Food and Water: Our Most Basic Needs are Top of Mind

“Musings of a Pig Farmer” by Larry Sailer

Weather and politics are always tops of mind for farmers and for very good reason – both greatly impact our livelihoods.  At this time, both are weighing heavily on my mind.  That’s why today I’m going to begin with a brief recap of the weather, followed by a summary of a few political issues.

We’ve been fortunate enough to receive some rainfall over the past two weeks.  I’m looking for the silver lining here, and this is the best that I have:  “Subsoil moisture improved and is now rated 60 percent very short and 34 percent short.”  According to yesterday’s report by the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship (IDALS), only 6% of our soils have adequate moisture.

“Record low precipitation totals” have been making the headlines for nearly a year now.  The 2011 harvest proceeded rapidly because there were few days when farmers had to shut down the combines due to rainfall; the same holds true for this fall.  Even the spring and summer months were dry.  A summary of the summer months shows Iowa received 6.61 inches less than normal, and now we’re behind 16 inches of rainfall!

Creeks and ponds have been drying up, but thankfully a few streams are flowing again after recent rains.  There is a trickle of water running from tile lines in my fields (see photos above), but more precipitation is needed for a good crop in 2013.  There is an 80% chance that North Central Iowa will be hit with thunderstorms tomorrow night, and I’m hoping it amounts to more than a few booms of thunder and a few flashes of lightning.  A good inch or two of steady rainfall would be greatly appreciated!

While folks here are praying for a good rainstorm, there is another storm brewing on the political front.  Farmers must get engaged especially this election year as there are so many issues of great consequence being discussed.  The Farm Bill is one of the biggest political hurdles we face, especially as we address how to feed a growing and hungry world.

Food security was at the forefront of discussions last week when world players gathered in Des Moines for the annual World Food Prize award and symposium.  Of course, these great leaders talked about sustainability and all the different angles that word brings with it.  Food is the most basic of the basic needs.  Wars have been fought and governments have collapsed due to food shortages.  We can all talk about conservation and sustainability, but if people do not have enough food to eat, none of the rest matters!

It’s time to make policy with compromise… that makes sense!  Feeding the billions of people with a finite amount of resources is going to take all of the imagination, skill and technology we can imagine.

This is an important election, so I’m encouraging all of my family members and friends to do a little homework and see where each candidate stands on important issues.  Do you know where the candidates stand on agriculture?