Agvocate to Preserve Choice and to Promote Common Sense!

Larry podiumLast week I got a call from farm broadcaster and writer Ty Higgins, host of Farm & Country. This interview reminded me why I started speaking out for agriculture. Ty gave me an opportunity to talk about crop conditions in our area and to also talk about my pigs.

Of course, Ty and I also had to talk about the weather! (I honestly don’t think people who make a living off the land can have a conversation that doesn’t touch on this subject.) There are many farm fields across the Midwest where too much rain is wreaking havoc on the crop. Fortunately, where I live in North Central Iowa, the conditions are nearly perfect. I have the best looking crop that I’ve seen in 5 years, but I’m saying prayers because weather and growing conditions can turn on a dime!

Ty gave me an opportunity to talk about how much pig farming has changed over the years. When I was a kid, we raised pigs in the pasture. Pigs don’t sweat, however, so they needed help staying cool on hot summer days. Did you know that today’s fair-haired pigs also can get sunburned?

Now I raise pigs in temperature-controlled buildings where there’s no threat of sunburn and where pigs have access to food and water. I’ve shared before how the number of sick pigs and our death loss decreased after we started producing hogs inside. I’ve also that during the 1980s Farm Crisis I supplemented my farming income but starting a construction business that focused on building hog units.

Recently I accepted an opportunity to oversee the remodeling of existing hog buildings and acting as the general contractor for new construction. Making a better, safer place to raise pigs is something I’ve been involved with for decades. We continue to learn and improve the buildings, as well as our methods, as we go along. The same is true for those farmers who only raise crops… we’re always improving. Producing more with less is always the goal.

Technological advancements in agriculture are comparable to what’s happened in the medical field, as I was reminded while making a doctor’s visit. I’ve been battling a sore foot for a couple of months. Being a stubborn old farmer, last week I finally made a doctor’s appointment. The first thing I had to do when I got to the office was complete a stack of paper; more paperwork was required before I left.

Medicine reminds me a lot of farming. It makes use of state-of-the-art technology – and lots of regulation. “State-of-the-art technology and regulation” define modern farming, too. But technology is accepted in medicine! Almost everyone understands that new technology makes people healthier, and as a result of better healthcare and nutrition, our life expectancy has increased.

Penicillin is a great example of a medical breakthrough. It was discovered by accident but has become a miracle worker. But wait. Is penicillin a chemical?! Of course, it is! What about the equipment used in the medical field like X-ray machines? We used to have to wait for film to be developed, but today’s technology provides us with nearly instant results. The same is true for farming: GPS, auto-steer, drones, grid sampling and tissue sampling. All these things can make farming more efficient and “sustainable“!

Just as they are in farming, burdensome regulations are holding back future innovations and inventions. Safeguards are needed, but unnecessary regulations increase the cost of medical services, procedures and even vaccines. Some people are being denied procedures and medicines that could save their lives. This is true in agriculture as many small shareholder farmers in developing countries can access the newest seed technologies, and others in their country are being denied biotech crops like Golden Rice even though it could save millions of lives. The GMO rice has such a huge potential to save lives, but emotions – and politics – keep holding back its potential.

Emotion and politics are directly linked in the United States, too. We enjoy food choice, but a loud minority of people would like to change that. I’ve written before about how confusing food labels have become, and paying more for “hormone-free chicken or turkey” is a case in point. I know there are a group of seed industry officials support federal H.R. 1599 Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act to standardize regulations nationwide.

Choice and common sense are very important to innovation. After all, the medicine field could still be using techniques such as bleeding and leaches!