the show, held Feb. 19-20 this year, with informational sessions on spuds planned for both days. The highlight, at least for me, comes on the morning of Feb. 19, when several top U.S. potato officials give presentations. The first speaker, at 9 a.m., is John Keeling, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the National Potato Council.
f you’re interested in potatoes — be it growing them, selling them or even just eating them — consider coming for the presentations. The Crop Expo has a lot of interesting sessions and exhibits on other crops, too. If you’ve never checked it out, now’s the time to start.
If you’re involved in U.S. agriculture, you’ll be hearing a lot about ARC and PLC in the next few months.
Under a provision of the new farm bill, farmers must choose between agricultural risk coverage (ARC) and price loss coverage (PLC). It’s a one-time choice, with no going back.
As of now, I don’t understand either option. Nobody does; details of the two are still being worked out.
Eventually, of course, we’ll figure out ARC and PLC, just as we figured out previous farm programs such as SURE and ACRE. The never-ending stream of ag acronyms can be wearying, though.
Is there an ag acronym that particularly stands out in your memory? If so, drop me a line. And drop me a line if you have any insight into ARC and PLC.
I once attended a meeting in Fargo, N.D., where one of the speakers, who worked for an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, mentioned that he enjoyed visiting “the small towns.” He was accustomed to major metropolitan areas, I suppose, so Fargo probably seemed small to him, even though it’s North Dakota’s largest city.
Folks at the event smiled politely. But I suspect almost all of there were thinking, “You figure Fargo is small? Then clearly you don’t know much about the Upper Midwest.”
I thought of that speaker this morning, when I attended Eastern Ag Day in Hatton, N.D. The event was organized by officials with the North Dakota State University Extension Service and intended for farmers in the eastern part of the state
I would never describe Hatton, population about 750, as small. I’ve been in too many towns with only a few hundred — or even a few dozen — residents. To me, Hatton is one of the many farm towns that dot the Upper Midwest. Every town is unique, of course, but, like Hatton, they all play an invaluable role in agriculture in this part of the world. That’s something to be proud of.
Read my story on Eastern Ag Day on the Agweek web site on in our Feb. 10 print edition.
If you watch a lot of team sports on TV, you’re probably familiar with the post-game interview with the winning coach. It usually goes something like like:
Interviewer: “This was a big win for you, right?”
Coach: “It sure was. We worked hard to achieve this. It’s a great feeling.”
Interviewer: “Now you’ve got another big game coming up. How — ”
Coach: “It’s too soon to talk about the next game. Just let me enjoy this win for a little while.”
That’s how I felt talking with farm group leaders after Senate passage of the farm bill, which clears the way for it to become law. They worked long and hard on the bill, and they’re pleased to finally get one.
In another two years or so, of course, they’ll start advance work on yet-another farm bill. But it’s too soon to talk about that.. For now, for a little while, they want to enjoy the moment.
Earlier this week, I asked a regional farm group leader about House passage of the farm bill. His answer: “It’s good news, of course, but I wish it hadn’t taken so doggone long.” Most area agriculturalists share that sentiment, though many would use coarser language. To be sure, House passage is a pretty big deal in ag circles.
Some events are so big, so momentous, that people remember for years afterward where they were when they heard the news. The Challenger explosion, the death of Elvis, the assassination of JFK — a lot of folks say they still remember where they first heard the news.
I still remember where I was when I heard that the last farm bill was approved. My location when I learned of the House passage of the new farm bill this week probably will stick in my memory, too.
How about you? Does this week’s event rate an “I-remember-where-I-was” memory?