Jonathan Knutson / Agweek Staff Writer
Vanessa Lien has both personal and professional reasons to fight farm-related hearing loss. She grew up on a Milnor, N.D., farm where her father suffers from what she calls “tractor ears,” or hearing loss inflicted by the roar of tractors. She’s concerned the hearing of younger relatives involved in farming might suffer, too. She’s also a North Dakota nurse and soon-to-graduate Doctor of Nursing Practice student who has researched hearing loss for her dissertation, “Screening for Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in Rural Farmers.”
GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Growing concentration in markets for U.S. agricultural production — a trend viewed with concern and suspicion by some in ag — has had a “negligible price impact” on ag producers, a new U.S. Department of Agriculture study says. “There’s really little evidence that farmers are being paid lower prices,” says Michael Adjemian, a research agricultural economist with USDA’s Economic Research Service and one of the report’s authors.
A historic trade trip to Cuba is going well, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D- Minn., and Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., say. They’re optimistic that Congressional efforts to ease restrictions on exports will go well, too. Klobuchar and Emmer held a conference call with the news media Monday afternoon. The two spoke from Cuba, where they’re part of a trade mission with President Obama. Klobuchar and Emmer are leading sponsors of proposed Senate and House legislation that would lift the current U.S. trade embargo on Cuba and allow more U.S. exports there.
U.S. farm groups and food companies have their disagreements, sometimes big ones. But a wide array of agriculturalists support increasing American ag exports to Cuba — and now they have more tools with which to do it. Ten organizations, ranging from the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union to the National Black Growers Council and National Grain and Feed Association, on Tuesday issued a joint news release praising a decision by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that could enhance ag exports to Cuba.
Soil is alive. And like any living organism, it needs to be kept healthy. That’s how a growing number of farmers and ranchers in northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota view soil health, an increasingly common topic in Upper Midwest agriculture. Once, soil health was seen primarily as reducing erosion. Protecting soil from wind and water remains a priority. But now soil is treated by many agricultural producers as a living organism that can be helped or hurt by farming practices.
Grant Herfindahl started farming at Benson, Minn., in the spring of 1976. “Horrible drought” that summer devastated his corn, leaving him with a paltry 13 bushel-per-acre harvest in the fall. “I ended up with operating expenses all over the place for fertilizer and equipment I’d bought,” he recalls. “I tell everyone that if I hadn’t had a rich uncle — Uncle Sam — I wouldn’t have been able to keep going.”
Thriving past civilizations, including ancient Greece and Rome, declined and collapsed, in part, because of soil degradation. The modern world is on the same path, but it’s not too late to reverse course, said geomorphologist David Montgomery. “We really do have an opportunity this century to turn around on a global scale that 8,000-year running experiment of degrading soil we’ve run so far on the planet,” he said. “If we don’t get it right this century, we’re not going to get a second chance at it anytime soon.”
If you know anything about the U.S. dairy industry, you know that dairy farms have been getting bigger for decades. A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture examine that growth, as well as changes in dairy product markets, growing price volatility, and dairy policy.
It never gets much attention outside agricultural circles, but a key annual deadline for farmers is approaching. March 15 is the last day to buy or modify crop insurance for spring-planted crops this growing season. The always-important job appears to be a little less complicated than usual this year. “There haven’t been a whole lot of changes” in the past year to the federal crop insurance program,” says Kevin Svingen, with First State Insurance in Rolla, N.D., and national director of the Professional Insurance Agents of North Dakota.
GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Proposed legislation to establish a single nationwide GMO labeling law has drawn attention, mainly for how it would affect food companies and consumers. But businesses and the economy in general would benefit from national standards on the labeling of food containing genetically engineered ingredients, a North Dakota business official says.