I wrote the attached letter not because I am pro or con organic or GMO.
I wrote it because I am tired of ill-informed people perpetuating a negative message about the science employed by farmers used to feed the world based on “their opinion” or through “distortion” of the facts.
Everyone is entiled to their opinion. BUT, if you are going to slam someone in public you must be certain the facts you quote are accurate; especialy when they are a matter of public record.
I love the music of the band “Chilliwack” who entertains urban and rural audiences across North America which is why I was so disappointed and outraged that Mr Henderson could stand on stage and preach an anti-science message using false information.
During the concert, he uses the momentum of their great music to set the timing for him to tell his “story”. He used the “story” to set up his “protest song”. He uses the “protest song” to make a statement…that is fine; as long as the statement is true. In this case it is not.
The following letter represents my personal view, however as Founder and CEO of The Agri-Trend Group of Companies, I know Agri-Trend is going to get pulled into this discussion the same way Mr Henderson’s views reflects on Chilliwack.
Nonetheless: here is my letter (@rsaik)
RED DEER ADVOCATE. Letter to the Editor … Published: March 07, 2013 8:47AM
Musician shouldn’t be misinforming people on agriculture
There was a short commotion one third of the way through the Chilliwack concert at the RDC Affair of the Arts on Saturday night. I know because I was the one who caused it.
Chilliwack band leader Bill Henderson took it upon himself to interrupt the concert and a great event with a diatribe on the evils of GMO (genetically modified organism) farming through reference to a particular case involving a Saskatchewan farmer and a large multinational. His use of names, coupled with a gross distortion of the facts, leads to misrepresentation of how we, in agriculture, are using science to grow food .
The facts of this particular case are public . He has either not read the facts or has ignored them, choosing instead to use his platform as an entertainer to continue misleading the public .
I simply could not sit there and listen to this entertainer preach how we in agriculture are bad because we use technology to grow food.
The use of bio-engineering, coupled with the proprietary licensed technology, has resulted in farmers being able to grow more food, much safer.
I would estimate that of the farmers in the audience 90 to 100 per cent would be employing the use of GE (genetically engineered) technology. This has produced a safe, reliable food supply for the world and has resulted in hundreds of millions less pounds of pesticides being used to grow crops.
While Mr . Henderson is a fine musician and a man of intelligence, I do not know if he is an agronomist, scientist or farmer. I can only equate his perpetuation of misleading information to ignorance on his part. However, this does not absolve him of the obligation to use his fame responsibly and to arm himself with facts before he speaks as an authority on agriculture.
Over the past 15 to 20 years, over three trillion GE meals have never resulted in one substantiated case of harm.
Without scientific advances such as the Hauber-Bosch process (turning inert atmospheric Nitrogen into fertilizer), the green revolution (crop hybridization) and bio-engineering, it is estimated that we could only sustain a population of three to four billion, as opposed to the more than seven billion people on the planet today .
In 1950, one farmer fed 15.5 people; today one farmer feeds over 150 people, because we employ the science Mr.Henderson so passionately sings against.
What he sings is his prerogative. And, his fans can make a decision to support him or not with their wallets .
However, when he chooses to overshadow the positive accomplishments of our industry through misinformation or distortion of the facts, then it is my turn to sing.
Robert D. Saik
Certified agricultural Consultant
2006 Distinguished Agrologist (AIA)
The Theme of The 2011 Farm Forum Event was Farming 3.0…The Digital Farm. I recently was sent a link to the attached article by Terry Aberhart, one of our Agri-Coaches. As I read the article, I was struck by how much this article lined up with our thinking and what we discussed at The Farm Forum Event.
Agriculture really is moving into a new era. There will be disruption, there will be breakdown of bureaucracy..and there will be massive opportunity.
The gains in agriculture 3.0 will not all come from a person working harder. Many of the gains will come through the embrace and adpotion of technology.
Well, if you don’t believe me, then please read the following article writen by Dr. Jim Budzynski the Managing Principal of MacroGain Partners.
I think you will find his thoughts enlightening.
Get Ready For Agriculture 3.0 – 22/02/12
The ag industry has reached another evolutionary tipping point. Consultant Jim Budzynski believes that Agriculture 3.0 will be driven by economics, environmentalism, the incredible promise of synthetic biology and changing consumer demand, and retailers need to be ready for serious change.
I was digging through a file cabinet a few weeks ago and came across some pictures of my dad from the 1970s. We lost dad over twenty years ago, but I remember like yesterday how he fueled my passion for agriculture way back in the 1960s. I was a wide-eyed twelve year old running around Midwest corn and soybean fields taking soil samples with my little stainless steel soil probe. That was long before “grid sampling” and “precision ag” were common phrases, and I learned about agronomy in the “go take a sample in that low spot over there” school. I remember dad’s advocacy on the need for agronomic advisor certification and his mobile plant and soil testing lab, both ideas ahead of their time. Over forty years later, even with an agronomy degree and a PhD in soil chemistry, I still remember the thrill of the first time I got to “draw the map” myself. I wonder whether dad ever thought our industry would move as far in the past twenty years as we could or should have. Agriculture is undergoing a fundamental change, but my sense is that it is happening for many of us with as much regret as anticipation. The reason is that the game is changing fundamentally, and many of us would prefer to “play out our hand” without hurting our heads trying to get this all figured out. I recall my father-in-law (a 90 year-old retired farmer) once telling me how glad he was that he got to retire “before they started farming ugly with that no-till stuff”. He loved nice clean fields and a spotless farm – and he wasn’t anxious to embrace a new paradigm late in his farming career.
Agriculture 1.0 And 2.0
This “new paradigm” of American agriculture is what I call Agriculture 3.0. I won’t spend much time on Agriculture 1.0, which was early 20th century ag – a fairly labor intensive, low productivity affair which fed the people but required 7 million small farms and 30% of the population to do it. Agriculture 2.0 was the era most of our parents operated in; it began in the late 1950s when agronomic management practices like supplemental nitrogen and new tools like synthetic pesticides allowed us to take advantage of the dramatically higher yield potential offered by hybrid seed corn. The defining characteristics of Agriculture 2.0 were relatively cheap inputs, dramatically increasing yield potential, and growing returns to scale (read consolidation) at all levels. Awareness of the environmental impacts of off target chemicals or fertilizer was low, and government support policies initiated in the 1930s assured relatively little market risk and actively encouraged consolidation. A good way to describe Agriculture 2.0 is a 50-year quest to economically produce and globally market undifferentiated #2 yellow corn. We did a heck of a job. Along the way we built systems for crop and animal production, inputs delivery, grain handling, and global marketing that were highly efficient and as undifferentiated as possible (since differentiation drives unit costs up).
But guess what? Agriculture is entering a new era – Agriculture 3.0. This new era is not “right” where Agriculture 2.0 was “wrong” any more than the small family farms were “wrong” and the larger farms that replaced them were “right”. Change doesn’t take time for value judgments. But any old timer who lived through the transitions of farming from the 1940s to the 1970s can probably tell you that along the way there was lots of pain and resistance as the old accepted approaches to doing things was replaced by the “new paradigm”.
The shift to Agriculture 3.0 will be driven by two big picture changes that are just taking hold:
1. A movement away from efficiency as the primary focus of nearly all efforts to a new focus on profitability. Think of efficiency focus as doing old things incrementally cheaper each year. In Agriculture 2.0 the path to greater profitability was almost always through efficiency. As a result, the focus tended to be on input costs (seeds, nutrients, and crop protection) and hard conversion costs (labor, operational). Capital costs were assumed to be a given (unless you topped out your small bank’s standard operating lines). But incremental farmland and major equipment purchases tended to be emotional, not economic, decisions. (If you need evidence for this, look how many farmers overpay for farm ground adjacent to their farm or the number of farmers who own tractors that are bigger than needed for their farm’s size.) Think of profitability focus as unemotionally looking at all elements that drive the profitability of the farm and creatively seeking ways to sustainably lower costs and enhance quality or develop differentiated products for which you can get paid a premium.
2. A shift from specialization to integration. In Agriculture 2.0 you were rewarded by taking one narrow task and doing it very well (horizontal focus). As differentiated downstream markets are developed the winners will be those who can link seamlessly up and down a narrow value chain (vertical focus). This requires new thinking and new skills like marketing, risk management, branding, and processing. Not all producers will be willing and able to seize these opportunities, but the largest and most progressive farmers are the most likely to seize the moment. Smaller (or more likely older) farmers who “don’t want to farm ugly” will stay focused on low cost production and make a good living. But a small group will be the leaders in this facet of Agriculture 3.0 and become truly diversified agribusinesses instead of just good farmers.
Although nobody can with assurance say what the next 30 years will hold for agriculture, a few of the major ways in which this might play out are:
1. Higher levels of institutional land ownership and the breakdown of traditional support and hedging programs (think lower government price supports and the collapse of MF Global) mean that a more businesslike approach to risk management is essential. In the new paradigm huge sums of money can be made (or lost) in a nanosecond – and both will occur with greater regularity than most of us have ever imagined in coming years.
2. The promise of biotechnology is far greater than making weed control easier and cheaper and will ultimately result in the long overdue differentiation of downstream markets, allowing smart operators to make money by getting paid more instead of only by spending less. If those of us in upstream agriculture are unable or unwilling to seize this differentiation, ultimately downstream players will build a structure to “back integrate” and we will all be contractors, hired hands in our own industry.
3. Nutrient and pesticide management is going to move from routine overuse due to relatively low cost to much more precise and judicious use of increasingly expensive, targeted tools. The watch phrase will become “no molecule wasted.” The rapid growth of the biopesticide sector and the rapid growth of several specialty fertilizer players are evidence that this trend has already started. By the time my career ends IPM may be more than just a buzzword – we may actually practice it.
4. Equipment and tillage practices will be evaluated again as energy costs rise, new technologies arise which make true no-till possible, and larger farmers who spend little or no time on a tractor are less driven by emotion and more driven by economics. With enhancements via equipment and genetic technology in disease control, residue management, and cold tolerance, we may actually revisit true no-till and park some big steel. Equipment companies that focus on right-sizing equipment for operations, eliminating unnecessary field operations, and running the numbers on annual cost of use will continue to do quite well.
5. Precision agriculture and related crop consulting services will explode in importance as the need to integrate diverse data sets and drive active decision-making will replace pretty yield charts (which few growers do much with today anyway). A few courageous and foresighted precision agriculture, crop consulting, and data management firms are already on the cutting edge of helping their farmers truly turn data into dollars. Bill Gates once said that “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.” The bottom line is that we may not see Agriculture 3.0 by 2012, but we might be amazed when we get to 2021 at how much has occurred in ten short years.
A Few Questions To Ask Yourself
I realize that these profound changes are likely to strike many readers as patently foolish, especially those with the greatest investment in Agriculture 2.0. But I challenge you to ask yourself the following questions:
• At what farm size will the ability to manage scale and complexity outweigh the efficiency of being bigger?
• At some level of retail consolidation will the efficiency and cost gains of scale be outweighed by the difficulty of providing specialized agronomic advice and high levels of individual customer? Is it possible to be too big in retail?
• At what scale and price will the trend towards bigger and more efficient equipment reach its peak? How big a planter is actually too big and cumbersome to be truly efficient given the average farm and field size?
• At some price of energy will the net economic return drive us back to true no-till?
• At what price of fertilizer will efficient broadcast application of bulk granular fertilizer become less logical and banded use of highly available niche fertilizers become more logical?
• At what percentage of the food market becoming “natural and organic” will the use of “inefficient” IPM become more plausible and practical?
• At what percentage of the corn market being identity preserved to meet the needs of unique customers (e.g. industrial chemical production, ethanol, non-GMO) will the current monolithic grain handling infrastructure become inefficient due to an inability to reliably segregate and differentiate grains?
Think About Tomorrow, Today
Agriculture is going to change more in the next fifteen years than the last fifty. Agriculture 2.0 has reached a tipping point, and Agriculture 3.0 will be driven by economics, environmentalism, the incredible promise of synthetic biology, and changing consumer demand. Doing what we have always done a little better every year is necessary but insufficient in this new world.
What are you going to do new today?
Massive amounts of money will be made and lost in this new, high volatility world. Assured profits and risk management will be driven by your individual initiative, not the government or financial markets.
Every player is the ag system needs to ask themself if their current focus will be on the right side of history when we look back in 20 years. Today is the day to start.
Dr. Jim Budzynski is the Managing Principal of MacroGain Partners, a consulting and investment firm focused on helping commodity, agricultural, food, and green energy firms develop business strategies and capital to prepare for Agriculture 3.0. Budzynski can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 317-708-6280, or by Web site at www.macrogain.com .
I have been following Bill Gates’ thinking through The Harvest Plus Foundation for some time. Last year at the AGRI-TREND Farm Forum Event we had the director of The Harvest Plus Foundation speak to us about the nutrient deficit in human diets around the world.
Bill Gates continue to appeal to common sense and to ask people to embrace technology rather than wish for a return of the “dark ages”.
People can feed themselves, we need to teach, coach and use technology where possible so that no person is hungry.
ROME Feb 22, 2012 – Microsoft founder Bill Gates on Thursday called for a “digital revolution” to alleviate world hunger by increasing agricultural productivity through satellites and genetically-engineered seed varieties.
“We have to think hard about how to start taking advantage of the digital revolution that is driving innovation including in farming,” the U.S. billionaire philanthropist said in a speech at the UN rural poverty agency IFAD in Rome.
“If you care about the poorest, you care about agriculture. We believe that it’s possible for small farmers to double and in some cases even triple their yields in the next 20 years while preserving the land,” Gates said.
He gave as one example of innovation the genetic sequencing that allows cassava farmers in Africa to predict how individual seedlings will perform, shortening the time it takes to develop a new variety from 10 years to two.
Another key development is the use of satellite technology developed by defence departments to document data about individual fields, as well as information videos of farmers discussing best practices to help others.
“If we don’t do this, we’ll have a digital divide in agriculture,” he said.
Gates also defended the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the developing world and large-scale farm land investments by foreign states in the developing world Ñ both highly controversial issues in the aid community.
“You should go out and talk to people growing rice and say do they mind that it was created in a laboratory when their child has enough to eat?” he told reporters at a small media roundtable after his speech.
“The change in the way mankind lives over the last several hundred years is based on adoption of innovative practices and we simply haven’t done enough for those in the greatest need to bring these things,” he said.
On the issue of land investments that are referred to by their critics as “land grabbing,” he said: “It’s not actually possible to grab the land. People don’t put it on boats and take it back to the Middle East.
“If we could have clear guidelines there could be more land deals and overall it could be very beneficial… The truth is the person who is most at risk on a land deal is the person who is putting the money in.”
Gates also unveiled $200 million (150 million euros) in new grants from his foundation to finance research on a new type of drought-resistant maize, a vaccine to help livestock farmers and a project for training farmers.
“Investments in agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty,” he said, adding that his charitable foundation had committed $2.0 billion for farmers and was working on seven crops and one livestock vaccine.
Gates called for a new system of “public scorecards” for developing countries and UN food agencies that would measure things like agricultural productivity, the ability to feed families and farmer education systems.
“It’s something that can be pulled together over the next year,” he said.
“When I meet with an African leader, I’d love to have that report card. I have a report card for health… Without the scorecards, the donors tend to fund fad-oriented, short-term things,” he told reporters.
The technology pioneer also criticized the work of the UN food agencies in Rome: the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agriculture and Development (IFAD).
He said the current food and farming aid system was “outdated and somewhat inefficient” with a lot of “duplication.”
For these organizations to go digital will take “a lot of time,” he said.
Asked about the need for wider reforms of capitalism to help the poor, he said: “How do you get rid of its excesses, including the finance people who are paid these huge salaries, without hurting the beneficial things?”
He added: “I wish those Wall Street traders would have gone… and worked on maize and used their mathematical models to look at phenotype versus genotype.
“It’s clearly imperfect but it’s the best system we have.”
© Copyright (c) AFP
Robert Saik, Founder and CEO – Agri-Trend Group of Companies
This article highlights a trend I have been following. Declining water resources in the Middle East will mean two things.
1. There are going to be more customers for our Wheat.
2. There will be outsourcing of ag production to other areas of the world to create a “closed loop” system that will give little back to the areas in which the food production occurs.
We have a tremendous opportunity to help meet food demand through our supply and we can help other areas of the world become more sustainable through technology transfer.
After the ‘Arab Spring’
- 28TH APR 2011
In the face of the ‘Arab Spring,’ Lester Brown writing for the Guardian has taken a look beyond the short-term to what faces the Middle East over the medium to long term.
Food security is the hot topic bouncing around the halls of power lately, and with good reason. The world is facing crisis after crisis in matters of sustainability, and population growth is only adding to the problems the world faces. There are solutions which the world knows will work, yet these issues are still pressing and as important as they will ever be.
In the face of the ‘Arab Spring,’ Lester Brown writing for the Guardian has taken a look beyond the short-term to what faces the Middle East over the medium to long term. In his article, he argues that population growth and water supply are on a collision course, and hunger is set to become the main issue after the political uprisings subside. His article is included below.
Long after the political uprisings in the Middle East have subsided, many underlying challenges that are not now in the news will remain. Prominent among these are rapid population growth, spreading water shortages, and growing food insecurity.
In some countries grain production is now falling as aquifers – underground water-bearing rocks – are depleted. After the Arab oil-export embargo of the 1970s, the Saudis realised that since they were heavily dependent on imported grain, they were vulnerable to a grain counter-embargo. Using oil-drilling technology, they tapped into an aquifer far below the desert to produce irrigated wheat. In a matter of years, Saudi Arabia was self-sufficient in its principal food staple.
But after more than 20 years of wheat self-sufficiency, the Saudis announced in January 2008 that this aquifer was largely depleted and they would be phasing out wheat production. Between 2007 and 2010, the harvest of nearly 3m tonnes dropped by more than two-thirds. At this rate the Saudis could harvest their last wheat crop in 2012 and then be totally dependent on imported grain to feed their population of nearly 30 million.
The unusually rapid phaseout of wheat farming in Saudi Arabia is due to two factors. First, in this arid country there is little farming without irrigation. Second, irrigation depends almost entirely on a fossil aquifer – which, unlike most aquifers, does not recharge naturally from rainfall. And the desalted sea water the country uses to supply its cities is far too costly for irrigation use – even for the Saudis.
Saudi Arabia’s growing food insecurity has led it to buy or lease land in several other countries, including two of the world’s hungriest, Ethiopia and Sudan. In effect, the Saudis are planning to produce food for themselves with the land and water resources of other countries to augment their fast-growing imports.
In neighbouring Yemen, replenishable aquifers are being pumped well beyond the rate of recharge, and the deeper fossil aquifers are also being rapidly depleted. Water tables are falling throughout Yemen by about two metres per year. In the capital, Sana’a – home to 2 million people – tap water is available only once every four days. In Taiz, a smaller city to the south, it is once every 20 days.
Yemen, with one of the world’s fastest-growing populations, is becoming a hydrological basket case. With water tables falling, the grain harvest has shrunk by one-third over the last 40 years, while demand has continued its steady rise. As a result the Yemenis import more than 80% of their grain. With its meagre oil exports falling, with no industry to speak of, and with nearly 60% of its children physically stunted and chronically undernourished, this poorest of the Arab countries is facing a bleak and potentially turbulent future.
The likely result of the depletion of Yemen’s aquifers – which will lead to further shrinkage of its harvest and spreading hunger and thirst – is social collapse. Already a failing state, it may well devolve into a group of tribal fiefdoms, warring over whatever meagre water resources remain. Yemen’s internal conflicts could spill over its long, unguarded border with Saudi Arabia.
Syria and Iraq – the other two populous countries in the region – have water troubles, too. Some of these arise from the reduced flows of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, which they depend on for irrigation water. Turkey, which controls the headwaters of these rivers, is in the midst of a massive dam building programme that is reducing downstream flows. Although all three countries are party to water-sharing arrangements, Turkey’s plans to expand hydropower generation and its area of irrigation are being fulfilled partly at the expense of its two downstream neighbours.
Given the future uncertainty of river water supplies, farmers in Syria and Iraq are drilling more wells for irrigation. This is leading to overpumping in both countries. Syria’s grain harvest has fallen by one-fifth since peaking at roughly 7m tonnes in 2001. In Iraq, the grain harvest has fallen by a quarter since peaking at 4.5m tonnes in 2002.
Jordan, with 6 million people, is also on the ropes agriculturally. Forty or so years ago, it was producing more than 300,000 tonnes of grain per year. Today it produces only 60,000 tonnes and thus must import over 90% of its grain. In this region, only Lebanon has avoided a decline in grain production.
Thus in the Arab Middle East, where populations are growing fast, the world is seeing the first collision between population growth and water supply at the regional level. For the first time in history, grain production is dropping in a region with nothing in sight to arrest the decline. Because of the failure of governments to mesh population and water policies, each day now brings 10,000 more people to feed, and less irrigation water with which to feed them.
SOURCE: The Guardian
AUTHOR: Lester Brown
This article sheds some interesting light on the supply of food and fuel through increasing agricultural production. There are some encouraging stats in this article.
GUELPH, ON – A new study released by the Grain Farmers of Ontario should put an end to the ongoing debate of whether the grain we grow should be used for food or fuel. We can and should do both.
The abundance of grain grown by farmers around the world and here in Ontario can both protect the environment and feed the world. As farm yields climb and investments are made in farm production in the developing world, feeding and fueling the world can even be done cost effectively.
“My corn yields have increased by 35 percent since I started farming in 1975,” says Don Kenny who farms just outside of Ottawa and is the chair of Grain Farmers of Ontario. “I am confident that my land will continue to be productive and that new products and technologies will ensure my family supplies our local livestock market and the ethanol plant down the road for many years to come.”
According to the study by Dr. Terry Daynard and KD Communications, by including an average of just 5% ethanol in regular gasoline, Canadians are reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2.3 million tonnes annually while saving money. Five percent ethanol blending has reduced annual family gasoline expenditures by more than $100 per year. Ethanol is also credited with replacing hazardous compounds in gasoline used for octane enhancement and increasing engine efficiency.
There is also good news for the world’s food supply. Food demands around the world are growing by 1.1% per year according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Fortunately, the Grain Farmers of Ontario study reveals that global grain production has increased by 1.5% per year over the past 20 years. With increasing resources now being directed to agricultural development in some of the world’s hungriest countries, especially in Africa, there is optimism that we will continue to grow the crops and increase production where the need is greatest.
“Quite frankly, it is a relief for us to learn that production of biofuels, like ethanol, here in Ontario makes such a positive contribution to our environment without any notable impact on overall food prices and the world’s ability to supply food,” says Barry Senft, CEO for Grain Farmers of Ontario. “Regardless of this discussion, our farmers are dedicated to growing a sufficient supply of food for Canadian families”.
Share this with your kids, it is why the division of labor works!
And its pretty cool!
“We live on the rooftops of a hidden world. Beneath the soil surface lies a land of fascination,And also of mysteries, for much of man’s wonder about life itself has been connected to the soil.It is populated by strange creatures who have found away to survive in a world without sunlight,An empire whose boundaries are fixed by the earthen walls.” Living Earth by Peter Farb, 1959
The Canadian Nuffield Farming Scholarship Trust is accepting applications for their 2012 program. Applications are due by April 30, 2011 and forms can be downloaded from the Nuffield Canada website at http://www.nuffield.ca.
Nuffield Farming Scholarships are awarded to enthusiastic individuals, with a passion for agriculture and a desire to expand your knowledge, pursue new ideas and to share your findings with others. Applicants should be in mid-career, be between the ages of 30 and 45 (although exceptions are made) and must have a minimum of five years agricultural business or farming experience plus the management ability to step away from their current duties. The Scholar must travel for a minimum of ten weeks, with a minimum leg of six consecutive weeks. Scholarships are not for those involved in full-time studies or for the purpose of furthering research projects.
Three scholarships of $15,000 each are available for 2012.
“The Canadian Nuffield Farming Scholarship provides innovative Canadians with the funding to travel internationally to expand their personal horizons while exploring agricultural issues and opportunities in a global context,” said Barry Cudmore, Chair and 2004 Scholar. “We are focused on developing the practical, managerial and commercial capacities of each scholar to enable them to be better farmers and business managers and to make a significant contribution to the future of Canadian agriculture.”
The scholarships are awarded to men and women who are judged to have the greatest potential to create value for themselves, their industries and their communities through the doors which will be opened and the opportunities provided for life-long learning and improvement. The scholarships are awarded on the strength of the applicants’ vision, enthusiasm and determination to pursue their goals.
A Nuffield Farming scholarship is a life changing experience. Scholars receive a ‘golden key’ to the best production, management and marketing systems in every corner of the world. In addition to embracing the ‘world’s best’ in agriculture, scholars gain life-long friends form around the world, and a deep understanding, and global perspective, of the politics, cultures and challenges of world agriculture.
A key part of the scholarship is the opportunity for winners to study a topic of interest to themselves through out their travels. Scholars must complete their project within two years of winning the award and are expected to produce a written report and present their findings at the Nuffield annual general meeting as well as to others in their industries.
Canadian Nuffield Scholars are also required to participate in the Contemporary Scholars Conference (CSC) where they will meet with scholars from other countries including the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and France to exchange ideas and experiences, and join a network of people who are at the cutting edge of primary industry. The 2012 conference will be held in Europe.
Applications must be received by April 30, 2011. Application forms are available from the Nuffield website www.nuffield.ca.
Agri-Trend Agrology is returning to its’ roots with a prairie-wide Farmers WANTED Tour.
We will be running two consecutive sessions – an Agrology Workshop and a Garden Workshop. Fourteen towns in 14 days, so you can be sure there will be an event near you!
For more information, contact your Agri-Coach or go to www.AGRI-TREND.com/WANTED
Click on the link to hear Ben Cartwright aka Elston interviewed on the Farmers WANTED Tour http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Doik6qPTDdU
Derek Squair, president of Agri-Trend Marketing, says there are three things you need to work your grain marketing plan around: cash flow, cash flow and, you guessed it, cash flow. He’s only half serious of course, in that there are several other factors to include in a marketing plan, but mapping out your cash flow needs and pricing the crop to meet them is a good start.
Squair says that when they work with clients to develop marketing plans, they take a step back from cash flow and first look at a farm’s strengths, weaknesses and goals and combine that with risk tolerance to create a one, two and three year plan. “How you market your crop can depend on if you’re planning to grow the farm, hand it over or hold steady,” Squair says. Next, how comfortable you are at forward pricing, hedging or using other marketing tools will shape your marketing plan dramatically.
Then, yes, it’s time to drill down to come up with a very solid cost of production by field — not commodity type, as many farmers do. “(Agri-Trend Marketing) actually uses a cost of production by quarter, not crop type, and have found that there can be drastic differences in the profitability of different fields,” he says. But more than that, Squair says too often farmers underestimate true fixed and variable costs. Every dollar that leaves the farm has to be accounted for if it’s coming out of farm income, he says. And that means hay for the wife’s horse or fuel and food for that annual fishing trip.
“Too often farmers get an unpleasant surprise when they market a crop based on a certain cost of production, only to find the missed ten or twenty dollars per acre in costs,” he says. A profit scenario quickly becomes a break-even scenario, and no one wants that.
Squair encourages farmers to learn to work with marketing strategies, such as hedging, or pass the job on to someone who will. We’ve had these tools for 120 years, but few farmers fully understand how to use them, he says.
He also recommends doing analysis at different points of the year to make sure the marketing plan is working. Did you seed the crops you intended? Did they yield as much as you thought? What quality do you have? Should you be looking at being more or less aggressive in selling? All of these questions need revisiting as the year progresses.