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The Year In Agriculture
Dr. Victor L. Martin
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2012 is almost history and 2013 is just around the corner. Top Ten lists will start coming out soon. In order to beat the holiday rush, let’s use this column to take a look at the top ten stories in Kansas regarding agriculture. This is just one person’s opinion and I welcome any discussion and input.
10 – Unless something changes soon, Kansas will have no representative on the House agriculture committee for the first time in forever. Over the decades having a voice here was important not only to Kansas but the Great Plains in general. Hopefully our voice can still be heard over in the Senate.
9 – Social media invades agriculture. The Peterson brothers gained national attention for themselves and farming through their YouTube videos. Kansas agriculture received positive national media. However it extends far beyond two music videos, as agriculture organizations are learning to use everything from Facebook to Tweets to get the message out. Kansas Farm Bureau even has sessions and seminars on using social media effectively.
8 – Barge traffic on the Mississippi may grind to a halt in 2013. Low water levels on the major route that our exports take to the rest of the world may have a major impact on several levels.
7 – Animal welfare issues heat up. Controversy regarding livestock production across the country, especially with gestation crates for sows, won’t go away. While this hasn’t affected Kansas much yet, we will feel the aftershocks. While you may not agree with the animal rights movement, you have to acknowledge their skill in framing the issue.
6 – Pink slime. A woman who had been concerned with this issue for a while with no luck, coined the term “pink slime.” That was all it took for national exposure, a national outcry, and hundreds of workers to lose their jobs, many of them in Kansas. Maybe this should be more about the lack of public knowledge and the ability to objectively think through issues.
5 – Renewable energy and energy supplies in general continue to grow. Everything from the next generation of biofuels, to new methods of extracting crude oil and gas, promise greater energy independence and more stable prices. Kansas has a strong future in renewable energies even if much of congressional delegation is not supportive. Wind energy may take a hit unless Congress acts soon. Ethanol from sorghum is now recognized by the EPA.
4 – School lunches. Why number 4? When the USDA changed the school lunch standards there wasn’t a huge outcry from agriculture organizations. While some media grumbled, most of the outcry was from students themselves who used social media and returning full cafeteria trays. The result was a change in the standards.
3 – Prices for inputs and outputs remain strong. The drought combined with national and world demand kept commodity prices high. Unfortunately for livestock and dairy producers in particular, high input costs have resulted in a negative cash flow for many. The upshot for all of us is higher prices at the supermarket while many farmers struggle to break even.
2 - There is no Farm Bill as this column is written. Hopefully now that the election is over, this can get done. No matter what passes, agriculture will take a hit.
1 – The drought hasn’t gone anywhere. Some scientists think we may have to endure another few years of overall abnormally dry conditions as part of the normal cycle. Some think we are experiencing the effects of global warming. Whatever the case, pray for rain.