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Farm organizations work to 'adapt to change'

SIOUX FALLS -- Farmers need to adapt to changes. That was the message during an annual meeting of three agricultural organizations this week in Sioux Falls. The conference, held Sunday through Thursday, was attended by the National Farm/Ranch Bus...

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SIOUX FALLS - Farmers need to adapt to changes.

That was the message during an annual meeting of three agricultural organizations this week in Sioux Falls.

The conference, held Sunday through Thursday, was attended by the National Farm/Ranch Business Management Education Association, the National Association of Farm Business Analysis Specialists and the North Central Farm Management Extension Committee. Each organization is founded with the intent to aid farmers either through financial education, services or research extension.

About 170 members of the organizations from around the country attended the conference, visiting from as far as Vermont and Utah, said Will Walter, chairman of the conference committee and an instructor with the National Farm/Ranch Business Management Education Association. Walter is an instructor at Mitchell Technical Institute.

The week allows members to learn ways of keeping up with current changes in agriculture, and the point of the conference is to help better the people helping farmers. This year's theme was "adapting to change" due to the transition of farms to younger generations as well as the financial situation of the industry, Walter said.

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"Well, eventually we have to adapt, because we all have to eat," Walter said. "We've got a lot of people to feed in the world, and we have to keep our farm producers efficient otherwise they can't stay in business. We're providing tools ultimately to feed all the mouths in the world in a pretty broad sense."

The conference was comprised of guest speakers, tours and breakout sessions in which members were able to receive more tax and analysis training as well as hear about research and case studies. Though there were guest speakers earlier in the week covering topics on financial transition and the latest technology in the ethanol industry, Thursday's topics comprised of mental health in agriculture, Raven Industries and climate change.

Ted Matthews, the director of rural mental health at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, focused on the concept of "being nice to yourself."

"We're always focused on who's doing what and how does someone else feel," Matthews said.

Matthews said people often forget to think of themselves. It is important to listen to one's own emotions because the way to "be nice" to people is to first "be nice to yourself."

Joe Beck, from Raven Industries, discussed the company's balloon technologies, called the "loon project." This uses balloons to provide wireless internet connection to certain areas of the world by floating in the stratosphere.

The film used for the balloon is 1.8 millimeters thick, and the balloon can be steered by using the different weather patterns in the stratosphere. Weather patterns differ in their direction in different layers of the stratosphere. By using a ballonet to increase or decrease altitude, the balloon can enter or exit the different layers and then be moved in different directions.

Unlike satellites, Beck said balloon technology is more cost efficient and its movements are controllable.

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"Two-thirds of the world still doesn't have access to Internet," Beck said. "We partnered with Google to solve this great challenge."

Dennis Todey, the South Dakota State University climatologist, spoke on the uncertainties of how La Niña will affect agriculture since other climate factors may decrease the effects.

"We are the land of extremes, in the upper Midwest especially, because we're in the middle of the North American continent," Todey said.

June through August are increasing in temperature, but they're getting warmer in "an odd way," Todey said. The nighttime temperatures are warming.

"It's our minimums that are raising," Todey said. "Some of the warming hasn't been so bad. But there are some other implications, from a livestock standpoint. There's more heat and stress on livestock."

Understanding climate is a huge portion of optimizing crop production, Todey said.

Todey said agclimate4u.org, specifically the Decision Dashboard section, provides data in a useful, applicable way for farmers. Users can view climate forecasts, historical climate and yield data as well as corn growing degree days for the corn belt and northern plains regions.

Todey recommends that people use the resources around them.

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"Almost all states have a state climatologist," Todey said. "They're there to serve you."

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