Jonathan Knutson / Agweek Staff Writer
Regular readers of this column, all three or four of you, know that I stress the importance of honest, respectful communication, especially among people who disagree on important topics. Honorable people can have legitimate differences of opinion — and they can do it without being snide or rude. In that spirit, I offer up the four most outlandish things I've heard in a lifetime that, to a large extent, has revolved around ag. I'm not questioning the intelligence or integrity of people who believe these things; rather, I lament their lack of knowledge.
Gene Gruber has to stop and think when asked how many U.S. plowing championships have been won by members of his family, a three-generation dynasty. "Seventeen. It's been 17," he says after a few moments. "That shows what a big part of our lives the ploughing competition has been," he said. Gruber, of Richmond, Minn., and the current U.S. Plowing Champion, will compete in the World Ploughing Contest Aug. 30-31 on the Arnesen family farmland two miles south of Baudette, Minn.
American farmers are very good at growing corn. Mexican growers are good at it, too, and getting better. Even so, the outlook for at least one component of U.S. corn exports to Mexico remains bright. That's among the conclusions of a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service on "The Growing Corn Economies of Mexico and the United States."
Five commercially available feed additives may help to stop the spread of deadly viral diseases in pigs, according to the initial results of an ongoing research project. Three diseases — porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, porcine epidemic diarrhea and Seneca Valley A — threaten the swine industry and the global food supply. The study confirms that these diseases can spread through contaminated animal feed.
Plastic isn't the first thing that most people associate with corn. The Minnesota Corn Growers Association is working to change that. The association, working with the University of Minnesota's Center for Sustainable Polymers, is investing more than $460,000 in research focused on developing plastics made from renewable sources. The goal is replacing petroleum with renewable sources such as corn for making plastics Corn-based plastics already are used, but have "some limiting physical property characteristics," the association says.
A U.S. House appropriations bill would be good for agriculture, including sustainable ag, but the limited amount of time to gain needed broader support is worrisome, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition says. The fiscal year 2020 minibus appropriation bill passed by the House contains spending increases for sustainable ag research, food safety, local and regional food systems and outreach and training for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, the coalition said.
An animal agriculture group wants livestock producers to better protect themselves about questionable employees and animal rights activist organizations. "While the first step to take is always ensuring that your animal care practices are beyond reproach, the Animal Agriculture Alliance also advises farmers and ranchers to be very vigilant in their hiring processes to ensure that everyone hired is there for the right reason," the organization says.
Let's be honest: Most Upper Midwest farmers and ranchers didn't pay much attention when the 2017 Census of Agriculture was released this spring. And that's understandable. Producers were focused on calving, lambing, planting and preparation for planting. And many area agriculturalists aren't all that interested now, either. They're haying, spraying their crops and, in some cases, recharging physically and emotionally after an unusually long and grueling planting season.
It's likely that climate change already is affecting world crop production — hurting it in some areas, helping it in others but on balance pushing it lower, according to a new University of Minnesota-led study. "There are winners and losers, and some countries that are already food insecure fare worse," said lead author Deepak Ray of the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment.
Northeast North Dakota is among the world's best food-producing areas. A newly launched study seeks to examine how much demand the rural area has for locally-grown food, or food purchased within 100 miles of where it's produced. The study is sponsored by the Northern Plains Resource Conservation and Development, which serves Benson, Cavalier, Eddy, Ramsey, Rolette and Towner counties. It describes its mission as "building partnerships which promote leadership development and the wise use of natural resources."