The ag industry in recent years has been on a roll – strong prices, increased exports, reasonable yields and a level of optimism not enjoyed by much of the rest of our economy.
Still, it’s no time to relax. As an industry, a very diverse industry, we need to hang together. We are all aware of the outside critics that want to dictate to us how to farm.
One important way that we have to protect the industry is to have a strong voice in Washington and also in the state governments. Another effort that can bring big rewards is research.
Producers need to get behind their commodities. In the 60s, Rollie Main and I and other Knox County, Illinois farmers started the Illinois Corn Growers Association. Later, we became part of the National Corn Growers Association. A checkoff program was established where corn producers made contributions to their industry funding muscle in state houses and Washington and paying for innovative research. Working with Monsanto and other companies, we have GE crops today. GE crop yields have exploded, and all the while we use less chemicals, less labor, less energy. Other commodities have done the same. They have been able to brand and market their food products because the checkoff programs provided the money to sell.
I’m a pig farmer. How many pork chops did we sell with "the other white meat?" What about dairy’s "Got milk?" We always ask "Where’s the beef?" These promotions have worked. Our biggest crops are corn, soybeans and wheat. The only one of the three that does not have a national checkoff program is wheat. I’ve talked with Jim Palmer, the President of the National Association of Wheat Growers. He thinks it is time to give wheat the resources that others have.
Wheat is in the spotlight now; with the World Food Prize is the Norm Borlaug Dialogue coming up in October in Des Moines, Iowa. Also, the Edgar McFadden Symposium in September at South Dakota State University. They are honored for their research on wheat. Norm Borlaug’s "Green Revolution" saved millions of people from starvation.
The "Green Revolution" of today is genetic engineering which will save millions also as the world population grows.