What About Our Rights?

Here in the United States we are pretty fortunate. We have so many rights and freedoms that people in other countries do not have. One of those that is special is the right to own property. If you own property to an extent you can do as you please (with some exceptions). However there are some events that have transpired recently that has caused concern as the rights of property owners have been endangered or taken away. Recently there are two counties in Oregon that were in the news, Josephine and Jackson counties are adjacent to each other in southwestern Oregon. They both have passed bans on the planting of genetically engineered crops by popular vote in the last few weeks. Jackson county has around 200,000 residents and their website says that “Industries that show steady growth in Jackson County include wine, film, and farming—pointing to how Jackson County is distinguished as a place where entrepreneurship thrives.” I do not see how passing a GMO ban allows farming or entrepreneurship to thrive, but alas that is what they claim. Both of these counties have a lot of agricultural production and are large producers of sugar beets. Sugar beets is one of the eight crops in the U.S. that are approved GM crops. There are two major concerns I see from this ban. First of all it is interesting that in Jackson County only 52% of those registered to vote actually voted. 33% of the registered voters voted yes for the ban. That 33% made a decision for the majority. Folks, this goes to show the importance of voting, that 33% may have been the only people in the county who wanted GMO’s banned, but they got their way. Secondly, this ban takes away the rights of the citizens. Farmers can no longer make decisions on the types of crops they will grow on their OWN property. Both organic and conventional farmers have lost the choice they once had as to the type of production method they would choose. Shouldn’t all farmers have the right to farm how they want? Farming is a business, a business that is in the business of feeding people. If legislation like this continues to be passed we will not only lessen the amount of food we produce, but it takes away the rights of US farmers to make production decisions. GMO issue? Just a ban? It appears to be a limitation on rights. Another battle that is being fought across by farmers and landowners across the country is with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and their definition of “navigable waters.” “Navigable waters” currently means water such as rivers, streams and lakes (which makes sense-you can actually navigate them), they are used for business or transportation. Recently, the EPA has been working on The Waters of the United States Initiative and proposing changes to this definition. Are you ready for this? The EPA is proposing that puddles, ponds, ditches, ephemerals and isolated wetlands fall under the Clean Water Act. When I first heard about this maybe a year or two ago that this was being considered I literally laughed out loud. puddle This would expand the authority of the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The EPA and the Army Corps have the authority over the “navigable waters,” and if this were to come about it would make it extremely difficult to farm and be competitive and profitable. Let’s say it rains a couple of inches and a puddle forms in my field. If I were to go out and spray my soybeans or till the soil to prepare for planting this would be considered a “discharge” to those so-called “navigable waters,” (aka that puddle). Activities that are considered a “discharge” cannot legally go forward without the required permit. If this legislation was to pass the EPA will have the ability to approve and deny a discharge permits. If denied, this would greatly restrict a farmer’s ability to operate their farm. If the permit was approved, the farmer would then need to provide paperwork and meet strict requirements. If you violate the law? Violations would fall as penalties of unlawful “discharges” which could cost you up to $37,500 per violation PER DAY. If this were to pass this would be a huge blow to the US Farm Economy and even to anyone who owns property. That mud puddle your children play in is considered navigable. I know our government is often said to be “by the people, for the people,” but sometime you really have to look a little deeper at issues to see what the motives really are. If this legislation was instated by the EPA, it would hurt farmers and their ability to produce food which means food prices go up for everyone. Just something to think about. (If you would like to exercise your right as citizen to contact the EPA about The Waters of the United States Initiative, please do and tell them to #DitchTheRule you can take action here on the American Farm Bureau’s website.

UPDATE: October 7, 2014

We are now in a public comment period with the EPA. Anyone can go online by clicking here and provide comments to the EPA as to why you are for/against this proposed legislation. I would HIGHLY encourage you to let them know your thoughts on the issue. If you are a homeowner this is something you should be concerned about.

Here are a couple of stories on the proposed rule.

New York Times

See Maps Showing How Far Their Reach Would Go In Your State

That’s Enough- “Let It Go” Parody by Missouri Farm Bureau

Tell EPA to “Ditch the Rule” Video

Pie and Peanuts

Seeing that today is March 14 it has been dubbed as Pi Day, pi like 3.14159265359 or to you mathematicians, the distance around a perfect circle, or the circumference, divided by the distance across it, or the diameter. Nerds everywhere have celebrated this day today, I decided to celebrate by making a pie, a peanut butter pie to be exact because it is National Peanut Month.

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Peanuts are grown in numerous states across the United States, but seven states account for 99% of the peanuts produced. Georgia, Texas and Alabama are the top three producing states. 50% of peanuts grown in the United States are grown within a 100 mile radius of Dothan, Alabama! There are four kinds of peanuts grown in the United States and you can learn about them here.

ImagePeanuts are different than most plants, the peanut plant flowers above the ground, but fruits below ground. It takes 4 to 5 months for the peanut to reach maturity. Planting usually happens in April or May and harvest is typically in September or October.

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About 10 days after planting a green leafy plant will grow on top of the ground, but interestingly the fruit (peanut) is below ground. Peanuts like water and need 1 1/2-2 inches of water a week when the pods are filling out. When the peanuts have reached maturity. the farmer will drive a digger through the green rows of peanut. The digger has long blades that run four to six inches under the ground. The plant is loosened and the main root is cut. Just behind the blade, a shaker lifts the plant from the soil, shakes the dirt from the peanuts, rotates the plant and lays the plant back down in a “windrow”—with peanuts up and leaves down. The peanuts will then lay exposed in the field for several days in order to dry out moisture. Here is a great video showing the inverting process.

After the peanuts dry they are combined where the plant is separated from the nut portion. The peanuts are put in trailers and air is blasted into the trailers to further dry the nuts. There can be no more than 10% moisture in order to store them. There are enough peanuts harvested from each acre so that you could make 30,000 peanut butter sandwiches!

Peanuts are good for you! They contain protein, mostly good fats, fiber and more than 30 essential vitamins and nutrients. Peanuts are used for products like roasted peanuts,peanut butter and oils for cooking and the hulls are often used in chicken houses instead of wood shavings. George Washington Carver came up with over 300 uses for peanuts including shampoos, laxatives, dyes, etc.

My favorite use for peanuts is for cooking purposes. Peanut butter fudge and pie being my two favorites. Since it was Pi day I whipped up a simple peanut butter pie that is quite tasty and so simple.

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Peanut Butter Pie

  • 1 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1 package (8 Ounce) Softened Cream Cheese
  • 1-1/4 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1 package (8 Ounce) Cool Whip, Thawed
  • 1 prepared graham cracker crust (or if you are feeling froggy you can make one)

To Make:
Beat the peanut butter with the cream cheese until smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add in the thawed Cool Whip and beat mixture until smooth, scraping the sides as needed.

Pour filling into crust, evening out the top with a knife or spatula. Chill for at least an hour before serving.

Hungry for more peanut info? Check out some fun facts from the National Peanut Board.

Harvest: My Favorite Time of Year

I was an August baby, at home my mom has pictures of me in the cotton field with my dad when I was just a few weeks old. I’ve always been around it been around harvest in the fall . My dad quit farming a few years ago, but because my younger brothers and I have started farming I am still around it. This fall I am looking forward to harvesting my first soybean crop and I am beyond excited.

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My soybeans were looking good when I was home a few weekends ago. They are all but ready to harvest.

Yesterday I had an opportunity to do something I usually do not get to do in Auburn. I left class and went and went to the fields. This time it was not to work. I am writing an article about one of my classmates Mark so I needed some pictures of him working. Although I was along to take pictures it was such a thrill to spend some time in the soybeans.

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Watching soybeans and corn so intently with my internship this summer I am more amazed than ever at the  cycle plants go through. It is absolutely amazing to watch tiny seeds push through hard crusted soil, it is amazing to see them be subjected to harsh environmental conditions and see them bounce back. I have a post in mind to do soon relating seeds/plants to life, but ‘m not going to jump in on that today.

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I’m so thankful that the cycle of life exists for plants, its really remarkable to see how a tiny seed can be planted and cared for and can be turned into a useful product that may be turned into food, fiber, fuel, plastics, medicines, etc. Harvest is when farmers can see all their hard work come to fruition. Some years depending on drought and other factors it may not be a good year, but those are things we do not have control over.

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Another reason I like harvest is just the ability to be outside. Typically the weather has cooled off, blue skies, clear and cool mornings and evenings. I think that is just what I needed yesterday, taking off work and spending some time outside was just the therapy I needed to break up the afternoon work cycle I am in each day. Yesterday was a beautiful afternoon, I wish I could have spent all afternoon there, but alasImage

Doing More With Less

Today I had the opportunity to visit Monsanto’s Water Usage Learning Center in Gothanburg, Nebraska.

It was so interesting to learn about the research they are doing with fertilizer, water, drought resistance, weeds, etc. however there was one particular part of the farm that really caught my attention.
There was several strips of crops that my tour guide Robert explained are showing how productivity has increased over the last 80 years and even some examples of corn in its original grass form. I know the stats and try to use them, but to see them in actual for was so interesting.
The first plot was the amount of corn it took to make a bushel in 1930. It took about 580 square feet to make one bushel of corn (a bushel of corn is 56 pounds)

In the 1950’s it took 384 square feet to raise one bushel of corn
In the 1970’s 192 square feet was required for one bushel of corn

In the 1996 136 square feet was required for one bushel. This year was so important to agriculture as this is when RoundUp was introduced. It allowed farmers to spray their fields when weeds were present and not kill the crops they were growing. This not only took care of weeds, but is a conservation practice, farmers do not necessarily have to plow their fields anymore.
Today farmers on average are able to get 165 bushels and acre and a bushel can be grown on only 104 square feet.

What’s next you may ask? By the year 2030 it is Monsanto’s goal for farmers to be able to produce 300 bushels and acre on only 56 square feet of ground! This is quite a feat, but things are heading in the right direction.

It is amazing when you look at the side view of these plots to see the difference form the 1930’s compared to today.
Farmers are efficiency experts. Today’s farmer feeds 155, what a difference from the 19 people fed by one farmer in 1940. They know exactly how to manage their crops in order to be productive. They know approximately how many plants are in their fields in order to be able to know how much fertilizer, water, pesticides, herbicides are to be applied if they are needed. They do not apply anything other than what is needed because it is costly and they have to be careful to conserve our natural resources. They realize more than anyone how important taking care of what the Earth has as more land will not be created 

Doing more with less is not only with row crops but the livestock industry according to (www.plentytothinkabout.org)
For example, since 1944, annual production
of milk per cow has quadrupled in the United States,

32 which means we need

far fewer cows to meet the demand for milk. Consequently:
• Modern production of every gallon of milk requires 65 percent less water
and 90 percent less land than it did in 1944.
• 76 percent less manure is being produced for each gallon of milk sold.
• The “carbon footprint” for a gallon of milk in 2007 was 63 percent lower
than it was in 1944.

 

The story is very much the same for every pound of beef found in the meat case.
• We need nearly a third fewer cattle today to meet demand than we did in 1977.
• Each pound of beef produced in the United States today requires 14 percent
less water and 34 percent less land, and beef production generates 20
percent less manure than in 1977.
• The “carbon footprint” for each pound of beef we buy today is 18 percent
lower than it was a generation ago.


Less land is available today for production with the way our population is growing. So basically today’s farmer is having to do more with less. (I think this means farmers should go into politics). They are using less land, water and implements than they ever have and are more productive than ever.



Why Do We Do What We Do?


About two weeks ago now I spoke at the Auburn Kiwanis Club on current topics in agriculture and at the end of my presentation a gentleman asked “Farming is not an easy job, why do people like you want to do it?” I have always recognized that farming is not the easiest job to have, but I have always thought of it as being a rewarding job. Over the last few weeks and especially after Dodge’s Super Bowl Commercial based on the Paul Harvey Segment “God Made A Farmer” I have thought more about WHY people continue to farm.



Growing up, farming was what my dad did, what my grandfather had done. At the age of only a few weeks old I have pictures where my mom had taken me to the cotton field to visit my dad when he was harvesting. My brothers and I grew up enjoying the farm life, we rode equipment with dad and his workers, traveled all over Limestone County with mom as she would help dad move from one field to the other during planting, harvest and all in between.



At a young age I do not think we understood the importance of what he was doing. I clearly remember my little brother Thomas when he was a few years old asking my dad “Daddy, when are you going to get a REAL job?” of course everyone laughed at that. It wasn’t until we were older that we realized what a REAL job farming is.That is one thing I try to impress upon young kids when I visit schools, I put it to them like this “farmers have jobs just like their parents, but instead of driving to the office, they go out and grow our food.”

Like with any job, some days in farming are better than others. There are the days when tractors won’t start, you lock the keys in the truck, animals die, belts break, employees don’t show up, not enough rain, too much rain, extreme heat, and extreme cold. Whatever the circumstances things still have to be finished. Crops nor animals can wait for better weather, vacations to be over, etc. I often run into people who question farmers and their care of their animals. They often will scoff that “farmers are only doing it for the money.” In a sense that is true, it is a business you have to retain profitability in order to keep going (however every year profitability does not always happen). Farmers show the utmost care and concern for their livestock and their well-being. Right now for example it is winter time in most parts of the country (Alabama’s weather has not yet realized it is winter), but winter time can be tough to function outdoors, must less have to care for livestock like my friend Melissa Keyes and her family does out in Springfield, Nebraska. Currently they have about 150 mama cows that will be having calves within the next two months. No matter the conditions they provide the best care for their Angus cattle.


Right before Christmas she explained some of the challenges snow provides for their farm and even talked about how Christmas morning was like any other morning until the cows were fed and the snow was shoveled out of the bunkers. Other friends have talked about times when they had to postpone vacations, dates, and other events due to sick or pregnant animals. Would you postpone a family vacation because your dog or cat was sick?

When it all comes down to it I think one of the main reasons farmers continue to do what they do amist the challenges they face is pride. Not a bad kind of pride, pride in the product of their toil. I’m starting to see that through my own experiences. As I have mentioned previously I am growing my first crops of my own this year. I am so proud of my wheat! I planted it in November and it is coming along so nicely. I love watching it grow and figuring out the best way to make sure it is harvested successfully.  



My brother went home this weekend and I was not able to, but I was so excited to get to see the pictures of how it has grown since I saw it last. My dad has often talked about cotton. It is a pretty cantankerous crop to grow. It takes a lot of oversight and adjusting throughout its growing span, but when it is opening up and has reached maturity it is something you look at and are proud of. Farmers take pride in what they produce whether it be a cow, cotton, catfish, peanuts, alfalfa, you name it. Also farmers take great pride in what they are doing: feeding their families, country and world. We are adding a million people to the world’s population every five days which is equal to a Chicago every week! Farmers are a necessity to feed all of these new people being added to the world daily. Farmers also take pride in their lifestyle. A lot of my friends in other colleges here at Auburn have the idea that being an “ag major” is just that an ag major. Being an agriculture major is so much more than just a course of study. It is a way of life and extremely important to the continued survival of mankind. Farmers take pride in the life lessons and values learned on the farm.


Farmers love what they do and take pride in it, otherwise they wouldn’t do it. They love the land, their animals, people, the sun, rain, and the challenge. It is a job demanding of their time and physical bodies, but it is a noble profession and wonderful way of life. I know I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I realize it is not for everyone and I’m not saying anyone who doesn’t is inferior. The pride and love of agriculture and its future is what keeps me and two million other farmers in the United States plowing on.