Filed under: Ag education, Farm, food, house | Tags: Agriculture education, dirt, environment, farm, farmland, Food, housing, housing development, nature, science
Today we have 922,095,840 acres of farmland in the United States. In 1978, that number was 1,014,777,234 – a decrease of 92,681,394 acres. Nine percent of our nations farmland is gone. Where did it go? Most of it went to housing.
When I travel to any city it is obvious to me that people do love to live outside the city. Suburban housing developments around cities are converting some very good farmland to street after street of houses. Nice flat fertile easy to farm land. As of now that land has a greater value as housing than as farmland. Despite losing 9% of some of our countries best farmland farmers have produced more food than ever before.
Farmers and agri-businesses are constantly improving crop yields so that more food and feed crops can be grown with the same, or even less inputs. We now use less water, fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, fuel and labor to produce ever more and more food for the world than we did when I started farming 40 years ago. Our farming methods have changed in ways that reduce erosion. Although our machinery may be bigger we now use methods that do less damage to the soil. Indeed farmers are conservation minded.
Farmers are doing their best to protect the land. Dirt is our most precious resource and we treat it well.
Filed under: Politics, science | Tags: censored, censorship, freedom of the press, politics, science
Our nation, which has long held freedom of the press to be among our most cherished liberties, the U.S. currently ranks 47th in the world for true freedom of the press. Almost every one of our news outlets is owned by one of just six multinational conglomerates. Increasingly, the editorial content of our press is controlled by advertising dollars and internal corporate conflicts of interest. The nonpartisan organization Reporters Without Borders ranks the U. S. behind such countries as Niger, El Salvador and Estonia. We need to be asking ourselves why? Increasingly the news is censored to suit someones agenda. All too often what the press reports is opinion and not science. Check the credentials of the person reporting. Are they an expert in their field or a celebrity with an opinion.
We need to be asking ourselves some questions when reading or viewing any news story; If this is not true, who will suffer? If this is true, who stands to benefit.
Filed under: Ag education, Animal care, Corn, Farm, farm animals, food, food safety, genetic modification, GMO, organic, science, weather | Tags: Agriculture education, consumer fears, Corn, emotional subject, farm, farmers and ranchers, Food, food safety, hormone estrogen, nature, organic producer, safety, science, weather
Everyone wants to believe that their opinion is right. Sometimes we don’t know why, but we are right. Sometimes we jump on an emotional bandwagon and never look back pledging everything we have to the emotional belief.
My kids say that I seem to be able to talk on any subject as if I’m always right. They in their span have also developed the ability to speak as if their opinion is the right one, I got it from my ancestors and so did they. I have yet to see any of us argue a point on emotion only. We are all prone to reading and study. We know our subject, and some of us know a lot of different subjects.
Our food can be a very emotional subject. For some the thought that there could be hormones, antibiotics, pesticides or GMO’s in their food is an emotional no. Since I work in the food industry I see things a bit differently. I see the efforts of farmers and ranchers, haulers, processors and groceries to put the best product out for the consumer to eat. We are all in this together.
Once in a while I will see a grocery put up a sign that I know is indefensible in trying to calm consumer fears that they cannot defend. Sometimes labels are to promote a food as a premium product. Here are a few.
This label is completely indefensible. Without hormones, there is no life. When placed on beef this should be worded “Grown with no added hormones.” Folks get concerned about the possibility of the hormone estrogen in their beef, but never check to see the level of hormones. Your lettuce has many times the level of estrogen in it than beef raise with hormone implants.
I’ve seen this label placed on many different products. Sometimes it is, sometimes it is not. The true organic producer has to go through a three year certification process. They are subject to random check and a grueling documentation process. Make one mistake and you are out for three years. There is no one that can prove without a doubt that organic is better for you. This is an emotional label. If you want to pay more for organic, great. My organic farmer friends need the money since they spend many extra hours and lots more money to produce organic foods. It is best to buy certified organic in your store, or even better, only buy from a certified organic producer. Any other produce is suspect. There are times that the organic label has been put on foods that are not organic to satisfy demand.
Produce that is grown without the use of pesticides may or may not be better for you. Many fruits and veggies can be grown without pesticides naturally. They are usually thick skinned or naturally pest resistant. Those plants that are grown with the use of pesticides are checked by inspectors to be sure they do not contain more than the allowed limit of pesticides. It is in the best interest of the grower to produce your fruits and veggies without pesticides and they use them only when needed. The extra cost cuts into their already slim profit margin.
No livestock producer wants to see their animals sick. Just as you protect your children they also seek to protect their animals. If an animal needs a shot or a bit of cough medicine they get it. Many farmers try to produce antibiotic free meat since it brings a premium from the consumer. At times whole herds of animals can be removed from an antibiotic free process when a sickness breaks out. This is a financial loss to the producer, but they will do it to get the premium label that some demand.
All medication has a withdrawal period, a time that it cannot be used before slaughter. Farmers and processors are monitored to be sure that they follow withdrawal guidelines. If antibiotics show up in the meat, it cannot be eaten.
Grass fed, free range, cages (So many sub subjects here.)
University studies show that if there is a bias on grass fed beef, it is in favor of conventionally fed. The HDL/LDL levels in beef that are conventionally fed seems be better than grass fed. An animal raised conventionally also grows faster since it does not have to go so far in search of food.
Corn is a grass. Saying that because you feed corn to an animal you are doing something unnatural is bogus.
Living out doors is better. Living out doors exposes food animals to predators and disease as well as some really nasty weather. Being in and enclosed area also allows the farmer or rancher to watch for and treat disease or injury. Just as you would not like to live in a tent or cave, food animals prefer barns.
Injury as animals compete for food is one of the biggest problems faced in raising livestock. Independent studies have found that when pigs are allowed the choice of free range or stall housing they will choose stalls 90% of the time, they feel safer in the stall.
There are diseases and parasites that live in the soil that can infect animals raised outside.
This label is the most troubling for me. There are so many genetic modifications that have been made to our food plants and animals and some people try to lump them all into the same basket. Just because a food product has been modified to grow faster, use less water, use less fertilizer or resist pests does not mean it is dangerous. One of the staunchest critics of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), environmentalist Mark Lynas, recently said he had been mistaken and that the threat of GMOs had been exaggerated by him and others for years. Every piece of evidence I have seen that says GMO’s are bad for you has had hundreds of pieces of evidence brought forth to show how wrong they were.
I know that many feel in their gut that I am wrong, but when the science is so overwhelming, I know I’m right.
Filed under: Farm, science | Tags: Agriculture education, farm, glyphosate, nature, resistance, science, super weeds, Weed control
The headline says “Glyphosate resistance spreads,” but for me that is nothing new. Chemical manufacturers always expected this to happen. They warned farmers that it would happen, Why are we surprised. I noticed a resistance to glyphosate for certain plants from the first time I used it, this day was always going to come.
It is a fact of life that organisms adapt or die. Those that do adapt live to overcome the adversity that they were facing. If you live in a dry area only those plants that can tolerate dry conditions adapt and survive. If the soil is constantly wet, only those plants that can adapt, live. No matter what the problem, it’s a live or die world.
Despite headlines, these are not “super weeds” only survivors. There are still ways to control these weeds, it’s just that one of the cheapest methods is now gone. It is part of the battle for mother earth that we on the farm fight everyday. When we overuse a control method, ways will be found to get around it. There are ways, and we will find them, what we don’t know is how long the new methods will last.
Filed under: Biofuels, cars, ethanol, Farm, food, history | Tags: Agriculture education, biofuels, cars, climate, ethanol, farm, Food, fuel, horses, machines, science, transportation
Now stop and think about it. You are concerned that foods you eat may be diverted to use for fuel. You consider that this is a new phenomenon. The truth is that only in the last century or so has the earths surface not provided the world with fuel. Only when we dug down for coal, oil and nuclear energy did man move away from the fuels provided by the forests and fields of agriculture.
How did the horses and oxen of our great grandfathers generation move? They ate plant materials and turned them into energy. Before WWII most of the production of a farm went to feeding the horses and oxen that pulled the plows, wagons and buggies. Very little of the food produced on a farm actually made it into town.
When the train and the automobile were first introduced they was powered by ethanol, from fermented grains or other food crops, or steam, produced mostly from coal or wood, not oil, thus powering early trains and autos on the produce of farms and forests. Early oil discoveries were used in medicines and as lubricants. Then some oil man figured out how to make a motor fuel cheaper than ethanol and we moved into the modern era with our addiction to oil.
When Germany went to war it had very little for oil reserves and initially powered its war machine on potato alcohol. When bootleggers needed a fuel to outrun government pursuit they fueled their boats and cars with alcohol and ethanol. It is only since WWII that man has depended almost solely on oil for his motor fuels.
So you see, except for a brief part of history, man has relied on farms and forests to provide him with food and fuel. It is only in the “modern” era, an era of smog, pollution and global warming, has man relied on the fossil fuels of coal, oil and natural gas. Perhaps it’s time we got back to the farm to fuel our world. I’m not such a fan of pollution and global warming.
Filed under: Ag education, Corn, Farm, harvest, Minnesota, rain, science, seasons, Soybeans, spring, weather | Tags: climate, Corn, drought, dry soil, farm, harvest, history, Minnesota, nature, Planting, rain, science, Soybeans, spring, weather
There has been a bit of talk lately of what this last years crop year was and what next years will be like. What is past is always a bit easier to know.
A month ago we started work on a new barn. Part of the process was to dig a rather large hole 4 feet deep. The clay under the top soil was dry. It made for some very easy digging. What does that have to do with next year and what does that say about this years crop.
Back in May a Minnesota Public Radio reporter talked to me about the prospects for the future with an early planting and a future of a very large crop. You can read that story here <http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/05/24/corn-crop-outlook/> When he asked me what I thought of the USDA prediction of a large crop, I laughed and said they were guessing. A few months later he came back to talk to me and the talk was not about a record crop and depressed prices, but of a short crop and prices at historically high levels for months now. That story is here <http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/11/15/business/2012-minnesota-crop-report/>
So much changed just weeks after the May interview and so much can change now. Historically we have only a 5% chance of a drought this next year, yet the least expected option often happens. So how do we get from dust to a banner crop? Rain.
We will get rain. If it is enough is not in our hands. I was blessed to be raised in a part of the country that has small chance of a drought, but much has changed in my lifetime. Centuries of man’s wanton waste of the energy resources of our earth have tipped us into new territory. I hesitate to try to predict the unpredictable.
In the meantime I will plan and prepare. The soil is here, I will protect it. The rain will fall, I will use what is given to me. The sun will shine and plants will use it. God willing there will be a harvest again next year.
Filed under: Ag education, Corn, Farm, fertilizer, food, genetic modification, GMO, Minnesota, nitrogen, science, Soybeans, weather | Tags: Agriculture education, Corn, farm, Minnesota, nitrogen fertilizers, science, Soybeans, weather, Weed control
As much as some would like to stuff it back in, the GMO genie is out of the bottle. The use of genetic modifications in sciences of all kinds will continue to come. Medical breakthroughs will help us to lengthen life. Our food plants will grow faster, use less fertilizer and water. Our food will grow faster on less feed. Our companion animals will live longer and be more helpful. All because of genetic modifications that are either now being developed or will be in the future.
My specific focus, on the crops raised here in Southwestern Minnesota, will also see some changes. Here are some I’ll especially be looking forward to;
- Drought tolerance and efficient water usage will increase.
- Use of fertilizers will decrease as plants become more efficient.
- Plants will be breed to take their nitrogen from the air eliminating the need for nitrogen fertilizers that are currently produced by the oil industry.
- More plants will be developed for specific industries with corn varieties specific for feed stocks in industry and livestock feed, and changes in the oil and meal content of soybeans.
- Disease tolerant varieties of crops will be developed quicker as new crop diseases and insect pests develop or move to new areas.
- More crops will be developed that contain needed vitamins and minerals so that those in countries facing vitamin and mineral deficiencies will live a healthier life.
These are just a few of the discoveries we have to look forward to. The future advantages of genetic modification far outweigh the potential problems. It is going to be an exciting future.
Filed under: Farm, genetic modification, GMO, science | Tags: Agriculture education, farm, GMO, GMO's, science
You can most likely guess from the previous posts that I am in favor of what has been happening with GMO products. Part of it is because I understand the science of GMO’s. I have training in Agricultural sciences and have kept up with what universities and private companies are doing. I have not been “shocked” by some fake science finding that has no basis in truth.
A case in point. One of the GMO items that some people are upset about is the addition of the Bt gene to crops so that crops can produce their own insecticide. Here’s what the University of Wisconsin has to say about Bt.
- What is Bt?
- Bt is the common abbreviation for a naturally occurring bacteria Bacillus thuringienus that is found in the soil. A unique feature of this bacterium is its production of crystal like proteins that selectively kill specific groups of insects. These crystal proteins are insect stomach poisons that must be eaten to kill the insect. Bt insecticides have been used for over 60 years and are considered safe to non-target organisms. However, because it is a natural product it is unstable and short-lived.
- How is Bt corn created?
- Plant geneticists create Bt corn by inserting selected exotic DNA(in this case Bt DNA) into the corn plants DNA. DNA is the genetic material that controls the expression of a plants or animalss traits. The Bt gene, modified for improved expression in corn, produce the crystal proteins which are toxic to some caterpillars, such as the European corn borer. Promoters determine where the toxin will be expressed in the plant. Varieties that express the toxin in silks, kernels and pith tend to offer longer season protection than varieties that express only in the pollen and green tissue of the plant.
- How safe is Bt and Bt corn?
- The EPA considered 20 years of human and animal safety data before registering Bt corn. Bt proteins are not toxic to people, domestic animals, fish, or wildlife; and they have no impacts on the environment. Bt crystal proteins are highly selective in killing larvae of moths. Bt corn, however, does not affect beneficial insects including honey bees, lady beetles, green lacewing larvae, spiders, pirate bugs or parasitic wasps.
So there you have it, that is the science of Bt genetics. An organic insecticide is produced in the plant. This product had over 20 years of trials before it was placed into plants and has been used for over 10 yeas since then. I’d consider that to be sufficient testing.
Yes, insects will develop a resistance to it, that is natural. These will not be super bugs, just survivors. There will be other methods available to help contain those surviving insects.
Then you have genetic modifications that encourage better root growth or put more beans in a pod, are they to be classed with all other modifications when they do not add exotic DNA?
So many people are afraid that we are going to unleash Frankensteins Monster on an unsuspecting public, but this is not likely to happen. This is not a horror movie, this is life folks. Our scientific community is trying to produce more food to feed the children of the future, let them alone to do their job. Please don’t stop them from creating beneficial changes in our plants and animals because of some fear monger’s nightmare. The era of genetic modification is upon us and the potential benefits are exciting.
Filed under: Corn, Farm, genetic modification, GMO, science, Soybeans | Tags: Agriculture education, Bt, Corn, farm, glyphosate, GMO, GMO's, Monsanto, Roundup, roundup herbicide, roundup ready soybeans, science, Soybeans
OK, so here’s my opinion about GMO’s. but first ….
To help you understand where my opinions come from, you need to know a bit about me. I’m 59 and have never wanted to do anything other than farming. Yes, I do have a few non farm hobbies, but farming is my main business. My dad is 83 and refuses to slow down, he is active off farm in the ethanol industry. I have a degree from the University of Minnesota in Animal Science, but took as many crop science classes as I could. At one time I sold seed for two different companies, one no longer exists, and the other is still going, independently from any other company. I’m an avid reader, but have become bored with most of the farm press because they are telling me nothing new. I read Time Magazine and National Geographic cover to cover, every issue. I get most of my network news from the radio, preferring a local ABC affiliate. I watch science shows on PBS whenever I can. I have been active in the Republican party but have not been happy with their slant for over 20 years now. I am currently active in the Evangelical Lutheran Church and The Farm Bureau.
Dad and I farm about 750 acres in Southwestern Minnesota. At one time we got half of our income from hogs, but now are only crop farmers. According to University data we should be farming 2000 acres to earn a decent living, but are happy with what we have. In our area we are small farmers. My mother has never worked off of the farm, and my wife is recently retired after teaching kindergarten.
When the first GMO’s came to the farm we called them Roundup Ready Soybeans. They were soybean plants that has been breed to withstand being sprayed with Roundup herbicide, otherwise known a glyphosate. Roundup was a Monsanto product unlike any previously seen weed killer. We had been using it spot spraying weeds in soybeans for many years. Soybeans had a tolerance to a low dose of Roundup already, but adding the Roundup Ready gene allowed us to spray the whole field and kill off only the weeds. Some broadleaf weeds needed more Roundup than others, but grasses were dead, fast.
I was a bit slow to jump on the Roundup Ready bandwagon. Yes, Roundup killed weeds better than anything else available at the time, but the yield was not there in the first years. Later as Roundup Ready Soybeans got better and Roundup Ready corn was introduced it was easier to move to an all glyphosate program.
From the very beginning, Monsanto told us not to use only Roundup. They had also seen the weeds that were harder to kill with Roundup. Monsanto added different types of additives to make glyphosate work better, but they kept warning us that if farmers used only glyphosate we would be seeing weeds that would adjust and would no longer be killed by glyphosate.
Now Monsanto has discovered that if you move the glyphosate tolerance gene to a different place on the DNA of a soybean plant it will give you more yield. Adding more bushels to the acre makes Roundup Ready 2 Yield Soybeans more attractive.
The addition of glyphosate tolerance to corn was a major change in the corn plant. Corn, maize, is a grass, and glyphosate is deadly to all grasses. Now farmers had to add another herbicide to their mix to get rid of corn that showed up in other crops in the following years.
One of the most important changes to the corn plant and several other crops was when they learned how to get the plants to make their own insecticide. Now we have Bt corn. Bt is the common abbreviation for a naturally occurring bacteria Bacillus thuringienus that is found in the soil. A unique feature of this bacterium is its production of crystal like proteins that selectively kill specific groups of insects. These crystal proteins are insect stomach poisons that must be eaten to kill the insect. Bt insecticides have been used for over 60 years and are considered safe to non-target organisms. However, because it is a natural product it is unstable and short-lived. Problems have been occurring in some areas where Bt corn has been overused. Some insects have become immune to Bt. The solution turns out to be an easy one, plant a different crop.
There are other advantages to planting some types of GM crops for the farmer, but all of them must be used in moderation. Nature will always figure out a way around any defense that is developed. Many farm folks have learned that a too much of a good thing is good initially, but bad in the long run. It is all part of the cycle of nature. If there are a lot of one thing, something else will figure out a way to use it. No modification of plant or animal is without risk.
OK, I expect to do one more in this series unless I get a lot of questions that take me off on a new track.
Filed under: Ag education, Corn, Farm, genetic modification, GMO, organic, science, Soybeans, weather | Tags: Agriculture education, Corn, drought, farm, GMO, GMO's, organic, organic farming, science, Soybeans, weather
As expected my earlier post on GMO’s drew some comments from long time readers. These comments have me off on a totally different path than I had first expected in my second post.
So here it is, let’s talk labeling, that after all is the real reason that California’s prop 37 is being promoted.
When farm folks produce certified organic labelled produce they are held to a much stricter set of regulations than non-organic producers. It means that a farmer has limited his use of certain practices to produce an organic product, and has the documentation to prove it. The consumer is assuming that the farm products they are buying that are labeled organic are different from non-organic produce and are willing to pay more for it. Modern science has not proven that there is a physical difference in the same products raised differently. There is an emotional difference however, and if it makes a difference to you in how your food is produced, great, go for it. I am fully in support of my organic farming friends getting paid more to produce food for you. Just remember, they do a lot more work to produce organic foods and deserve to be paid for that extra work.
I do not however find the same need for labeling of GM products. Why is that?
First off, there are so many different kinds of GMO’s that it is hard to be sure you are using a genetically modified product. Crops have been modified to resist insects, to metabolize certain chemicals or to produce different types of growth. The is no one way to prove that what you have is genetically modified. Some modifications are indeed introductions of genes from other organisms, but others are merely a rearrangement or enhancement of genes that are already there. Do you paint all genetic changes with the same brush?
Many find genetic modification offensive because they see it as being forced upon them by Big Agriculture, mainly Monsanto. Yes, Monsanto did produce the first commercially used farm products, but they are not the only company that makes use of genetic modification.
As far as I know every seed corn and seed soybean company in the U.S. is using GM methods to produce seed for tomorrows needs. University experimentation in production for tomorrows needs are also gong on. The reason they are using GM methods is because they can produce new seed varieties so much faster than by older methods. This has allowed them to fine tune their search for products that are economically viable. The corn and soybean varieties we used on our farm were able to survive this years drought, perhaps the worst drought in my life, and still produce close to a normal crop, that is a direct product of GM methods.
Are we gong to label all GM products as being the same? Do we place the enhancement of seed production or a better root system in the same category as chemical matabolization? I find a great difference in these genetic manifestations. We need each plant to produce more, and thus a bean that has more seeds in a pod is wanted. A plant with a better root system will still produce a crop in drought conditions. These are needed changes in plant growth. Do we label them bad because of how they were developed?
To label a product as genetically modified and have some assume it is bad is just not sound science. I say no to labeling.
So here is part 2, expect more soon.