Agweek Editorial Board
As farmers continue to struggle through this historically difficult harvest season, sugar beet farmers in the Red River Valley have been highlighted as having a particularly tough time. Sure, there will be lost acres of other crops, but rumors of American Crystal Sugar charging growers for undelivered beets have put public sympathies squarely with those farmers. However, that sentiment forgets that the sugar beet growers are American Crystal Sugar, and American Crystal Sugar is the sugar beet growers.
They're known as "food nannies" and "the food police." Mainstream agriculturalists sometimes call them names that can't be reprinted here. Whatever you call them, they're people who through legislation or regulation or both would limit what Americans can eat — which should concern consumers as well as agriculturalists.
If you're even peripherally involved with Upper Midwest agriculture, you know that harvest will be late this year. The wet cold, spring delayed planting, and so the crop naturally will be harvested later, too. Some farmers' crops are five to 15 days behind normal maturity, some even more. Whatever the number of days, ag producers, grain elevator employees and others involved in harvest face special challenges this year.
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.