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VIDEO: Plain Living: What I learned this winter

The area's annual agricultural winter meeting season is wrapping up. The season once again brought a calendar- bursting lineup of farm shows, expos and conferences, all featuring speakers and exhibits. Some of the events went several days and dre...

Jonathan Knutson

The area’s annual agricultural winter meeting season is wrapping up. The season once again brought a calendar-

bursting lineup of farm shows, expos and conferences, all featuring speakers and exhibits.
Some of the events went several days and drew thousands of people; others lasted a few hours and attracted a few dozen. Each, in its own way, had value.
As always, I attended many of the events. As always, I learned a lot. Ag changes constantly - weather, politics, economics and technology see to that - and trying to stay current is a challenge.
Much of what I learned is tied to individual crops and specific issues; there’s not enough space to summarize it all here. But I can offer these big-picture takeaways:

  • 2016 profits will be hard to come by for farmers, even if they enjoy excellent yields. Crop prices are just too low - and expenses too high - for a realistic chance of making money.
  • Cash flow is king. Having enough liquid assets to pay bills will get farmers through the year, even if they don’t make a profit.
  • Herbicide-resistant weeds are a real and growing threat. Develop a plan to combat it.
  • Controlling costs is more important than ever. But don’t cut back too much on things like pesticide and fertilizer; good yields remain critical.
  • Dissatisfaction with Washington, D.C., remains strong. (Some things never change.)
  • “Farming smarter, not working harder” - an agricultural maxim - remains true. What’s more, the growing number of high-tech tools increase opportunities to farm smarter. (If you’re tech-challenged like me, of course, you have to work harder to figure out the new tools.)
  • Experts’ best educated guess is the growing season will get off to a good start, but could turn dry by late summer.

Do you have a big-picture takeaway of your own that didn’t make my list? If so, drop me a line and tell me about it. And I repeat my standing invitation: Let me know in advance about your upcoming meeting or event, whether it’s held in the winter, spring, summer or fall. I can’t promise to attend, but I’ll certainly consider it.
Satisfying season
I enjoyed the winter meeting season. The roads were good every time I traveled out of town, which sure helped. But the real satisfaction came in visiting talented, interesting people, and learning important, interesting things that I was able to pass on to Agweek readers.
Crop season is approaching. It will arrive quickly if we get an early spring. It will come with teeth-grinding slowness if winter drags on. As always, we’ll deal with whatever nature brings us.
For now, though, I’m content to wrap up meeting season. It’s been a good one.
I hope you think so, too.

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