The Impact of Technology in Agriculture

The United States Farmers and Ranchers Alliance indicated that technology is not specifically about faster and better ways of doing things, but also about sustainability. Farmers have not been left behind when it comes to technological development. Innovations such as terrain contour mapping, moisture sensors, self-driving tractors and smart irrigation are gaining popularity among ranchers and farmers. The developments will positively impact farming, leading to sustainable farming for the ever growing population.

Investments in agriculture technology are continuously on the rise, with AgTech companies earning over $1.75 billion in the first six months of 2016. Farmers of today apply a heavy mix of math, data, software, and hardware in developing analyses that are beyond what the eyes can see. The wellness of the crops can also be assessed through multispectral analysis, where the rates at which plants absorb different wavelengths of sunlight are used to form conclusions.

A survey by USFRA indicates that 56 percent of consumers expect ranchers to employ innovations that help conserve the environment. The CEO of USFRA, Mr. Randy Krotz, added that most consumers understand the impact of innovations in the improvement of lives. He also noted that the U.S agricultural sector is applying technology to create more sustainable and smarter versions of the family farm.

Agriculture can be the joining factor between the benefits of using technology and the acceptance of innovation that is part of the day to day lives of consumers. SMART farms use technology and data to become more equipped and efficient in protecting the planet’s limited resources while ensuring adequate food supply. This is the very definition of sustainability and continual improvement.

Farms Might Hold the Key to the Perfect Midnight Snack

Most people think of snacking as a custom rooted in modernity. There’s good reason for it too. When people snack they usually grab the nearest bag of processed foods. It’s become the norm in modern society. But visit the local farmers market and people will have quite different ideas about snacking. The agricultural and farming spaces have a much more extensive track record with snacking than modern audiences might assume.

 

A recent article highlights the fact that the best snacks might well be found at a farmer’s market rather than a supermarket.

 

Before looking further into the subject, it’s a good idea to consider why one should change snacking habits. At the moment, the majority of the population is overweight to the point of risking increased potential for a number of health problems. The reason ultimately comes down to intake of calories at a higher level than the body needs. This might seem a minor point in relation to snacking. After all, one wouldn’t think that an occasional potato chip could be responsible for pushing someone up a pant size. But in reality snacking accounts for about one-quarter of most people’s daily calories.

 

All of that should create a more well informed perspective with which to judge a statement from Isabel Maples. She’s the spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. And she’s recently gone on record with a statement that people really shouldn’t be eating more than 100, 200 or an absolute maximum of 300 calories as a late night snack.

 

What this means for agriculture is a renewed focus on snack friendly items. People should remember that items such as apples actually have a long history as the perfect snack. They’re typically under 100 calories, which makes them a perfect fit for Isabel’s caloric recommendations. Even better, they have a long history of use.

 

Most processed snack foods are a fairly new introduction to human biology and sociology. One need only look at the average waistline to highlight the fact that it might not be a perfect fit. Meanwhile apples and the like are so healthy that they’re synonymous with traditional medical advice. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. But apples, raw vegetable sticks or similar items might also keep one from needing to constantly buy larger clothing sizes. And finally, these snacks are also associated with a greater ability to sate one’s hunger.

 

Growing Season 2017 Is Year Of Reckoning For Thousands of Farmers

The 2017 growing season may be a make or break year for thousands of farmers across the upper Midwest, especially operators focused on corn and soybeans. Prices have been tanking for two years – if there’s a third year of doldrums for the soybean and corn market, many farmers say they may go under.

 

Almost a third of grain crop and livestock farmers reported heavy losses in 2016 in Minnesota, one of the nation’s biggest producers of those commodities. And across the nation, the USDA reports that average net farm incomes fell by almost half since peaking in 2013. It’s the biggest slide in 40 years.

 

As is often the case, good news combines with bad news to create financial struggles for farmers. Last year was an excellent growing season, for example, resulting in record soybean crops. But big supply usually means low prices. While having more grain to sell cushions the blow somewhat, a low price-per-bushel is a position farmers would rather not take.

 

As it stands today, some 90 percent of farmers will have higher production costs than what commodity prices will deliver in return. Many farmers can absorb losses like that because they enjoy certain advantages, such as low debt, use of land they own outright and older machinery that’s paid for. Some 30 percent are on the wrong side of that equation, however, with debt and other ancillary expenses. The price of fuel can be critical, for example.

 

The situation is still not as dire as the farm crisis of the 1980s when literally thousands of farmers went bankrupt, lost their land and homes, and in some cases, farms that had been in the family for generations. Today most farmers will likely hang on by restructuring their debts and stretching their loan payments, according to an official with AgStar Financial Services, which services the debt of farms across the Upper Midwest.

 

Even so, getting strung out on payments and restructuring “bad” debt is never easy, and any farmer will tell you they’d rather make a straight-out profit from what they grow, pay their debts and make a healthy profit.

 

How 2017 shakes out remains to be seen. If prices rebound, farmers will be smiling. If not, some could face the end of the line.

Express Yourself: A Little Bit of Creativity Can Make Quite a Difference!

The Food Network family also includes Home & Garden Television (HGTV), the Travel Channel, the Cooking Channel and Food.com and all are conveniently accessed toward the bottom of the page of the main FoodNetwork.com website.

 

Their Organizing and Storage Guide is a feature of HGTV.com and the article “20 Organizers for a Picture-Perfect Pantry,” by Kelley Walters and Caren Baginski has some first-rate advice that can cover a wide range of kitchen cabinets or pantry (or even some home-business applications) from the usual to the extraordinary; and can transform what could otherwise be a set of tedious tasks into a lively and creative approach to the concepts of what’s entailed in organizing and storing anything from kitchen things to a quilt-maker’s studio.

 

In these particular projects, the “storage” category may even involve a cross-over into the “enjoyment” category as you exercise your creativity and ignite the everyday interaction with ordinary things into series of bright moments with formerly very dull or tiresome elements of one’s daily routine.

 

Making use of stackable containers that allow you to have a transparent view “in plain sight” with a push-button option for an airtight seal which pops up into a ‘handle’ for easy access and also let you see when you’re running low on something.

 

Rolling kitchen carts let you be mobile from one room to another or take the storage where you need it: “Perfect for holding big items like your stand mixer, extra paper towels or cases of water, it gives your kitchen an industrial edge that says, “I cook like a pro” even if you don’t know a chinois from a chiffonade,” the authors note.

 

“Gliding pantry shelves, from the ShelfGenie Classic Series are made of eco-friendly Baltic birch wood and can hold up to 100 pounds when fully extended.”

 

Classic shoe holders on the back of the pantry door are invaluable for oddly shaped smaller items, and the vinyl pockets are easy to clean with a damp cloth.

 

For the rest of the great organizing principles, read more at their website.

 

President Trump Reviewing Agricultural Community Concerns And NAFTA Agreement

President Donald Trump signed an executive order last week, ordering his administrative team to review policies and laws that regulate the agricultural sector. Trump held a round table with farmers to hear their concerns and stressed that they “not only feed the country but also millions of people around the world.””Our farmers deserve a government that works for their interests and gives them the power to do the hard work they so love to do,” President Trump said.

 

The order establishes an adhoc team, headed by the newly confirmed US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. This group will now have six months to “identify legislative, regulatory and political changes” in the national agricultural industry. Trump promised that his team intends to “identify and eliminate unnecessary regulations that harm farmers and rural communities in the country.”

 

“In the United States we produce more food than we can eat, so our true potential for economic growth lies in finding markets where incomes and population are growing,” said President Trump.

 

Despite Trump’s rhetoric, a White House official on Monday suggested that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada, as negotiated, is not so bad for the US agricultural sector. “In agreements like NAFTA, there were certainly good things on the table for the agricultural sector,” said Trump.

 

The NAFTA agreement entered into January 1, 1994, and created the world’s largest free trade area. Two decades later, that agreement isn’t exactly balanced. There are winners and losers at every trade agreement. Trade has quadrupled since the NAFTA agreement went into effect, and countries like Mexico, whom rely heavily on the agricultural industry, are looking to lose a lot.

 

The White House official acknowledged that there is now “a new conversation” in the US government over its trade agreements. Trump has insisted on his willingness to renegotiate the NAFTA agreement, although he has also said he does not want a “trade war.” Certainly, the agreement has to adapt to changing circumstances.

 

 

Is The U.S. Facing an Economic Downfall in the Poultry Agricultural Industry?

Could the United States be facing an economic crisis in the agricultural industry similar to the farmers’ debt crisis in the 1980s? There is the possibility that it may happen when we observe the events that occurred during those times. Farmers were consumed in debt which caused them to lose their land, equipment and homes. It affected global economies because of incurred loan debts and decreased assets value. The same thing happened in the mortgage industry beginning in 2007, which resulted in homeowners and entrepreneurs losing their assets.

 

 

 

 

In the 1980s, farmers relied on bank loans to purchase new equipment and inevitably increased prices for their farm products, such as chickens and turkeys. The profitability margin increased for many farmers, but only lasted for a little while. The agricultural debt in the U.S. increased to more than $350 billion by the end of 1981. Farmers were heavily in loan debt with low value of assets. According to The Huffington Post, over 60,000 farmers lost their farm and homes between 1981 through 1986.

 

 

It appears that farmers who raise poultry, including chickens and turkeys are subjected to loan debt compared to large chicken factories. Companies, such as Perdue and Tyson contract with farmers to produce the products. The poultry farmers obtain loans and put their whole possessions up for collateral without knowledge of the outcome. Just because the interest rates are low during the time of the loan, the Federal Reserve can interest rates at any time.

 

 

But, what happens when farmers have to refinance at a higher interest rate? It causes financial stress, risk, and burden on the farmer and his or her family. To start a chicken farm business, the entrepreneur needs approximately $1 million or more in capital. That’s an enormous debt for farmers considering one chicken is sold at approximately five cents per pound. So, who’s really bringing in high revenue, the chicken companies and manufacturers.

 

 

Farmers incur mostly financial debt and risk, rather than profits when they use their assets as collateral to receive loans from banking institutions. The banks are protected by federal government agencies, including Farm Service and Small Business. Who is protecting the farmers when they are encouraged to get loans and eventually default? Maybe the government can do something to start protecting the farmers who do all the hard work to raise chickens and turkeys.

 

 

Why Organic Farming is the Future

We’re living in a world now where it’s more common for our fruits and vegetables to be sprayed with chemicals than it is for our foods to be grown organically. Thankfully, there is a growing trend of people starting organic farms. Organic farming is still a relatively small industry, but it is growing because of the need and demand for cleaner food.

 

Organic farming means that all of the fruits and veggies that are being grown are not sprayed with chemicals or have artificial fertilizers used on the soil. In order for organic farming to be labeled as such, the farm needs to adhere to strict guidelines and regulations set by the USDA. If a food is labeled as being USDA organic, you can trust that it is as clean as it can possibly be. These farms have to be inspected regularly to ensure that they are still working under organic guidelines.

 

The reason organic farming is becoming so popular is because people are becoming aware of what their food is made of. Parents don’t want to be feeding their kids chemically-sprayed vegetables when they want to be introducing a healthier lifestyle into mealtimes. There have even been a variety of studies that show that even after washing the fruits and vegetables, the chemicals are still found on the foods and are being ingested by the people eating them.

 

Buying organic is easy and highly convenient now that it is becoming more popular. All you have to do is go to your local supermarket and look for the USDA organic seal. You will even find food products down the aisles that have this seal. When something is labeled as being organic, it means no chemicals were used during the growing and processing of that product. If a product says that it is natural, this does not mean the same as organic as anyone can label a product as natural without needing to follow any regulations. Switching to an organic lifestyle can be expensive, despite what you might have heard. Organic foods and produce are more expensive, but they’re a healthier choice for those interested.

 

Moving Farming from Corporate Farmers to Small Scale Farmers

There is a need for the US government to make a progressive movement to the interior communities. For that reason, it needs to stop subsidizing corporate farms and rather return the land to the small family farmers who work on the farms. Farming should not be restricted to farmers who owns 20, 000 acres of the rented land just to make a living. It is also important that everyone including the city dwellers be enlightened about the basic literacy regarding agricultural shifts that have encompassed the United States and what needs to be done regarding moving agriculture from corporate agriculture on a mass scale.

 

 

Farming business has not changed for over 200 years. We have cultivated two types of crops that are soybeans and corn. For some time, this system has benefited farmers. Over the years, there have been strong established markets for the product, and proven farming techniques. Improvement of machines over the years has improved efficiency. Well developed seeds and planting methods that have increased the yield with time. The greatest transformation that has happened to farm is the rise of large farms. Along with the two crop system, the big farms are a problem to the agriculture and the economics of agriculture.

 

 

One of the significant challenges with the big corporate farms is that, for instance, if there are just 12 of us for the 20,000 acres, we earn an average income. For us it is a better living compared to others in the field; we are happy. That may seem good until you consider that no more than 30 years, 20,000 acres provided a living for over 100 families. Is there any solution to this problem?

 

 

There is a solution to these challenges. The initial solution is that we need to stop subsidizing the current business model of large farms and the two crop system that it supports. Another solution is to create a system that would return the farms to the small family farmers who work on the rented land. Through this, we will be taking full advantage of the most valuable resource that we have; land. We must do it in a way that refrains from corporate exploitation and invests money to our farmers.

 

Agriculture Projects In Africa May Be Worsening Segregation

Climate change, food insecurity, low crop yields and significant growth in the population are four of the factors that will dictate the agricultural and economic shape of Africa during the next century. Even if the continent’s countries can successfully negotiate more lucrative trade deals and policy reforms, Africa will still have to produce more food for its people.

 

For this to happen, updated agricultural practices have to become the norm, and it’s up to smallholder farmers to make this happen. This requires having information that is relevant to the area and accurate. Unfortunately, smallholder farmers in Africa have limited access to these details, and this is largely due to a lack of modern technology.

 

Agricultural extension services could prove to be a solution to this problem. The services involve employing extension officers who promote the incorporation of new technology and methods. However, this program is severely under-funded. It’s also fairly common for government extension officers to be responsible for thousands of households, and this is difficult and sometimes impossible to manage.

 

As a solution for the government extension officer shortage, many governments in Africa are embracing the farmer to farmer extension program. This is where local members of the community become leaders for farmer and deliver necessary information to those who are growing and cultivating food for the area.

 

Fourteen months of fieldwork was conduct to see whether the farmer to farmer program is effective. Six countries in southern and eastern Africa participated in the project.

 

African farmers reported that there are several factors that make the system dysfunctional. One of the issues was trust, since some lead farmers were not approachable due to gender or religious biases. Lead farmers were also handling certain agricultural issues correctly, according to the farmers under their leadership. Jealousy was also a huge factor, since the lead farmers were often supplied with all they needed to try new technologies, while the farmers under them still struggle financially and agriculturally. This led many farmers to feel as though the system is unfair and does not benefit African communities as a whole.

 

For more information on agricultural disparities in Africa and possible solutions, check out the Huffington Post website.

 

Immigration Reforms Poosible Impact on Agriculture and Farming

During the upcoming United States presidential election one of the most hotly contested items will be immigration reform. While all parties tend to agree that there are a significant amount of illegal immigrants in the United States, how to handle the issue seems to be a big center of disagreement. While some politicians and citizens would prefer to limit immigration, a recent news article (http://www.tribdem.com/news/immigrant-workers-are-key-for-agriculture-patton-farmer-says/article_bd584ed0-6366-11e6-9e7a-87eace147f59.html) has stated that some of the core industries in the United States rely heavily on immigrants and even illegal aliens.

 

One industry in the United States that continues to rely heavily on immigrant labor is the farming and agriculture industry. There are many reasons why this industry times to rely on immigrants. One key belief is that the amount of hard labor that goes into farming dissuades many people from going into the field. Furthermore, tight operating margins in the agriculture and farming industry prevent most farmers from offering wages much higher than minimum wage.

 

While there is a clear need for the labor from immigrants in the United States to help with the agriculture and farming industry, there are still many concerned that those working in this field could be undocumented. In state and local town hall meetings across the United States a wide variety of suggestions have been raised to help control this issue. One issue is to help increase the likelihood and efficiency of the immigration process to ensure those that are here to work are able to do so.

 

Another group that has been concerned about the use of immigrant labor in the agriculture and farming industry have been civil rights activists. These groups are concerned that immigrants are not provided with the same rights as far as having a safe place to work and fair benefits. Those civil rights groups have suggested coming up with a uniform set of requirements regarding unionization or basic compensation and benefits for those who work in the agriculture and farming industry.