Jonathan Knutson / Agweek Staff Writer
Forty-three billion dollars is roughly the gross domestic product of Tunisia and the net worth of Oracle founder Larry Ellison. It’s also the amount of money U.S. and Canadian corn and soybean farmers would lose annually to uncontrolled weeds if they couldn’t apply herbicides or use other control techniques, according to a new study by a group of weed scientists. About half of the current average yield of both crops would be lost if weeds couldn’t be controlled, the study finds.
GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Jon Hanson is new to agriculture. But he’s already figured out a basic truth of Upper Midwest ag. “When the weather is good in planting, you really go. And we have been. The days get to be pretty long. It’s great, though,” says the Grand Forks, N.D.-based Hanson, who began driving a fertilizer truck for J.R. Simplot Co. this spring. He talked briefly with Agweek at a field near Grand Forks, where he had just delivered fertilizer for a soon-to-be-planted potato field.
If you live in the Upper Midwest, parts of it anyway, you’ve noticed haze in the air caused by Canadian wild fires. If you live in the Upper Midwest and are involved in ag, you’ve probably wondered if the haze will hurt crops. After all, growing plants need sunshine.
WASHINGTON — So here’s the situation: About two dozen members of North American Agricultural Journalists have just wrapped up our meetings at the White House with several Obama administration ag and rural policy officials. The meetings were part of our group’s annual convention.
WASHINGTON — I’m sitting at the National Press Club in downtown Washington during a busy day at the annual conference of the North American Agricultural Journalists. We’ve visited with top ag leaders and learned more about the complex, fascinating world of agriculture. A few thoughts:
NORTHWOOD, N.D. — Let’s start with two widely accepted assumptions in Upper Midwest agriculture: Safety is critically important. Even so, farmers sometimes rush, take chances and compromise their safety, especially when they’re tired, stressed or behind schedule — not rare occurrences in the often-hectic planting season. “Safety is just so important,” says Kris Bateman, a rural Grand Forks, N.D., farmer who helped organize a recent farm safety meeting in Northwood, N.D. “But we have to keep working at it, to keep it in mind all the time.”
CROOKSTON, Minn. — They believe in science, technology and the importance of international markets. They’re uninterested in politics, but concerned about opposition to GMO food and the use of antibiotics in farm animals. They mostly have farm backgrounds, and they’re increasingly female. They go by many names: young blood, new crop, a generational turn. Whatever they’re called, they’re the future of agriculture — and they’re confident ag will give them satisfying, enduring careers.
Carl Sagan, astronomer and science-for-the-masses popularizer, used to talk about “billions and billions of stars.” Though there aren’t quite that many federal farm programs, there are far too many for me to count, much less understand. But I’m sure of this: federal crop insurance is the most important and controversial one. To its supporters, it’s a common-sense cornerstone of U.S. farm policy. They say it helps to keep our food supply safe and affordable.
CROOKSTON, Minn. — Like other wheat growers, Greg Leblanc wants to raise a high-quality, high-yielding crop. And like other growers, the Crookston, Minn., farmer understands the importance of selling what he raises to foreign customers. That’s why Leblanc participated in a recent trade mission to Japan and South Korea, two key markets for U.S. wheat. “You get to talk to buyers one-on-one. You get to know what they like, what they’re concerned about. You get to know how the systems works,” he says of the trip, which took place March 3 to 12.
BINFORD, N.D. — Shawn Adrian sits in his bank office — toy tractors on shelves — and talks about working with clients. He enjoys what he does, and it shows. “Working with customers is rewarding,” says Adrian, an ag loan officer with Farmers & Merchants Bank. “They don’t always like what I tell them, but I hope they understand I’m trying to help them be successful.” An hour later, he stands in his shop — a full-size tractor next to him — and talks about raising, harvesting and marketing crops. He enjoys this, too, and again it shows.