Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Groups Host Ag Day Activities In D.C.

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of National Ag Day, other groups hosted events in Washington, D.C. to coincide with the ACA's events.

On Monday, March 18, Agri-Pulse hosted a panel discussion at the Hart Senate Office Building on Farm to Fork Politics. This was an insiders look at the year ahead for food and agriculture. The panel was moderated by Sara Wyant, Agri-Pulse, and panel members included J.B. Penn, Chief Economist, John Deere; Dr. Keith Collins, former Chief Economist, USDA; and B. Hudson Riehle, Senior Vice President of the Research and Information Services Division, National Restaurant Association. A reception immediately followed the discussion.

On Tuesday, March 19, the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) held the Food Dialogues, an educational session which was moderated by Chris Galen, Sr. VP of Communications for the National Milk Producers Federation. Galen said Ag Day provided a great opportunity to speak with Capitol Hill staffers and legislators about the latest research on how farmers need to communicate with consumers. Katie Pratt, USFRA Face of Farming and Ranching, shared her farm story and talked about the importance of farmers and ranchers to share their personal stories. Also speaking at the event was Erika Bowser-Poppelreiter, a Midwest farmer and farming/ranching expert with Ketchum. She presented the briefing, focusing on consumer messaging research and how the agriculture industry can work to restore relevance.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Students Bring Ag Day to Capitol Hill

Over 100 students from 4-H, AFA, FFA and Student NAMA were chosen to share in the message of agriculture and its importance during Ag Day Celebration 2013. Students stayed at the National 4-H Visitors Center and visited Capitol Hill to meet directly with legislators and advisors from their home state.

 Sunday, March 17, kicked-off with a welcome for the students and an idea exchange where they reported on agriculture issues affecting their home states and specific commodities that are important to them

On Monday, March 18, students participated in a training session on the Importance of Active Engagement, to get them ready for their visits on the Hill. In addition, they listened to a panel discuss creating a positive image for agriculture. They also took a guided tour of Washington, D.C.

Ag Day Mix-and-Mingle Luncheon

Approximately 300 people attended the Ag Day Mix-and-Mingle Luncheon at the Canon Caucus Room on March 19. Attendees listened to Congressman Frank Lucas speak on the importance of American agriculture along with Troy and Bobbie Uglem, North Dakota, the 2012 Outstanding Young Farmer honorees. Also speaking at the luncheon was Dave Schmidt, Alliance to Feed the Future.

The Outstanding Young Farmer program began in the 1940s. The first Outstanding Young Farmer National Congress, held under the sponsorship of John Deere, in 1977, in Bismarck, ND.

From the registrations received each year, the top 25 candidates are reviewed by judges and from that group the top ten are chosen for an expense paid trip to the OYF Awards Congress each year.  These top 10 automatically become members of the OFA Fraternity.  From the top ten – 4 are chosen as National Outstanding Young Farmers. There are 1500 plus members in the OFA fraternity and several hundred of them return each year to attend the Congress and renew friendships from years passed. The OFA Fraternity are incorporated and elect officers who serve 2 year terms. The OFA is a very important part of the OYF Program and the majority of the membership remain successful and influential farmers.

John Deere has been the national sponsor of this program since 1977. Honorees for the Outstanding Young Farmers were: Andrew & Karlie Bowman, IL; Troy & Bobbie Uglem, ND; Joy & Duce Tallamy, NJ; Renee & Brian Schaal, WI.

National Ag Day Dinner

About 170 people attended the Celebration of Agriculture Dinner at the USDA Whitten Building Patio on March 19, 2013.

Attendees were welcomed to the dinner by Orion Samuelson, WGN Radio. The dinner began with a reception for all attendees followed by remarks from the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. After his remarks, guests dined on a pork dinner courtesy of the National Pork Producers Council and created by Mark Salter, Chef at the Robert Morris Inn.

Also in attendance and recognized at the dinner were the 2012 Outstanding Young Farmer honorees which included: Brian & Renee Schaal from Wisconsin; Paul & Joy Tallamy from New Jersey; Andrew & Karlie Bowman from Illinois; and Troy & Bobbie Jo Uglem from North Dakota.

Also speaking at the dinner was 2011 Miss America, Teresa Scanlan. Scanlan recently partnered with The Great American Wheat Harvest film documentary project.

Honored at the dinner were the Ag Day Essay Contest video and written essay winners. The theme of this year's essay contest was "American Agriculture: Nourishing Opportunities." The video essay was written and produced by Lebo Molife, a sophomore from Naperville, Illinois.Following the video essay, Whitney Bowman, a senior from Mount Jackson, Virginia, read her essay.

The essay contest is sponsored by: CHS with support from The Council for Agricultural Science & Technology, High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal, the National Association of Farm Broadcasting, the National Agri-Marketing Assn., McCormick Company, and Farm Progress.

To view the Ag Day Essay contest winners visit,

Ag Day Photos

Check out all the photos from the 40th anniversary celebration of National Ag Day. Photos can be seen on Ag Day's Flickr page at

You may also view photos on the AgWired Flickr page at All photos on this page are courtesy of Chuck Zimmerman, ZimmComm New Media.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Farm Credit and Ag Day Partners Work Together to Build the Next Generation of Ag Leaders

Submitted by Jennifer Armbruster, Farm Credit

To everyone who benefits from the unwavering commitment of America’s farmers and ranchers, I hope you had a happy Ag Day!

Both on and off the farm, agriculture is a bright spot in the U.S. employment market, with hiring trending upward in both urban and rural areas. According to the USDA, one in 12 American jobs is agriculture-related.

Farm Credit is proud to support industry leading organizations and individuals who are helping to create job growth while developing the next generation of leaders in agriculture.

Here are just a few examples:
  • Farm Credit associations and banks across the nation contribute to FFA, both locally and nationally. In addition to sponsoring the annual convention, Farm Credit supports the New Century Farmer program and the National FFA Alumni Development Conference. Matt Neal, regional vice president at Farm Credit Mid-America, recently shared how FFA programs helped him overcome a speech impediment and motivated him to pursue a career in agriculture.
  • Blake Stowers is thankful for the professional development he received during his involvement with Agriculture Future of America (AFA). AFA’s mission is to create partnerships that identify, encourage and support outstanding college men and women preparing for careers in the agriculture and food industry. After taking an internship with Farm Credit Mid-America, Stowers analyzed the company culture for an AFA project, "I knew that Farm Credit had what I wanted in a company culture,” said Stowers. “I wanted to be part of an organization that believed in developing future leaders and was as passionate about the future of agriculture as I am.”
  • For more than 100 years, 4-H youth clubs have served rural and urban communities through the Cooperative Extension System, a nationwide, non-credit educational network. Each U.S. state and territory has a state Extension office at its land-grant university and a network of local or regional offices. These offices are staffed by experts who provide useful, practical, and research-based information to agricultural producers, small-business owners, youth, consumers, and others in rural areas and communities of all sizes.
  • The student chapter of the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) helps college students begin their careers in agribusiness through opportunities to network with industry professionals and develop marketing and communications skills. Upon graduation, members are encouraged to join regional NAMA Chapters and continue their professional development.
Make every day Ag Day with a career at Farm Credit! From internship programs, to entry-level and senior leadership positions, Farm Credit is currently recruiting for more than 180 positions in dozens of markets nationwide. For more information about internship and career opportunities, please contact a Farm Credit office near you.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Why We're So Darn Passionate

Submitted by Holly Spangler, Farm Progress

As I write this, just after dawn on our Illinois farm, I can see my neighbor, pull the tractor and feed wagon into his field just across from ours. Black cows are plodding their way toward breakfast. It's a sharp winter day. The sun is beautiful on the prairie and warm on their backs. The cows are fat and happy and ready to start calving any day now.

And you can bet my neighbor's been up for a couple hours.

He's mixed the feed into just the right ration. He's procured the gluten from a nearby ethanol plant. (Byproducts: those things food vs. fuel activists don't like to acknowledge.) He’s mixed it all up just right.

The cows are anxious, watching for him.

He's pulling out now, stopping to climb off the tractor and shut the gate. With all the technology on the farm, including tractors that can drive themselves, gates still don't shut themselves.

I don't know what the rest of his day holds, but I can guess. More chores. More cattle to care for. Markets to watch. Maybe some work to do on cattle buildings. Maybe paperwork for EPA. And at the end of the day, more cattle to feed. And then maybe a meeting to attend. 

It's no wonder "So God Made a Farmer" and the Dodge Ram ad resonated with so many of us. It’s who we are. And as criticism about it arose, it made me wonder: why are we so very passionate about what we do? Why do we defend it so fervently?

Indeed, activists accuse farmers of everything from poisoning the earth with chemicals, to raising hormone-laden beef and milk. And yet the truth is so far from the accusation.

Curious about the hormones? Take a look at this data from a Michigan State University study:

•    3 oz. steak from hormone-treated steer: 1.9 nanograms* estrogen
•    3 oz. steak from untreated steer: 1.3 ng
•    Milk: 11 ng
•    Potato: 225 ng
•    Peas: 340 ng
•    Ice cream: 520 ng
•    Cabbage: 2,000 ng
•    Wheat germ: 3,400 ng
•    Soybean oil:  168,000 ng
*one nanogram = one-billionth of a gram

The idea of defending agriculture and telling its story is not a new one. It came long before the movement known as "agvocating.” Indeed, original "agvocates" like Max Armstrong and Orion Samuelson have been telling urban audiences about ag for decades. But it's exciting to see a farmer get involved.

When Brian Scott tweets a photo from his Indiana farm shop and sparks a conversation with a consumer? That's good stuff. Same goes for Ray Prock and his blog about his dairy herd in California. Mike Haley tweets photos of cows in Ohio, and I've learned a whole lot about California almonds via Brent Boersma on Instagram. (We don't have almonds here in Illinois; lots of corn, beans, cattle and hogs. But no almonds.)

We can all learn a lot. And we can all tell a story. We have a consuming public that's eager to know just exactly what we're all doing out here.

And, in between feeding the cows and mixing the feed, we have a good story to tell.

It's morning on the farm. And it's a good one.

Holly is an associate editor for Prairie Farmer. From her Illinois farm, she covers agriculture for Farm Progress, and writes a column and blog that shares the perspective of a young farm family. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Let's Write Our Own Story

Submitted by Brittany Mountjoy, International Food Information Council & Alliance to Feed the Future

This past week at the grocery store, I was picking up a gallon of milk as a woman with a very concerned look on her face reached out and cautioned, “You know that milk has a ton of hormones in it, right? And those poor cows are milked until they're skin and bones.” I was so shocked by her conviction that she was really ‘helping me out' that I didn't even correct her before she walked away.
Ever since that encounter, I've been thinking about that woman. As someone who grew up in rural Virginia surrounded by farms, I have experienced the benefits of modern agricultural practices first hand. When I was growing up, I learned the definition of hard work, getting up before the sun rose to clean out stalls before school, helping friends check on the chicken houses in two feet of snow, and watching farmers take care of their land and their animals every day of the year. So, I know that agriculture has a great story, but I often forget that not everyone was raised on a farm like me.

Today, less than 20% of the population lives in rural areas. That means that 80% of our population lives in urban areas, without proper access to the knowledge of how their food is grown and produced. So, not only is it more important than ever to share the story of agriculture, but it is also equally important that we teach children about where their food comes from, which is a missing link in many of today's formal education efforts. As part of the education outreach efforts provided by the Alliance to Feed the Future, “Lunchbox Lessons: The Journey from Farm to Fork,” educational curricula for K-8th grade students, was created through a grant from Farm Credit, America’s largest agricultural lending cooperative. The comprehensive supplemental curricula guide students through the exciting journey of food from the farm to their forks. Curricula, like this, are necessary to show children the value of American agriculture and all that it is able to provide.

The Alliance to Feed the Future is a group of scientific societies, universities, industry and commodity groups, and nonprofit education and communication organizations committed to raising awareness and improving understanding of the benefits and necessity of modern food production and technology in order to meet global demand. Its 109 members have science-based resources on modern agriculture, food production, and technology that are all available through the Alliance website.

The curricula, as well as these resources, will help educate our youth and give balance to the dialogue about modern food production. With any luck, the next time I walk down the dairy aisle, I will hear people talking about what farmers and ranchers are doing for the good of the American population.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Feed Industry Reaches Out

Submitted by Joel Newman, AFIA

The American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) is a critical spoke in the wheel that makes up the U.S. agricultural and food system. We at AFIA pride ourselves on our ability to meet future global challenges, while remaining true to our members and their communities.

In 2012, AFIA funded a landmark report, Future Patterns of U.S. Feed Grains, Biofuels, and Livestock and Poultry Feeding, a project financed by the Institute for Feed Education & Research (IFEEDER) on behalf of AFIA and the Council on Food, Agricultural & Resource Economics. The study addresses the factors driving the cost of livestock and poultry production and how food, feed and fuel resources will be allocated as we strive to feed a growing global population. If you are reading this blog, I’m sure you are well aware of the enormity of this challenge ...

Feed availability and cost will be affected by variables like biofuel production, annual reserves and global demand. These variables are putting pressure on our U.S. food system, which is still heavily impacted by the historic drought of 2012 and high corn prices. Most people don’t realize that 60-70% of a farmer or rancher’s cost is in feed supplies, such as corn. Those costs are going to be translated throughout the supply chain and, ultimately, to the consumer.

AFIA strongly believes that this non-partial report will benefit not only the feed, livestock and poultry industries, but will help policy-makers make the decisions that will impact us in the future. The report also advocates strongly for the need for technology to address the future challenge of feeding a growing global population.

This is one of the reasons AFIA created IFEEDER in 2009 ... so that our industry could have a dedicated foundation to address these issues and support the need for technology and education. Other projects funded by IFEEDER include everything from partnerships with the National Academies and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, to coloring books and teacher kits to help spread the word about agriculture to children in our local communities.

Speaking of giving back, did you know that the feed industry donated $6 million toward local community efforts last year? Supporting the community is actually the sixth focal point of AFIA’s Sustainability Initiative, designed for communication and collaboration between organizations, companies and associations. The five other focal points of the Sustainability Initiative, which was
established in 2009, are: 
  1. Continuously improve feed and food safety
  2. Optimize the use of energy and natural resources
  3. Promote understanding and appreciation of U.S. food production
  4. Production efficiency and productivity
  5. Embrace innovation
The feed industry also volunteered 23,700 man hours toward charitable efforts last year. According to a 2012 AFIA survey, our members supported community development activities, charitable giving toward education, FFA/4-H, health-related organizations, local fire/police departments, hunger and disaster relief organizations/efforts and environmental clean-up projects.

Our industry is changing; our world is changing. It is our responsibility to adapt to the changing times and meet the requirements we will all need in the future. While the times are shifting, we must rely on the tools and technology at our disposal to address global issues. At the same time, we must also remain actively involved in our communities and carry that communal strength into a brighter future for all. This isn’t just business to me—it’s personal.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Preparing Young People to Feed a Growing World

Submitted by Nancy Barcus, Agriculture Future of America (AFA)
I’ve read thousands of essays written by young people articulating why they are pursuing a career in agriculture.  Words like “strength,” “passion,” “vital,” “constant” and “innovation” echo from the pages of scholarship and leader development applications. There are few differences from those raised on a farm versus those that found their interest in agriculture in some other way. These same men and women embrace that agriculture is more than what Grant Wood’s American Gothic represents; after all, it was painted 80 years ago.
Although there are currently more job openings in the agriculture sector than there are college graduates in related degrees each year (which won’t likely get better as baby boomers exit the workplace), those preparing for a career in agriculture can’t afford to just grab a job. If predictions are true and we need to feed 9-10 billion people annually 35 years from now, agricultural professionals need to be agile, innovative, collaborative and efficient to meet such goals while protecting natural resources and producing food safely.  Communicators will need to understand science to share with non-agricultural consumers. Scientists will need to translate the value of innovation beyond yield enhancement or an animal’s rate of gain.
There is no doubt technology is and will play a huge role. Discipline by discipline, this next generation will need to understand how technology can use data to make better decisions while science can reduce strain on the environment as well as transpose geography where crops can be grown. 
They also have an opportunity to rebrand agriculture for the world. Machinery technicians must be computer savvy. Successful farmers are businessmen and women first. Agriculture is a global industry with more and more global career opportunities. Young people can prepare through global exposure, seeking out experiences that help them find the right career path for their interests and strengths and being ready to work in teams across generations and geography. 
The future of agriculture holds exciting opportunities for those who choose to pursue them.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Progressive Agriculture Safety Days®: Keeping Children Safe Through Hands-On Learning

Submitted by Susan Reynolds Porter, Progressive Agriculture Foundation

Ag Day wouldn’t be complete without recognizing the next generation and the important role young people play in the landscape of agriculture today and in the future. And keeping young people safe is what the Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® program is all about. 

“At the heart of the Safety Day program is training and providing resources so local communities can conduct one-day, age-appropriate, hands-on, fun and safe learning programs,” said Susan Reynolds Porter, Executive Director – Programs. “Since 1995, nearly 5,000 Progressive Agriculture Safety Days have reached more than 1.1 million children and adults.”

Reynolds explained that the Progressive Agriculture Foundation (PAF) offers training modules for more than 28 safety and health related topics, but the most popular covered at a Safety Day have been ATV, fire, first aid, electricity, farm equipment, tractor and chemical.

“We’re constantly expanding our curriculum to provide relevant training for children in rural communities. Thanks to our generous sponsors, we are able to grow this effort as new topics surface,” said Reynolds.

Most rewarding are the comments from participants and their parents:

“One of my favorite classes was the farm equipment station. I learned that if you wear "baggy" clothes, you can get caught in equipment and it can pull you in and kill you. I look forward to Safety Day every year. “ – NC participant

“My husband farms, and for his birthday our children gave him goggles, dust masks and chemical-resistant gloves. [These were] all the things they learned about at the Safety Day, and they also explained to him why he needed to use them.” – Texas parent

“A 15-year-old credits what he learned at a Safety Day with saving his life. He was operating a tractor with a four-row ridger in a cornfield near his home when the ridger struck a power pole, causing power lines to fall on the tractor. This young man did what he learned at Safety Day – he called for help on his cell phone and stayed inside the tractor cab until the power company arrived and turned off the power to the lines.” – Nebraska volunteer

To find a Safety Day in your area or to get involved as a volunteer, go to

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Who Photoshopped the Corn Harvest?

Submitted by Dan Gogerty, CAST

I drove back to the old home farm a couple of times during the past few weeks, and as the brown corn stalks disappeared and the combine dust settled, I watched a changing portrait of the traditional Midwest harvest unfold. It’s like modern photography. You click a quick pic of the grandkids and look down at your tiny digital camera or smartphone and wonder—when did this happen? Where did the film, viewfinder, and manual focus go? You drive the Midwest country roads at harvest time and think—where are the people, the smoke billowing tractors, the livestock in the fields?

 This is not a lament, just an observation. Tech and economics have Photoshopped the traditional Grant Wood farm scenes, and as Cronkite said, “That’s the way it is.”

Photo courtesy of
As you cruise the gravel roads, the first thing you notice is the lack of farms.  A country section that included three or four traditional farms—two-story house, barn, hog house, shed—now has one or two at most. Fewer farm kids wave as they carry feed buckets to the chicken coop; a family milk cow rarely stands near the barn chewing its cud; and those skinny dogs that used to shoot out of the lanes to chase your car as you drove by are now sitting passively in suburban yards contained by "invisible fences."

Fields have an altered tinge to them too. Combines look like Star Wars military equipment, and grain is augured into huge semi trailer trucks. You don’t see folks out in the elements so often. Not many farmers with padded coveralls and ear-flap hats sit on cabless tractors as they lean into a November wind and try to stay warm from the heat radiating out of the canvas heat-houser. With companies developing robotic machines, you might eventually need to go to a farmer’s computer control room in his office to see a human.

Animals also make fewer outdoor appearances. Some cattle still forage in the harvested fields for dropped ears of corn, but even in Iowa, the hog capital of the world, a resident can drive the roads for months without seeing a Wilbur, Babe, or Porky. Pigs used to root in the fields until the snows came, but most have moved into confinement motels—bit crowded, but the room service is attractive, and even hogs appreciate central heating. No comments from them about the indoor toilets.

It might even be tough to find a pitchfork on a Photoshopped farm. Watered-down manure gets hauled to those freshly harvested fields in gigantic honey wagons, and the “fecal gold” gets injected into the ground. I remember pulling conventional manure spreaders that flung the solids, and early liquid tanks that sprayed the contents. With an ill-advised turn and a sudden wind gust, the tractor driver could be fertilized as well.

Corn cribs like this one used to dry and store corn.
Photo courtesy of
The piece most obviously airbrushed from the harvest portrait is the farm corn crib. These slatted buildings would store and dry the ear corn until months later when a “sheller man” brought his machine. We’d rake and shovel ears of corn into the huge contraption, and it would fling cobs into a pile and kernels of corn into wagons. When we were kids, the hard work of moving corn was sometimes interrupted by a mad scramble to take care of the rodents that had taken up residence in the corn crib. The mouse that scurried up the inside of my coverall pant leg made it to just above the knee before I could grab him and “persuade him” to go no further. After a hard day, the sheller man towed his machine back to town, Dad drove the last load of corn to the elevator, and we’d play king of the hill on a cob pile.

When the autumn sun sets over barren corn stubble and a harvest moon reflects light off metal grain bins, today's farmers take pride in completing a harvest on some of the most bountiful land in the world. The modern portrait of their labors includes hard work aided by technological advances and improved production techniques. But most don’t get the pleasure of walking cornfields to pick up the many ears of corn a rusty four-row picker left. Few get to haul bales of hay to cattle in the pasture or break the thin ice that coats their water tanks. And modern farmers miss out on the stimulation you get when you peel your frozen hands from the steering wheel of a John Deere 4020 after driving it from the field in below-freezing temperatures.

I get nostalgic for those harvest days, but I’m starting to think it would have been nice to “Photoshop” some of those images way back then. Maybe if I could have airbrushed out my static-filled transistor radio and digitally added a heated cab and sound system to my tractor, I might have been more in tune as I hauled corn and hummed along with the Stones singing, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction."

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Evolution of the Custom Harvest Industry

Submitted by Tracy Zeorian, U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc.

The custom harvesting industry dates back to the 1920’s.

During WWII:
  • Steel was rationed.
  • There were limits on the number of machines manufacturers could produce.
  • Gasoline for farmers was rationed.
  • Farm workers were drafted or finding defense industry jobs, so there was a severe manpower shortage.
  • Yet, the world needed American farmers to produce much more wheat and other food products.
Let’s back up a little. Prior to the war, Massey-Harris, an agricultural equipment company, was testing a new machine—a self-propelled machine that would cut the wheat and separate it from the chaff. The first of its kind! Prior to this machine, combines were pulled behind a tractor or a team of horses.

Joe Tucker, sales manager for Massey-Harris, saw an opportunity that would promote the new machine while getting the nation’s wheat crop cut in a more efficient and fuel-saving manner. He approached the War Production Board with his idea … if they would allow Massey-Harris the necessary steel to produce 500 of the Model #21 combines (more than their normal quota) the company would sell them exclusively to farmers who would agree to harvest 2,000 acres with the machine.

The War Board bought the idea, the machines were made, and in 1944, 500 farmers were chosen to purchase the machines (for around $2,500). The combines were loaded on the back of trucks and headed for Texas. These 500 machines were part of the very first “Harvest Brigade,” and would chase the ripening wheat to the Canadian border. The Brigade was a huge success, with each combine cutting an average of 2,038 acres.

In 1945, Massey-Harris expanded the program to 750 brand-new machines. Thus began the lifestyle that so many of us continue to lead year after year.

The reputation of the custom harvest businesses has changed since the early days. When the industry was in its early years, crews were made up of only men. There were no trailer houses. The custom harvester camps had none of the luxuries of today. Men would sleep in partially filled grain trucks or under grain trucks, tents or barns. The men relied on farmers’ wives for food and often bathed in rivers and lakes.

Custom harvest businesses have evolved in the past 69 years. Combines are larger and headers are longer. The modern-day custom harvest crew is more than likely a family-owned business. They have modern RV’s with all the luxuries of home, including a shower AND washer/dryer. Some crews opt to stay in motels while on the road and eat in restaurants. Children have grown up helping, either at the trailer house or in the field. If they’re really lucky, they’ve experienced both. We still chase that ripening wheat from Texas to the Canadian border! Fall crops, such as corn, soybeans and sunflowers, keep some of these crews on the road for up to six months.

U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc. (USCHI) was founded in April 1983 out of frustration due to rules and regulations that were affecting the industry. A group of harvesters set a meeting to discuss their shared mission—to have one voice. Today, USCHI has more than 500 members—professional custom harvesters and businesses that support the industry at home and on the road.

The organization is a vital link between the harvester and State and Federal governments. Representatives of USCHI have been making trips to Washington, D.C., to build relationships with our policymakers and other pertinent agricultural organizations.

Safety is of utmost concern while in the fields or on the road. Recently, USCHI had a four-part DVD series professionally produced and distributed free of charge to each member. The video was created with the hope that custom harvester owners would use and share the information with their employees before the wheat ripens and it’s time to hit the road. The series covers combine and forage harvester safety, truck safety, grain auger safety and general first aid. Videos are also available to the general public for $25.

My favorite benefit of U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc., is networking with other custom harvesters. We have an annual convention, which is usually held the first weekend in March. This is the time we can come together in a non-working atmosphere to learn about changes in the industry, see new equipment, and become educated on new rules and regulations. Most of all, we come together as a “family” and enjoy each other’s company … it’s like a family reunion!

In 2013, U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc., is celebrating 30 years. We have come a long way since that first meeting. I expect 2013 will be one of our best! We look forward to being a part of Ag Day and sponsoring events that will help people understand where their food comes from. To find out more about USCHI or becoming a member, visit


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

5 Ways to Prepare for a Career in Ag

Submitted by Lacey Hargrave, BCS Communications

Follow these steps to set yourself apart and stand out as a job candidate in the field of agriculture!
  1. Research—Become familiar with, and stay up-to-date on, industry trends, current events and new information in the ag community. Subscribing to weekly newsletters and blogs from relevant publications, such as, and, will keep you current and give you a leg up.
  2. Experience—Getting hands-on experience through internships and job shadowing is invaluable. Real world experience will show your eagerness to learn and make you a desirable candidate. It will also give you a chance to learn what it’s like in the field and what specific areas you are interested in. Search websites like InternMatch for opportunities near you.
  3. Get Involved—Attend industry events such as Ag Day 2013! Get involved with your local NAMA chapter, FFA, 4-H, agriculture clubs at your college or university, and local professional ag organizations in your area. These are great résumé builders, too!

  4. Network—Form relationships with industry professionals and others with similar career interests. When you attend an industry event, make it worth your while. Gather business cards, handout your résumé and follow up with new contacts after the event. Then when you begin the job search, you’ll have individuals to help distribute your résumé and get your foot in the door.
  5. References—Develop a good list of professional references. References can be past professors, employers, internship co-workers, etc. These are people who know you well and will shed a positive light when prospective employers call on them for a reference. Also, make sure to keep your LinkedIn profile updated, as this is where professionals will go to learn more about you.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Passion for Cattle

Submitted by Mark Perrin, McCormick Company

As a full-time agri-marketer and part-time cattle rancher, I have faced many challenges. Inevitably, when you’re gone or running short on time, stuff happens. 

For example, there was one really tough morning last winter in Kansas City—cold, snowing hard, very windy. That same morning, three of my cows decided to give birth. I thought, why today and not yesterday?  

Upon inspection, I found one calf on the wrong side of the fence from its mother. As I looked through the pickup window, movement down the fence line caught my eye … three coyotes headed directly towards the stranded calf.

Trying to think fast, I hopped out of the pickup, tromped through the snow, climbed the fence, scared the coyotes off and carried the calf back to its mother. I thought: wow, a newborn calf is really heavy, my feet are really cold, I’m running late and why did I decide to raise cattle in the first place?  

Well, the cattle business gets in your blood. Maybe you’re born with it or maybe it just comes over you at some point in life. It’s really hard to make money, unless you conveniently forget to include land costs, taxes, vet bills, etc. Like me, many people with a passion for cattle choose a career that allows them to work in some aspect of the livestock business, even though it’s likely not on the production side.

Unfortunately, over the years there’s been a noticeable decline in the number of people with a cattle background who join the agri-marketing field. One of our toughest assignments at McCormick Company is finding marketing communications people with beef cattle expertise …

There are many opportunities for young agri-marketers in the beef communications field, and a combination Animal Science and Journalism or Public Relations degree could be a hot ticket. At least I think so.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Wonderful Times in Agriculture

Submitted by Barry Nelson, John Deere

We are experiencing wonderful times in agriculture. Net farm income is at record highs, farm equity is strong, and farm debt is the lowest in recent history. Even with a record drought this past summer and the variability in some commodity prices, the ag economy has been a true American success story and a solid base for the rest of the economy, which is still barely tripping along.

Yet, we still have some significant challenges ahead. As the population continues to grow from 7 billion to 9 billion by the year 2045, farmers and ranchers are challenged with producing more food, feed, fiber, and fuel for this growing population. Also, there is a growing middle class around the world, particularly in India, China, and eastern Asia, that is demanding higher quality goods—particularly animal protein.

The U.S. producer must meet these challenges with about the same amount of land, the same or less water resources, and increased regulations from governments around the world that impede trade and efficient agricultural production methods.

Are U.S. producers up to the challenge? Let’s take a look at the past 30 years. According to the Field to Market Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, many commodity crops are being grown more sustainably than 30 years ago. Here are some broad examples for corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton, rice, and potatoes from their study:
  • Soil erosion per unit of production has decreased anywhere from 47% to 67%.
  • Energy use and greenhouse gas emissions per unit of production have decreased between 15% and more than 42% for all crops.
  • Improvements in efficiency were driven, at least in part, by improvements in yield for all crops, ranging from 25% to 64%.
This comprehensive study looks at each crop specifically, and there have been tremendous gains with innovative farming techniques to bring increased sustainability to U.S. agriculture. Farmers have always been great stewards of their land, and nearly 95% of all farms are family-owned. There is tremendous pride in how the U.S. producer manages his or her farm, and, with new precision technology, sustainability will improve even further.

I've been with John Deere for 33 years, and I’ve seen all the changes in agriculture, particularly on the equipment side of the business. But new precision farming technology is revolutionizing the overall productivity of most farm operations.

Satellite technology allows equipment to steer itself … to be more accurate with every pass in the field … to be more comfortable to operate … and to allow more precise placement of inputs. Tractors, sprayers, combines, and other self-propelled machines are wired with more computers and sensors than a space shuttle! Farmers are managing and using both machinery data and agronomic data to bring even more efficiency for every acre farmed in the U.S.

These are exciting times, and yet, production agriculture is under attack. Some environmentalists, animal rights activists, food critics, and others are attempting to sway an uninformed urban public into believing the current food production methods are unsafe and produce unhealthy food. They are trying to increase regulations to impede farmers and, in some cases, actually control what people can and cannot eat. 

It’s important that all of us in agriculture come together with a unified voice. We must articulate the importance of our modern farming practices and educate the public on how new technology has allowed for more sustainable operations. These efficient producers are using precision farming technology to reduce inputs, increase yields and meat production, and provide the necessary food, feed, fiber, and fuel for the growing world population. 

This is what Ag Day is all about! On March 18-19, we invite everyone to Washington, D.C., to help celebrate agriculture and to recognize the great work done by U.S. producers who feed the world. 

We have scheduled the most comprehensive program in our history. It will feature leading ag economists, the Smithsonian Institute and their American Enterprise exhibition spotlighting agriculture, special receptions and dinners with ag leaders and governmental officials, and Hill visits with FFA, NAMA, 4-H, and AFA students. 

This will be our opportunity to put a spotlight on the agricultural challenges facing U.S. producers and the importance of gaining even more support from Washington policy leaders. 

Even more importantly, there are 925 million hungry people throughout the world. More than 16,000 children die each day from hunger-related conditions. In 2008, nearly 9 million children died before their 5th birthday. One-third of these deaths were related to hunger and malnutrition.

Sadly, we are producing enough food to feed these children, but there are other issues to deal with, including poor food distribution systems, inept governments, food waste, and infrastructure in some areas that inhibit modern farming practices. This is our true challenge in the U.S., and production agriculture can be an influential partner in helping to provide practical solutions for feeding a hungry world in the future.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Signs of Spring: Ag Optimism

Submitted by Carl Casale, CHS Inc.

Spring, and with it Ag Day, naturally lends itself to looking ahead—to new crops and new opportunities for U.S. agriculture.

In 2012, the severe drought across much of the U.S. challenged farmers and those of us who serve them. None of us can predict the impact of inevitable challenges like weather, political decisions, global unrest, or other factors as 2013 unfolds. But whatever transpires, I’m convinced there are five good reasons to forecast bright long-term prospects for U.S. agriculture:
  1. Global population growth, particularly among the Chinese middle class, will continue to drive food demand, especially for meat-based protein.
  2.  Energy production, essential to raising crops and moving them to market, has returned home as new technologies unlock access to crude oil and natural gas supplies in North Dakota’s Bakken and other regions.
  3. Fertilizer production is heading home, too, thanks to abundant, affordable natural gas. Plans are in the works for the first nitrogen fertilizer plants to be built in the U.S., including one under consideration by CHS at Spiritwood, N.D., to provide U.S. farmers with increased dependable supply.
  4. The majority of U.S. producers and agricultural companies are economically strong and agronomic/seed advances helped many producers harvest a 2012 crop in dry conditions.
  5. New, well-educated generations are returning to the farm, armed with technical know-how and enthusiasm for the future.
New growth is clearly in the forecast, no matter what short-term challenges we face. At CHS, we look forward to helping our producer and cooperative owners—and all of agriculture—make the most of the opportunities ahead.