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Top of Mind: 30 Years Later, Same Needs

01:51AM Apr 03, 2013
JeanneBernick Spring

This year marks a milestone for Top Producer—we turn 30! The first issue (originally named Top Operator and found inside the folds of Farm Journal) hit mailboxes on the heels of the farm crisis. It was our response to an increasing need for more business information in agriculture, and to serve a growing audience: America’s top producers.

Since then, producers have suffered through two 500-year Midwest floods and several dry seasons, including last year’s historic drought. Farm lending has seen a major overhaul: In 1983 and 1984, nearly 50 ag banks closed their doors; The Farm Credit System lost $2.9 billion in one year, was bailed out in 1986 and restructured; and Farmer MAC was born. Farm spending was cut and payment limits were born. Programs included the Acreage Reduction Program, Payment in Kind, Conservation Reserve Program and Dairy Herd Buyout. On the positive side, China has become a major market and farmers witnessed good times with record exports. Herbicide-resistant traits and GPS have changed the face of the industry. Farmland prices have hit record highs, and producers are more "cash-rich" than ever before.

Inside this special issue, you’ll see what shaped the path we’re on and the way toward the future. We highlight "30 Brave Thinkers" of the past 30 years and introduce people you might never have heard of before. Get a glimpse of what our Top Producer of the Year winners’ farms looked like 30 years ago and be encouraged by what young farmers have to say about the future of agriculture.

A Crystal Ball. No one can predict the future, but it’s fun to try. As part of our 30th anniversary, I asked two of our long-standing columnists, Jerry Gulke and John Phipps, their expectations for the next 30 years of farming. Here are some of their projections:

• An end to government support for commercial farms. 
• Private, unique crop insurance specific to each farm.
• Consolidation of far-flung operations into more nearly contiguous operations to allow efficient use of robotics.
• A Corn Belt centered North to South on the Iowa and Minnesota border, extending into Canada to Calgary.
• An increase of non-family paths from farm operator to manager to partner similar to law or accounting firms.
• International farming companies spawned from large U.S. and other first-world farms joining forces.
• Private crop reports (largely satellite-imagery driven) that supplant NASS as market movers.

What do you think farming will look like in 30 years? Who do you think made a difference in agriculture? Weigh in online at Three decades later, uncertainty, risk, opportunity and excitement still exist for farmers. The need for a money, marketing and management resource has never been greater. Here’s to the next 30 years!