Agweek Editorial Board
This week's Agweek cover story kicks off a three-part series featuring one of American agriculture's most important — and sometimes overlooked — assets: Part-time farmers, or ag producers pulling double duty by working off-farm jobs in addition to farming or ranching. There's nothing new about part-time farmers, of course. But their importance clearly seems to be growing. Low commodity prices continue to depress farm profits, increasing the need for off-farm income and, in many cases, employer-provided health insurance.
Some things in agriculture are obvious: the importance of timely rains and the value of neighbors who keep their fences in good working order, to name just two. Some things in ag are more complicated. These issues and subjects generate differing viewpoints that both offer legitimate arguments and deserve careful consideration. A good example is the U.S Department of Agriculture's plan to relocate two of its agencies from their historic homes in Washington, D.C., to new locations in Kansas City.
Is FFA for everybody? Yes. We need to make sure of it. In recent weeks, Agweek has run an opinion piece from Brandon Roiger, a former FFA member addressing what he sees as shortcomings in the organization's efforts toward diversity and inclusivity, as well as an interview in response from National FFA President Luke O'Leary, who believes that FFA is "for everyone" while acknowledging there always is room for improvement.
The North Dakota Legislature continues to work on a bill that could, potentially, strengthen private property rights in the state. But to be perfectly honest, we're pretty pessimistic about the possibilities of lawmakers finding a solution that provides any relief to the landowners of the state. Instead, we would suggest that the state needs a culture change outside of changes to the Century Code.
All farmers and livestock producers are important. All the crops and animals they raise are important. That said, there's something special about the dairy industry, especially the people who operate dairy farms. Their skill and dedication reflect what's best and noblest in production agriculture.
A measure to legalize industrial hemp production in South Dakota has been delayed after the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee deferred the bill at Republican Gov. Kristi Noem's request. The measure may instead be debated Feb. 28, which will give the governor's office more time to put together a fiscal analysis.
If you're part of U.S. agriculture, you realize the huge role the federal government plays in our food system. For better or worse, or both, the government is involved, directly or indirectly, in countless aspects of modern American agriculture. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, through loans, scientific research, trade statistics, safety-net programs, livestock and crop reports, and much more, is particularly important.
A very short list of changes The new farm bill has many changes and revisions that will affect Upper Midwest farmers and ranchers. Here's a quick look at a few of the most important: • Gives more flexibility in deciding between Agricultural Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage. • Increases commodity loan rates for many crops. For example, the loan rate for wheat rises from $2.94 per bushel in 2014 to $3.37 per bushel.
Earlier this month, a jury awarded a former school groundskeeper $289.2 million, determining that Monsanto failed to warn him of the dangers posed by his use of the company's glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup. The verdict has been cheered by opponents of herbicides and genetic modification and reviled by those who know how important glyphosate has become to agriculture and how safe it is in comparison to other herbicide options.
American farmers, many of whom helped get President Donald Trump elected, have tried to be patient. They admit trade injustices have been going on for years around the world, most notably with China. However, agriculture has become collateral damage for the ongoing trade war, which some experts predict could last another year. No one wins in a trade war, even when you try to fix it with a bandage. So, the $12-billion trade compensation package falls short of helping farmers at a time when they need markets and higher commodity prices after five years of a depressed farm economy.