Jonathan Knutson / Agweek Staff Writer
Federal crop insurance in its current form is hurting family farms, the land and rural communities, while benetting big insurance companies, according to a new report from the Minnesota-based Land Stewardship Project.
FARGO — Lanny Faleide is a farmer turned technological pioneer whose work has been praised by NASA. For 24 years, his self-described "bleeding-edge" company has used space-age technology, particularly satellite imagery, to help agricultural producers better understand their fields and farm them more efficiently. But Faleide said greater interest in precision agriculture, including the use of satellite and drone imagery, doesn't mean he and his company, Satshot, have finally reached the promised land.
LAWTON, N.D. — Justin Zahradka says that when he was a high school freshman, "I was the kind of kid who sat in the back of the class and never said a word." He pauses for a second and adds, "That's obviously changed, and it's because of FFA." Zahradka, now a 24-year-old full-time farmer from Lawton, N.D., says his involvement with FFA made him a better person and better farmer and opened up wonderful opportunities both during and after his time with FFA.
If you ask farmers what skill or attribute is most important in their occupation, the majority will pause for a few seconds before saying "optimism" or "faith in the future." Some will answer "capital," "vision," "access to land" or "willingness to change with the times." I agree, all those things are important, even vital. But here's what I firmly believe is the trait that modern farmers and ranchers need most to survive and thrive:
The North American Free Trade Agreement is a big deal to U.S. agriculturalists. NAFTA is even more important to their Canadian counterparts, a Canadian attorney with close ties to agriculture says. Given that, ongoing efforts to revise NAFTA are "a huge concern," Kenton Rein says. Rein is a partner in Cassels Brock's Calgary, Alberta, office, where he leads the firm's agribusiness practice. He also is on the executive committee of the Canadian Bar Association's Food and Agribusiness Section.
PITTSBURGH — Understanding the U.S. farm bill isn't easy even for full-time agriculturalists. Journalists with limited exposure to ag may face an even greater challenge. But three veteran agricultural journalists, with extensive experience in covering the farm bill, have some insights that can make the task a little less difficult.
PITTSBURGH — A journalist is supposed to ask questions. On rare occasions, when we're especially brave or foolish (or both), we invite readers to submit questions for us to ask in their stead. That's what I did during the recent annual convention of the Society of Environmental Journalists in Pittsburgh. Though I'm not a member of the group, its event had a strong ag component and I received a fellowship to attend.
GRAND FORKS—It may be one the most colorful images in U.S. agriculture: A tense group of farmers, bunched in a room, bidding energetically against their neighbors to buy land. But that scene has become less common in parts of Agweek Country, particularly northeast North Dakota. The Grand Forks office of Farmers National Company hasn't held a public auction since late 2014, says Jayson Menke, who works in real estate sales in the office.
OSLO, Minn. — Earl Mallinger's 2017 harvest will begin later this summer — the 96th or 97th in which he's been involved in some way. Yes, you read that right. "Well, I've been interested in what happens on the farm since I was 3 or 4," says Mallinger, who turns 100 on Aug. 14. His remarkable life includes a still-active role on the farm, 60 grandchildren and great-grandchildren (no great-greats yet), and physical and mental vigor that many much-younger people would envy.
MANHATTAN, Kan. — Augustine Obour first learned of camelina in 2010 when he joined the University of Wyoming as a research scientist. "I just got interested in it and wanted to work on it," he says. Now Obour, assistant professor of soil science at Kansas State University, wants farmers across the Great Plains to learn about the crop, too. He participated in a research project that provides more information on growing camelina in Kansas in particular and the central Great Plains in general, an area where the crop is largely unknown.