Jonathan Knutson / Agweek Staff Writer
Off-farm jobs common for ag producers It's an attractive image: Hard-working, self-employed farmers and ranchers supporting themselves and their families with the profit from their agricultural operation. Reality often falls short of the image, especially in recent years. Poor crop prices and limited farm income means many ag producers need additional, off-farm income — and employer-provided health insurance — to make ends meet.
Average U.S. farmland values and rental rates rose in 2019, according to two new annual reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service. The national trend was reflected in most of the Upper Midwest. North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana generally had higher average farmland values and rental rates, although values and rates fell in Minnesota.
Many farmers need off-farm income Farming and ranching can be challenging, especially when commodity prices are poor and income is limited. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects U.S. net farm income this year will be about $70 billion, down from the record $123 billion in 2013.
Silvopasture is a term that many people may be unfamiliar with. But the concept behind it — combining trees with pasture to benefit both livestock and the land — is an old one that's garnering growing attention. On Sept. 18 in Becker, Minn., the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota hosts an educational session on silvopasture, oak savanna restoration, grazing management, and how these techniques can boost farm profitability.
About this series This spring, I invited Agweek readers to nominate farmers for a series I was planning on part-time farmers. My goal was to profile ag producers who, in addition to farming or ranching, have off-farm jobs that provide necessary income to supplement what's generated by the farm.
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.
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.
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."
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.