Two of my favorite country songs revolve around bars. Shocking I know that a country song would somehow involve drinking, but it isn’t the drinking aspect of the songs that I love. There are a lot of country songs that talk about drinking. These are more about friendship and the diversity that makes us great. When you walk into a bar there are only people there, not a definition of who the people are. People are accepted for who they are no matter what baggage they are bringing in with them. They are just your fellow patrons.

A disturbing trend that seems to be taking place, both in the public square and social media, is the lack of acceptance of those that think different, vote different, dress different, etc. Somehow, we have lost our ability to realize that the beauty of what makes us work as a society is that we are different individuals and it takes all types to make this thing called life function.

A number of years ago, when my wife and I, along with my parents, were trying to determine if we would be able to come back to the farm, we did a Returning to the Farm seminar. One of the components was doing a MBTI test to help determine strengths, weaknesses, potential conflict areas and potential areas for growth. One of the major things we learned was that my wife and I are nearly 100% opposite and that quite possibly my wife and my dad could more properly function on the business together than my dad and I could. The key takeaway for me, that we still use today, is that my wife and I do things different, look at things different and respond different. It is a challenge but it also brings a great balance to our marriage and our family.

But what does this have to do with farming? It is all about coexistence. It is working together to reach a common goal. In the case of our marriage it is to have a happy marriage and raise a family that is prepared to go out into the world. In the farming world it is working together to raise the highest quality, most consistent and identity-preserved crop in the entire world. It is about coming together to raise the barn, to have a place we can all be proud to call home. A place where everyone, no matter what they grow or how they grow, can coexist.  

Coexistence sounds like a great buzzword, but does it really matter? If we are all raising crops, what difference does it make? But in today’s market, today’s environment, today’s social media world, coexistence makes all the difference in the world. If we don’t start looking at the farming community as that bar where everyone is accepted, we will not like where it leads.

Farming has been in my blood from the point of conception. Most of us in the farming world can say the same thing. But we are losing sight that farming is the same thing anywhere you are in the world. Taking a seed, or animal, and nurturing it to the best of our ability to help it produce the highest quality product we can. Does it matter if it is GMO, non-GMO, or organic? Does it matter if I am using a 600 hp tractor, a team of oxen, or using human labor? No, it doesn’t.

But too often, farmers draw battle lines that do not need to be drawn. Lines over the “proper” way to grow a crop or raise animals. It is one thing to argue about red versus green tractors when we all realize they do the same thing. It is something entirely different when we start denigrating other farmers because they way they farm doesn’t fit our preconceived idea of the “proper way”. 

Farming is that bar. At the end of the day we are there to grow a crop and all of our yields come together to help feed and fuel an ever-growing world. We need to get back to respecting and encouraging each other in the way we choose to farm.

And for savvy farmers, it doesn’t have to. Farmers can get compensated for pollinator protection- even in the Midwest.Bee_Honey_Comb-221211-edited.jpgEvery day It seems, we are reminded that, in any number of ways, we are killing off the Monarch Butterflies, Honeybees, Rusty Patched Bumble Bees, or any other pollinator that can get people’s attention. It’s blamed on pesticides, neonicotinoids, intensive farming practices, and just about any other activity that farmers, especially row crop farmers, do to produce a robust food supply.

Have our practices contributed to some of the decline? It’s likely that they have. We’ve planted more monocultures, removed trees and hedgerows, turned pasture ground into crop ground, and become very good at eliminating “pests” where we don’t want them. The situation is complex, and there isn’t one single cause that can be pointed to, but these and other small changes have likely contributed to a devastating overall effect.

The reality that some people miss is that most of us don’t spend much time thinking about the importance of bees, especially in the Midwest. We may see hives once in a while, but for the middle of the country, most top crops- from corn and soybeans to wheat and rice, are pollinated by the wind or other environmental factors, and bees aren’t top of mind in terms of protecting our businesses.

For farmers who live in other areas, however, like those that raise nuts, tomatoes, berries, clover, or anything else that needs pollinators to survive, these issues are critical. The economic value of wild pollinators to agriculture is estimated at over $3 billion according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and over 80% of pollination is done commercially, supporting an industry worth well over $15 billion. And that doesn’t include the value pollinators provide to wildlife and ecosystems that we enjoy and depend on. Needless to say, bees and other pollinators are big business, and doing more to protect wild populations will pay dividends for the industry in the future. Other farmers need our help, but sacrificing the viability of our farms to (hopefully) lower the impact on pollinators isn’t an option.

The good news is that protecting pollinators doesn’t require giving up the tools of modern agriculture heavy-handedly. The Butterfly Effect, that small changes can have huge impacts, has worked against us on this subject up until this point, but with small, positive changes, we can turn that around, and hopefully help turn devastation into recovery for pollinator populations.

And now is the time for farmers to get involved.

It’s time for the corn and bean states to show that we care about the pollinator population and start doing some basic things to help increase the biodiversity. USFWS has some basic things one can do at https://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/insects/rpbb/factsheetrpbb.html. You’ve heard of many of them- planting a garden, reducing chemical use, using native plants in landscaping (Bayer AG and Syngenta also have good tips on how to provide pollinator habitat).

There are actually ways you can use 2014 Farm Bill programs to be compensated for pollinator conservation. The programs are part of the NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentive Programs (EQIP), and your farm could be eligible for up to $20,000 in NCRS payments in a single year, for pollinator protection and other conservation activities. These programs vary by state, and you can learn more about what programs you could be eligible for here. You can also get assistance with planning and implementing your pollinator protection plan through your local NRCS office. Or learn about enhancing your existing conservation programs to support pollinators through CSP here. Pre-proposals are due in April, so now’s the time to start thinking about your 2017 season.

What does this mean? It means we have an exciting opportunity to turn those small and marginal areas of our fields into abundant habitats that can help completely change and revolutionize the pollinator habitat and health in agriculture, without sacrificing our profitability. Small changes can have large effect.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone and not those of Farmer’s Business Network, Inc., its affiliates or members.

This article was originally published on Emergence by Farmers Business Network, Inc.

As a farmer, what do you think your calling is? This is something I have not thought. Am I here just to have 40 chances to raise a crop? Am I here just to provide for my family? Do I just want to play with cool new toys whether they be big combines, drones or new seed technologies? OR is my calling a higher calling?

On Thursday we had the opportunity to meet with 3 different groups:
Korea Feed Association (KFA)
-Nonghyup Feed Inc (NOFI)
Sunkwang Co Ltd port grain handling facility at Incheon

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What was interesting with these meetings is that they all had the similar messages and similar concerns. While they really like US corn there have been major issues especially with broken kernels as of late. Trying to reason through this has become a challenge. Does the corn have a lower protein content due to higher yields? Is it due to breeding corn more to ethanol production? Is it because of the specific location that the corn is grown? Or is it due to the fact that 2013 required a lot of corn to be heat dried in many areas that deliver to the Pacific Northwrest (PNW)?

I think everyone in our group would agree this lead to a lot more questions than answers for us. It also lead us to realize that there are many things we cannot control when trying to deliver a product to a specific market. Each hybrid has different qualities when mixed together may have a positive effect on grain going to a specific market or it may have a negative effect. This is something that as the American farmer we may not be able to control.

While I cannot control a lot of these issues, I do understand their frustrations and questions. But even as we heard these issues there was one important statement that stuck with me. It was when we met with NOFI. One of the gentleman we met with, Na Sumin, made the following statement:

The US farmer’s calling is to save the world

We always talk about “feeding the world” but I have never had anyone say we are to “save the world”. This really stuck with me. We are the innovators of the world, whether it is biotechnology or equipment or software, it is who we are. We have the ability to spread that knowledge throughout the world. This knowledge is what will allow other farmers in other areas to become more efficient in their production so their families, neighbors and communities can eat better and have a higher quality of life. This is something I believe each of us as the American farmer needs to take a hard look at. What am I doing to help “save the world?”

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Market place at night

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Farming the world around

Posted: September 9, 2014 in agriculture, corn, farming

One of the most important things we, as the American farmer, need to remember is how important it is to raise a high quality crop that the world wants. Many times we tend to worry about yield, yield, yield. I know I am guilty of this thinking. After spending some time with our ag friends in Japan, I have come to appreciate the need to make sure that the quality of crop I am producing is the highest quality corn crop I can produce.

On Tuesday we met with 3 different groups:
Zen-Noh
Japan Ministry of Ag-Livestock Production Division
Japan Feed Manufactures Association

Every single group was greatly concerned about the size and quality of the 2014 corn crop. While we have heard how gigantic this crop will be, they have heard the same thing and wanted us to verify that this is true. We were able to verify that at this stage it looks to be an exceptional crop.

But the biggest thing that came up was the quality. We heard over and over how the 2012 corn crop’s quality was very bad. It was bad enough it forced them to go and buy South American corn. This is a big deal because the Japanese livestock and miller industries like to have a consistent quality of crop. This includes color, hardiness and protein. When they have to go to South America the color and hardiness is different which affects the quality of meat and eggs they produce.

While this was a major deal of the quality from the 2012 crop, they are also greatly concerned about the protein quality in the crop. Apparently when we raise a big crop the protein amount in the corn goes down. This seems to be an issue we are going to have to work on in American corn production. While there is no one specific factor in causing the low protein there seems to be some theories as to the cause. Whether it is weather related, artificial drying related or the fact that we are breeding more and more for ethanol production, they all seem to play a factor. But with the ability to meet with these groups face to face it allows us to reassure them that we are raising a very good crop.

At the end of the day, most everything we do is built upon relationships. Whether it is the relationship between and farmer and his seed supplier or the relationship between the farmer and the end user, they all help in making sure that the products coming out of America are still the best in the world.