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This is a column about two of the most important things in Upper Midwest agriculture: the weather and soybeans. We’ll start with the former, end with the latter. It’s risky to generalize about area weather. The region is so big, with so much variation in it, that what’s true one place -- or even most places -- isn’t true everywhere.
GRAND FORKS — With so much attention on tariffs, harvest and the lapsed U.S. farm bill, you may not have heard a lot about corn ethanol recently. But the U.S. ethanol industry is alive and well, and offers promise, a biofuels specialist says. “There are opportunities in ethanol,” said David Ripplinger, North Dakota State University Extension bioenergy specialist.
There are several things that alarm or annoy me about President Donald Trump’s trade war. Here are the three most troublesome: First and foremost, I’m concerned for U.S. farmers and consumers worldwide. The Trump tariffs have cut into U.S. ag exports and threaten to hurt consumers worldwide. Yes, as I’ve heard many times from some Agweek readers, other countries, especially China, are cheating. Yes, as I’ve heard many Agweek readers say, let’s be optimistic that things work out in the end.
I once sat with a farmer in his pickup on the way to look at his fields. As we drove, he pointed to a field and said, "That one's not mine. A neighbor has it on a one-year lease at a crazy-high rent. And he's cutting corners on weed control." Then the farmer caught himself and said, "But don't print that! The other guy would be mad at me. So would the owner." That incident is just one example of many I've experienced that demonstrate how controversial one-year leases are in modern agriculture.
The number of U.S. farmland sales and the value of ag land that was sold both rose last year, a new national survey finds. But neither farmland values nor ag land sales rose much as overall land sales or land values, according to the annual survey released recently by the Realtors Land Institute and the National Association of Realtors. The survey, which measured the 12-month period ending in September 2017, found that the value of all U.S. land rose 3 percent, led by a 5 percent increase in residential land.
U.S. agriculturalists on balance will make less money in 2018 than they did in 2017, a new government report projects. Farm-sector profits will fall in the Upper Midwest, too, though by less than the national average, the report finds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service on Feb. 7 released its 2018 Farm Income Forecast. Key findings of the report, presented by ERS economist Carrie Litkowski during an online presentation to the news media, include the following:
American agriculturalists often talk about what they see as a disconnect between ag and the rest of society. Now, the Center for Food Integrity points in a new research report to what it calls "A Dangerous Food Disconnect: When Consumers Hold You Responsible But Don't Trust You." "If you're held responsible and trusted for ensuring safe and healthy food, you are seen as a credible source," said Charlie Arnot, CEO of CFI. "However, if you're held responsible but not trusted, that's a dangerous disconnect that can't be ignored."
DEVILS LAKE, N.D. — Matt Nelson began experimenting with cover crops in 2012 and doesn't expect them to provide quick or easy solutions. He says he has "a long-term timetable," one that includes enhancing soil health on his Lakota, N.D., farm and incorporating them into Lakota-based Redline Agri Services, which Nelson owns and operates.
Q: Is it true that North Dakota is one of the few states that still has an extension livestock marketing economist?
Cargill is one of the world's most powerful agricultural companies. There's disagreement, both in and out of ag circles, on whether it uses that power constructively. But everybody, in and out of ag, agrees that Cargill is extremely smart and savvy. So when the company's retired president and CEO says something, I listen carefully — especially when it reinforces what I already believe.