President Trump’s initiative to highlight America’s crumbling infrastructure this week has reminded the agribusiness sector on the importance of water for farmers. Not the water to grow the produce, but the water used to move crops to the world’s export market.
- S. farmers and agribusiness sector depend heavily on an aging river system to move grains and produce to the global export market. The nation’s river ways have not seen structural changes or updates to their lock and dam systems in over 50 years.
Agribusiness grain exports such as Cargill, Inc. and Archer Daniel Midland have experienced frequent breakdowns and idled boat crews which add to the transportations cost, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The Trump Administration is proposing to help finance $1 trillion in infrastructure projects for the nation’s airports, seaports, and bridges. American farmers are hoping some of this proposed spending will fix the 242 locks and dams along America’s rivers.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the federal agency charged with maintaining American riverways. The agency released its proposed 2018 fiscal year budget which includes $2.098 billion for “the study, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of inland and coastal navigation projects. Small ports and riverways with the most active commercial traffic are a priority in the proposed budget.
The Waterways Council, Inc., which has been advocating for infrastructure spending on inland waterways, has estimated that $8.7 billion is needed immediately to begin to address the poorly maintained lock and dam system.
“Our majestic waterways deliver grain, construction material, and energy products,” states the WCI. “They power commerce, provide jobs, and are a farmer’s lifeline.”
If you step back in time to the 1900, then 40 percent of America’s population lived on farms and almost everyone lived in a rural area. Today, only one percent of people live on a farm and only 20 percent live in a rural area. Yet, thanks to innovative technology, those farmers are growing more food than ever before and using less natural resources to do it, according to an article recently published in the NY Times.
Today’s farmers are planting about 80.5 million acres of corn. In order to grow the same amount of corn in 1950, it would have taken 228 million acres. Today, farmers are planting 81.8 million acres in soybeans. In 1950 in order to get the same crop they would have had to plant 101.7 million acres. Wheat is planted on 47.1 million acres today compared to 56.9 million acres in 1950. Yet, the same amount of wheat is harvested by farmers.
The same can be said for farmers that are raising livestock. Today, 29. 3 million beef cows are raised to produce the same amount of food that farmers had to raise an additional 15.3 million in the 1950s. On farms across the United States, farmers are raising 9.3 million milk cows that provide the same amount of milk as 39.3 million milk cows in 1950.
America does not need as many farmers today as it did in the past. Large farmers produce 80 percent of all food sold to grocery stores today. In fact, 4 percent of farmers each making over $1 million in sales account for 66 percent of all food sold to grocery stores.
These large farmers use technology so that they can produce more food on less land. They rely on technology to provide them with information about soil nutrients, soil moisture and productivity to make wise decisions on what to plant and how much fertilizer needs to be applied to a particular area in a field. They use GPS driven tractors to plant a variety of seeds in the sane field so that harvests can be maximized.
The future is bright for growing food in the United States. The largest land owner in the United States is John Malone who currently owns over 2.2 million acres. Most of it is in Kansas where he just purchased additional acres that had belonged to the Land Trust Preservation. This land was used to test plants that could produce crops perennially instead of farmers having to replant each year.
An agricultural virus that was once feared by citrus farmers may turn out to be the best hope for an industry that is desperately trying to tackle an even more serious problem. It is through the marvels of genetic engineering that one virus has been modified for the purpose of destroying the other one.
The citrus tristeza virus, or CTV, had previously caused trouble for citrus farmers, but the disease has been eclipsed by the problem of citrus greening. Produced by a specific type of bacteria and spread by certain flying insects, citrus greening causes trees to produce fruits that are greenish and misshapen in appearance and bitter in taste. Although the disease had been reported in other parts of the world, citrus greening was first observed in the United States in 2005 and has since ravaged the fruit-growing regions of the South.
In battling greening, one produce company plans to graft tree limbs containing the modified CTV virus. The firm has requested permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to employ this technique, which will have to be reviewed to determine whether it poses any environmental risks. If approved, this will be the first commercial use of CTV as a sort of inoculation to deal with another type of agricultural disease. More information about the CTV technique is available at www.reddit.com/agriculture.
Using other types of genetic engineering, farmers have been able to provide some protection to their citrus products. One method allowed growers to produce a reasonable number of sweet and round oranges, provided that the trees were properly maintained. An engineered form of spinach has also shown success in dealing with citrus greening. If successful, the CTV technique may help reduce the stigma that has in the past been associated with genetic engineering. Since the method does not actually alter the fruits that are produced from the modified trees, some farmers could in fact claim the final products are not in themselves genetically engineered, which could be an important selling point.
The entire process could take at least two years to yield results, with time being the greatest enemy to citrus farmers. Many hope that the technique will prove successful in wiping out citrus greening before the disease wipes out the industry.
The United States Department of Agriculture is one of the most important government divisions that the country has. This division is responsible, at a high-level, for all agricultural development in the country. The division also puts for a significant amount of time into researching agricultural topics including food and environmental concerns. While the USDA has historically made their finding public, without going through a higher level of approval, the Trump Administration has announced that this process will be changing.
The new presidential administration has announced that they will be forbidding the USDA from publicly sharing any information that they find without receiving prior approval. This includes any work that is already in process by one of the 2,000 scientists that the USDA has hired. The information that will no longer be able to be released will include full studies, photos, fact sheets, social media content, or updated new feeds.
The USDA is not the only wing of the government that has received notification of the gag order. The US EPA has also received notice that they are no longer able to release information without prior approval from a higher level. The EPA’s restrictions include limitations on press releases, blogs, and social media blasts. The EPA is also no longer able to make additional purchases, hires, or any other decisions that could increase the annual expenditure.
The decisions and restrictions set forth on the USDA and EPA are consistent with what is going on in other areas of the government. As the Trump Administration continues to appoint more committee and cabinet members, the organization is asking that most government spending be controlled. This will give the organizations a time to gather and organize before developing a new strategy to expand or contract the scope.
The EPA and USDA were both very highly used under the Obama Administration. Both organizations were involved to find ways to make food and the environment healthier and stronger. The organizations also recently have released reports that make it clear the global warming is continuing as the prior few years have been among the warmest on record.
With the help of technology, farmers are able to handle a lot more than 30 acres of farmland. No longer is a mule, a pitchfork, a tractor, chickens, and a cow sufficient enough to run a farm. From the dawn of farming, it has gone through a lot of changes. Originally, the farmers used plow horses to plow the land before they got mechanical plows. Today, the GPS is improving farming even more than the tractor and the plow ever did. GPS technology that most people use to navigate while driving their vehicle can also help a farmer run his farm in a mistake proof manner. Many people would be surprised to know thatthe GPS system was used to help American soldiers during the Gulf War. There is a GPS that will tell the farmer exactly how much fertilizer to use on the crops.
The GPS can help the farmer navigate the tractor because the GPS can replace the human eyes and help the farmer plow the fields straighter than ever before. The GPS comes in handy when plowing the fields are completed. The GPS can help the farmer apply just the right amount of seeding to the furrows. The GPS system has replaced mechanical seed spreaders that did not always plant a sufficient amount of seed to adequately grow the crops. Farmers can now test the soil properly to learn which areas need fertilizer and which areas don’t. This will save a lot of precious time and money and allow the farmer to get more work done farming than his ancestors did. It not only saves time and allows the farmer to get more work done in the day, it also saves the farmer money. Saving money will help drive up the profits the farmer makes from the crops. Not only will the GPS help the farmer harvest his present crop, he can also make plans for future crops.
The farming industry is not dead. It has joined the age of technology along with the rest of us. The GPS is not only revolutionizing the way people drive to certain destinations, it is also helping the farmer use agriculture more efficiently and effectively to get more out of farming than ever before.
Advances in technology and the growth of the internet of things are making farming more productive and efficient. This is good news for the farmers and ranchers that produce our food as well as for the consumers that eat the crops and livestock they raise. By 2050 it is estimated the population of Earth could rise to almost 10 billion people. Here are some of the technologies that are currently being used by farmers and that are expected to see an increase in use over the decades.
Self driving tractors also known as autonomous tractors are a new development released in 2016 by the company, New Holland. Combined with Geographic Positioning Systems (GPS), farmers can program tractors to till and harvest plots of land on their fields that they have programmed. The self navigating tractors can maneuver more accurately and lets farmers perform or manage others tasks from the tractor’s cab. Expect to see some more developments and additions to self driving tractors in the future.
Another agricultural technology innovation is fit bits for dairy animals such as cow. People use fitness trackers to track their health via calories burned and distance covered during a job. A fit bit for a cow would be able to measure the animal’s temperature and report on what the animal is currently doing. For example, a rancher could see whether his cows are eating, sleeping or resting. Problems with cows can also be detected quickly such as sickness, lameness and pregnancy.
GPS technology has been utilized in agriculture for a while now. Some companies have installed GPS systems on tractors. Farmers can use GPS to help them farm their lands when visibility is poor. They can also use GPS to help check soil samples and to help them decide which crops to plant in an area based on GPS info.
Motion sensor technology can also help farmers be more productive and help them conserve resources at the same time. For example, sensors in the ground below crops can tell farmers the moisture of the soil. This way, farmers can know whether they need to add more water or if there is a sufficient amount already present. Combing moisture sensors with underground pipes or drip irrigation can reduce water consumption significantly while still letting farmers get maximum productivity from their lands. This technology would be especially useful for dry climates.