Celebrate Diversity during National Ag Week
As I write this blog on National Ag Day, I’m thinking about more than my farm. Agriculture is more than one small farm. Agriculture’s importance in providing food, fiber and fuel is being greatly overlooked in this country. Farmers here are doing such a great job of producing food and keeping grocery prices cheap that most people just take it for granted!
Traveling across the U.S. and even to other countries really opens one’s eyes to the challenges of feeding a growing world population. It also opens one’s eyes to the diversity of agriculture. I’ve witnessed farming in Eastern Europe. I spend a lot of time traveling the Midwest for my job, and over the weekend, I drove to Oklahoma. What strikes me most is the diversity in agriculture! In Ukraine, I saw everything from backyard farms to a farm that covered one million acres! The political climate was the most limiting factor for Ukrainian farmers because one-size-fits-all rules and regulations did not fit such diverse farms.
The amount of regulation coming down on U.S. farms from the federal government is also staggering. I have farming friends in all 50 states, and no two farms are the same. Farming operations are even diverse within our own county. My farm, for example, is surrounded by other farms that raise corn and soybeans. Some of my neighbors also raise hogs and cattle. Others have chickens. Pumpkins, apples, sheep and goats are also raised in this county.
Each crop and livestock operation has its unique qualities, but the difference doesn’t stop there. There are thousands of different soil types. Different soil types create different challenges. I have deep black and clay soils, so I am challenged with “puddle farming.” The ground is fairly flat, so ponding is common. Without tile to drain away excess water, crop yields would be very poor. But with proper management, however, we can raise fantastic crops.
Ten miles away, there are very sandy soils. This means the soil particles are very large, while mine are very small. This type of soil cannot hold water in reserve as well as mine, but these farms can also grow terrific crops if managed properly. Farmers with sandy soils use different methods than I do, even though our farms are very close together.
Now imagine a farm a couple states away… They grow crops different than mine. They might grow wheat, rice, cotton or peanuts. In other areas of the country, agriculture is dominated by nut trees and vegetable crops like potatoes or onions. The climate is totally different across our nation, and some places are made just right to graze cattle. Their soils are very different. The landscape is very different. This again takes different management! As a result, conservation practices must be very different.
My point is that not one type of farming works across one county, the nation or even across the world. The same goes for regulations and farm programs! One size does not fit all.
During National Ag week, let’s celebrate the diversity that feeds our world. Let’s not regulate ourselves into starvation!
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