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At Agweek, we understand agriculture

These are tough times for area farmers and ranchers. Modern agriculture is driven, for both good and ill, by commodity prices and the weather, so poor prices and the difficult 2019 crop season have inevitably hurt area ag. Our news staff here at ...

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Jonathan Knutson

These are tough times for area farmers and ranchers. Modern agriculture is driven, for both good and ill, by commodity prices and the weather, so poor prices and the difficult 2019 crop season have inevitably hurt area ag.

Our news staff here at Agweek really does understand that agriculture is cyclical and frequently hit with rough stretches. Certainly I understand it. Two examples of many:

It was the early 1980s. I had finished school and was looking for a job in agriculture. But the so-called Reagan Recession was in full force and few companies were hiring. Ag businesses, hammered by tough times, certainly weren't; many weren't even interviewing. Time and again I was told, "There's no point to come for an interview. We just aren't hiring, and we won't be anytime soon."

Eventually I landed a job in journalism and went on to what has been a satisfying career in ag journalism. But, boy oh, boy, those early '80s were rough in ag - and I felt it personally.

The other example came in the summer of 1990. I was an ag journalist and talked daily with farmers and ranchers struggling with drought and poor prices. One weekend, I visited my family farm in central North Dakota. Getting close to home, I saw fields and pastures, that should have been a vibrant green, turning a sickly yellow-brown from lack of moisture. And I talked with my father, an experienced farmer who had made prudent decisions and executed them well. But he, too, was struggling with drought and poor prices.

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"There should be enough income this year to pay the farm expenses, but there won't be anything left to live on," he said. (Then the two of us spent three or four hours beneath the sweltering August sun fencing in an area, normally not pastured, where the cattle could graze for a day or two.) To his great credit, my father overcame the tough year (and more that followed) and remained in farming to enjoy a few good years that eventually came along. But, boy, oh, boy, 1990 was tough - and I felt it personally.

Others on the Agweek staff have stories of their own about tough times in ag. All of us have relatives, neighbors and friends who have endured, or are enduring, agronomic, financial and emotional challenges. We've experienced, directly or indirectly, those challenges ourselves.

We've seen crops and pasture wither in mid-summer drought. We've felt mud from soggy livestock pens creep into our boots during spring calving. We've heard the soul-sucking sound of falling hail, we've smelled rotting crops in fields too wet to harvest. We've lived ag. We know it.

Agweek news staffers aren't PR agents for agriculture. Oh, we express our personal viewpoints in columns, of which this is an example. But in news articles, we report on issues and developments as objectively and even-handedly as we can. Even so, our strong, close and personal ties to ag really do improve our understanding of what's happening.

And, like others at Agweek, I'm always trying to increase my understanding of ag. Please feel free to contact me with your thoughts, insights and experiences. What you tell me may or may not lead to a story, but it will always make me better-informed and more knowledgeable.

A final thought that I hope provides at least a little consolation and encouragement for agriculturalists trying to survive these tough times:

Those of us at Agweek know that ag is cyclical. Personal experience tells us that sooner or later, things will get better. And like you, we hope it happens quickly.

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