I’m Minding My Own Business, Thank You Very Much!

In the past, I was a pig farmer who preferred to stay on my farm and mind my own business.  It was easy to stick my head in the proverbial sand in the 1970s when I was a beginning farmer: land was cheap; commodity prices were good; and I didn’t have a family.

Then the 1980s hit… with a thud!  Prices of land and farm rent skyrocketed.  Meanwhile, the prices for which I could sell my farm products dropped like a rock.  Interest rates hit well over 20%, and I acquired an instant family of four kids.  It was then I realized that I didn’t have a choice but to get involved with government agencies.

Someone decides how the government is run.  While we often like to blame elected officials for making rules or laws they don’t have to follow, someone is influencing HOW they make their decisions.  Now if that isn’t you, just who do you think it will be?  Many groups are pushing their agendas and lobbying elected officials to vote in their favor.  If you agree with that group’s agenda, then all is well.  But what happens when the laws and regulations passed affect my farming operation and your food supply?

Laws and regulations always drive up the cost of any business.  Some of that cost is needed, but often times it’s excessive and wasteful.  Let’s look at soil conservation, for example.  I have written several blogs on this topic already:

In addition, I’ve had a few of my Letters to the Editor published about soil conservation.  I’ve even received some hate mail in return… thank you very much!!  While I won’t repeat what my hate mail actually said, let’s just say that some folks don’t believe that farmers like me should help decide how soil conservation work.  In so many words, they told me to “mind my own business.”  I find that ironic since that’s exactly what I’m trying to do by getting involved in the rules-making and lawmaking processes!

When things are as valuable as one’s land – and livelihood – our voices deserve to be heard.  I’m a small farmer, but even my farmland is worth millions.  The average farm size in Iowa is approximately 333 acres, and the statewide farmland value posted in March 2013 was $11,515 per acre.  That means the average Iowa farm is valued at nearly $4 million ($3,834,495).  It’s not uncommon for a sole proprietor to farm 1,000 acres, which equates to a land value of $11.5 million.  That’s big money!

Because there is so much at stake, farmers are on the front line of the soil conservation issue.  We have no choice.  How silly it would be to throw away our most expensive tool and asset!  Soil is our main tool and resource.  That’s why I believe it’s so important for farmers to get involved with soil conservation and nutrient management.

The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is in place and looks like it will work if given a chance.  Dean Lemke, a Natural Resources Engineer for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), said criticism of the Nutrient Strategy’s voluntary implementation has been premature.

Iowa’s new nutrient reduction plan has been endorsed by the new head of the EPA, Gina McCarthy.  The Iowa Farm Bureau, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), and the Iowa State Extension Service are all encouraging farmers to improve the management of their land.

Yet, I recently read an article in the opinion section of The Des Moines Register about how current laws must be enforced and farmers should be penalized.  Take a look and talk to farmers about what they are doing before you write that letter to the editor!  Ask questions.  Listen and learn.  We must be informed on both sides of this issue!