The Future of Farmers

Last year's wheat, from my stash.

Last year’s wheat, from my stash.

Big Boss just came in to grab some friend eggs I made for him.  That will be his lunch/breakfast.  He was in a rush to get some new regulations tended to.  Regulations that changed this year.  They made new regs last year. And the year before. But that was last year.  New ones are going require all new equipment, techniques and $$$$.  Of course. And some kind of fee to go along with the compliance to the new rule. Heaven help you if  bureaucrats decide someone hasn’t complied to their satisfaction.  That could mean tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Heaven help us.

This past fall, a friend of mine, who is writing a book,  asked me for some information to, “fill me in on what the government is doing or wanting to mandate re cattle ranching. Are they mandating ID marks or brands or implants? mandating vaccinations? Regulating feed (genetic modification)?”

I told him Big Boss is the expert not me.  I’d have BB write him and summarize what’s going on just this past year concerning the technical and regulatory side of farming.

Actually, BB just hit the surface.  If he had gone into detail, my friend couldn’t have read it in one sitting.  And if you can’t read this stuff in one sitting, imagine dealing it with it day and day out.  Each person on this farm has a specific government agency of regulation that they deal with on a regular basis.  And we could use a dozen more to keep up with it all!

So, here’s what BB wrote.  It’s very “summarized” and he left out LOTS. But the next time you’re in the grocery store and prices have gone up…again, don’t blame the farmer/cattleman.  The cost of all of these “regulations” is mounting daily. And our market prices aren’t keeping pace. Not even close. Also remember that the farmer/rancher can’t “demand” a specific price for his product and that applies to grains products also.  The “market” sets the price and we just pray that we’ll at least break even.

And…just so you know…farmers aren’t the only ones dealing with the regulatory overload.  It’s everywhere. Have you checked gasoline prices lately?!!  🙂

After the election, I was told by our feedlot pollution consultant that word was out among consultants that the EPA was sitting on 1200 regulations to be released after the election if Obama won.

The ag community is being bombarded with many issues. On the farming side, we have a lot of irrigation regulations. All wells are metered and reports have to be sent in each Feb. regarding water use. Wells in this area are allowed 2 acre feet per year. If you exceed that figure by 15% you will be forced to give the excess back in the next crop year. Failure to comply can cost you your water right. Amazingly, for years, it was just the opposite…a law was on the books requiring the total amount to be pumped each year–or you would lose your water right. That was finally rescinded last year. Imagine how the government works–penalizing a farmer for conserving water! And now penalizing for using more than “they” deem enough.

We have changed several creek channels over the years to accommodate our irrigation of specific land areas–straightening channels, etc. Forty years ago, that took only a letter written to the State Board of Water Resources. Twenty-five years ago, nine government agencies were involved in one of our projects. Fifteen years ago, thirteen government agencies were involved. And today, you cannot get a permit to do anything like this. This shows the progression.

The Department of Wildlife is probably the worst agency to deal with. Radicals there would like to see everything returned to a pristine state of the 1800’s (which would put them out of a job!). We operate a hunting business for pheasants. The paperwork complying with this is burdensome as well.

We are currently preparing to comply with mandates for storage of fuel and oil, providing for containers around storage structures to prevent spills. Much of this is overreach. Technically, we could have one hundred 30 gallon barrels sitting around, with no consequence–but if you have one 55 gallon barrel–then you would be out of compliance. As stupid as this is, I expect some clarification in their regulations soon.

IMG_0103

From a feedlot standpoint, we have to keep records on:

1. The number of confined cattle.

2. Send in monthly reports on the amount of water in our lagoon wastewater storage.

3. List amounts and days of pumping that water.

4. Provide soil tests yearly on the amount of all minerals in the soil.

5. List all fields where manure is applied,

6. Record the time of application, amount, temperature, and condition of the soil at the time of application on all crops

7. Measure “air quality”.

Those seven are only the beginning.

We have a nutrient management plan to follow–which is ninety pages long, complete with aerial photographs of all fields. We hire a consultant to keep up with all of this, which costs us several thousand dollars each year and includes permit updates each year. A hundred dollars here, $500 there, $1000 somewhere else–at every turn, there is a permit to purchase.

We had a pen beside a dry creek bed ( which only runs water during high rain events–is dry 90% of the time). Our cattle need to cross the creek to get to pasture. I applied for a permit to pour concrete in the bottom of the creek so the cattle could cross without getting bogged down in mud during rain events which requires the removal of said cattle with a log chain and tractor, thus rescuing said cattle from impending death.

It took two years to get the permit. When it came, the regulations for the concrete were two pages in length, including a regulation requiring that the concrete had to be smoothed with a trowel for a finished look! Imagine the idiot who drew up this regulation. How can a hoofed animal walk up a 45 degree angle on concrete finished as smooth as a sidewalk? Impossible!

So, the cattleman is faced with a dilemma…comply to an insane regulation that will harm the livestock, and then animal rights agencies can scream about that. Or…do what common sense tells them and not smooth the concrete. What to do, what to do…

All of this is to say that many of our regulations make no sense. They cost the producer much time and effort. The time of filing reports is extraordinary. We have computers in our spray rigs now so we can download the field, amount of chemicals applied, date, time, rate and all of this data has to be kept on file for review.

Many of these regulations could be eliminated if those who prepare them had background in farming. The practical application (common sense) of many of these regulations is absurd. As the rural community continues to decline and we have fewer young people graduating from college with rural farming background, the situation will get nothing but worse.

When we drive people out of agriculture business, we eventually harm the consumer and the country as well. If you want to talk about national security, launch a discussion about shipping a majority of our foodstuff in from foreign countries. This will then make us akin to Biblical times when enemies surrounded the walled cities…and starved them out!

It can happen here!

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One Response to The Future of Farmers

  1. Jana Rima says:

    Takes us back to our grocery days….and the group of consultants we hired and 20k later ask them to leave..very firmly….my thoughts first reading was a farmer needs to be in government making those regulations….as Ron later said….wow….God help us All….

    Like

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