Jonathan Knutson / Agweek Staff Writer
I was sitting in the Agweek booth at an area farm show early this winter when a farmer came up to visit. I had never met him, but knew him by reputation as a good farmer and level-headed guy. He said some nice things about my writing and Agweek in general. Then he said, "I just wish you guys had more positive stories. There's too much negative news now." I mentioned the cover stories I'd written recently, all positive. I mentioned that most of the stories in the current issue of Agweek were positive.
Britton Fuglseth's agricultural career didn't enjoy a promising beginning. When she took her first ag class in seventh grade at Fertile-Beltrami School in northwest Minnesota, her initial reaction was, "This is stupid. I don't want to be here." But the 18-year-old high school senior now embraces both agriculture and FFA, so much so that she was selected to a Minnesota State FFA leadership post — and even plans to become a high school agricultural education instructor and FFA advisor herself.
If you're involved in U.S. production agriculture, you won't be surprised that U.S. farms are becoming bigger and fewer and that the overwhelming majority of U.S. farms and ranches are family owned. Nor is it surprising that a majority of U.S. farms aren't making money, or at least not in 2017. But you may not have expected that farmers and ranchers on average continue to get older. All this and much more — "6.4 million new pieces of information" — was released Thursday, April 11, in the 2017 Census of Agriculture.
In late March, Tim Courneya, executive vice president of the Northarvest Bean Growers Association, based in Frazee, Minn., asked the farmers-directors of his organization how many acres of dry edible beans they intend to plant this spring. Their collective answer, Courneya said, was, "Status quo" — or roughly the same number of acres as they planted in 2018.
FARGO, N.D. — Matthew Kleinhenz stood in the front of the room, enthusiastically answering one question after another about the challenges of operating high tunnels: mice, insects and cold well water, among others. "They're not imbued with special cosmic properties," Kleinhenz, Extension specialist in vegetable production systems at Ohio State University, said of high tunnels. "They're a tool, a tool you can use to reduce risk."
Through the years, I've been in the barns of quite a few Upper Midwest dairy farmers. They're some of the nicest people and best farmers I know. So I take no pleasure in writing about the long stretch of poor milk prices that has forced far too many dairy operations out of business. From 2017 to 2018 alone, 6.5 percent of U.S. dairy farms shut down, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report. So what's the problem?
G3, the successor to the former Canadian Wheat Board, is building two more grain elevators in Alberta. One will be in Irricana, the other in Stettler County. Both new facilities will have a capacity of 42,000 metric tons and a railway loop track that can accommodate a 150-car unit train. G3 Stettler County will be on CP Rail; G3 Irricana on CN Rail. Construction on the elevators is planned to start by this summer, pending final regulatory approvals. Construction is expected to be complete in 2020.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPlate and the Canadian Food Guide are prominent and influential nutritional guides in their respective countries. Now, MyPlate has been "simplified," while the Canadian Food Guide has been updated with major changes that include demoting meat and dairy. MyPlate remains essentially the same, and "continues to be based on sound science," said Julie Garden-Robinson, North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist.
Milk prices are poor, and Minnesota dairy farmers are struggling. The Minnesota Milk Producers Association hopes to strengthen their financial situation through a proposed state program that would make payments to dairy farmers who have implemented sound conservation practices. "Bluntly, we're trying to help dairy farmers through a really hard time and we think this is a way of doing it," said Lucas Sjostrom, the association's executive director.
Farming and ranching in the Upper Midwest isn't much fun right now. It's not particularly satisfying, enjoyable, pleasurable, or rewarding, either. The long, tough winter has stressed livestock and the people who care for them. Poor crop prices will prevent most farmers from turning a profit in 2019 unless they enjoy very good yields.