Tag Archives: Farmers

Some people have the mistaken idea that farmers and ranchers are harming our environment. You hear it everywhere: at the coffee shop, church, public forums, even in the grocery store where people buy the food farmers and ranchers produce for us to eat.

Children arrive home from school and tell parents about harmful practices farmers are using on the land. It’s easy to understand why folks think the way they do about today’s agriculture.

Few businesses are as open to public scrutiny as a farm or ranch in the United States today. While farming and ranching practices occur in the open where anyone can see, the only picture many have of agriculture is what they read in newspapers or see on television. Even fewer people have set foot on a modern farm.

The fondest wish of most farmers and ranchers is to pass their land on to their children. They work years to leave a legacy of good land stewardship. Most farmers learned about conservation and respect for the land from their parents.

Today’s farmers and ranchers are doing their part to protect and improve the environment. They use agricultural practices including early planting, pest control, good soil fertility, conservation tillage and many other innovations that help grow more food while protecting the environment.

Farmers adjust practices to meet individual cropping conditions. Such practices can vary from farm to farm – even from field to field.

As in any other business, farmers and ranchers must manage their operations on a timely basis and use all the technology available to improve quality and productivity. If they don’t, they will not be able to stay in business for long.

Today’s farmer has cut chemical usage by approximately 40 percent in many cases during the last couple of decades. Many no longer apply chemicals before planting. Instead, as the crop matures, farmers gauge potential weed pressure and apply herbicides only if needed.

Throughout the growing season, farmers do their best to provide nutritious food. From planting through harvest, they battle weather, weeds, insects and disease. Efficiency is their best defense against change including unstable world markets, political barriers and fringe groups who may attack their farming methods yet know little about this vital profession.
Ted and Lisa Guetterman own and operate a 1,100-acre row crop farm in Miami and Johnson counties. Ted represents the fourth-generation to farm and care for the land in far eastern Kansas. He and Lisa have four sons. One has returned to the farm, and the others continue to learn about the farm and conservation as they grow.

The family’s farm includes amylose and waxy corn, soybeans and soft winter wheat. Ted also feeds approximately 400 head of steers each year.  Throughout the past 35 years Ted’s family integrated new practices, converting to drills, planters and sprayers equipped with GPS to become more efficient and 100 percent no-till.

Ted and Lisa identified soil erosion as a major concern in all their fields so the family-built miles of terraces and waterways. Ted also assists his landlords and other farmers in the construction of similar conservation practices.

Cropland isn’t the only focus for conservation for the Guettermans. Their livestock pens are designed so all runoff is directed to the grass filtering strips. The use of cover crops on the farm improves soil health, water infiltration and reduces erosion, all while providing feed for the cattle to graze.

The couple is passionate about taking part in programs that will benefit the land. They have enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Carbon Sequestering and the Conservation Stewardship Program. The Guettermans were honored as the Natural Resources award winners at the recent Kansas Farm Bureau annual meeting.

Yes, farmers and ranchers like the Guettermans and their counterparts across Kansas must live in the environment they create. They can and will do more to improve their environment. They can continue to rely less on herbicides, insecticides and fertilizers.

Agricultural producers can also conserve more water, plug abandoned wells, monitor grassland grazing and continue to implement environmentally sound techniques that will ensure preservation of the land.

In the meantime, farmers and ranchers will continue to take their stewardship seriously. They’ve devoted their lives to safeguarding their farms and families, while providing us with the safest food in the world.

The resumption of soybean sales to China this week is encouraging to American farmers who have seen the value of their crop plummet amid a trade war with the world’s second-largest economy, but producers see it only as a small step and say they need more federal aid.

Private exporters reported sales of 1.13 million metric tons of soybeans to China on Thursday and another 300,000 metric tons on Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said. The Thursday report was the ninth-largest daily sale since 1977, according to the agency’s Foreign Agriculture Service, and it comes less than two weeks after the Trump administration reached a three-month truce in its trade war with China during which the two sides will try to work out their differences.

Davie Stephens, a Kentucky farmer who serves as president of the American Soybean Association, said the resumption of sales is “positive news” but that “it is vital that this 90-day process result in lifting the current 25 percent tariff that China continues to impose on U.S. soybean imports.”

“Without removal of this tariff, it is improbable that sales of U.S. soybeans to China can be sustained,” he said.

China had suspended U.S. soybean purchases earlier this year but under the truce agreed to buy more U.S. farm products. The country typically buys between 30 million and 35 million metric tons of U.S. beans in a normal year.

News of the U.S. sale might prompt some farmers to sell some of the soybeans they have stored on their farms, in part because South American crops will be hitting the world market within a couple of months, said Huron, South Dakota, farmer Brandon Wipf, who serves on the American Soybean Association board.

“We have a narrow window out of which to operate,” he said. “I think you’ll see some farmers selling, some holding on for a little better prices.”

No beans are moving yet out of North Dakota, which typically sends most of its annual crop to Pacific Northwest ports from which the beans go overseas to southeast Asia.

“It may take some time to get the shuttle trains in place and get ocean-going vessels stationed at the PNW,” said North Dakota Soybean Growers Association Executive Director Nancy Johnson. The sale announced this week is for delivery after the new year, she said, and it did not significantly boost prices.

January soybean futures in early Friday trading on the Chicago Board of Trade gained 40 cents to about $9.06 a bushel. That’s down from almost $15 a bushel four years ago and nearly $10 a bushel 18 months ago.

Soybean farmers are getting the largest share of a federal program created to compensate producers up to $12 billion for trade-related losses, though this year’s payment of 82 cents a bushel doesn’t match a market price drop of about $2 per bushel since May.

The Trump administration has said another 82 cents might be approved next year if a trade deal isn’t reached. Both the American Soybean Association and the National Farmers Union this week pushed for a second payment while the administration works on a long-term trade solution.

The farm sector has already lost far more value to this trade war than the (compensation) payments will provide, and damages due to lost markets will persist long into the future,” Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said. “The administration should be doing everything it can to protect the men and women who feed, fuel and clothe this nation.”

North Dakota U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee, said Friday that he stressed the importance of the second payment to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.

Not getting a second payment could be a “deal-breaker” for some farmers in terms of their support for the Trump administration, according to Wipf.

“They would see that as a broken promise by the administration,” he said. “We’re of course encouraging the administration not to make the miscalculation that this little bit of detente we have with China has suddenly fixed all the problems we have.”