My Way of Thinking: The U.S. farmer’s fit in global ag

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Rich Keller After attending two major conferences nearly back to back with agricultural economic and technology forecasters, my head was full of scenarios about the future of the U.S. farmer in the world economy.

The simple questions about whether U.S. farmland is overpriced at the levels it has been selling at during the final quarter of this year and whether the ag economy will continue to prosper were addressed in multiple presentations about monetary policy, developing nations’ agricultural production, the increasing population’s food demand, the election’s impact on the economy and more inter-related topics. You’ll be able to read some of what I pulled from presentations at the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers’ AgroNomics—Vision 2013 conference starting on page 40. 

In general, each speaker was positive about the near-term future of agricultural prices and adoption of new technology by farmers to keep the U.S. as the leader in per acre production, even though percentage of total production is declining. Some increased production, such as that of China, is for internal use, and other new production is almost strictly for export like that of Brazil.

The AgGateway Annual Meeting and Conference in Albuquerque, N.M., that came next had more emphasis on the collaboration of companies in the ag industry for U.S. success. There was still a focus on doing business in the context of changing world economies.

Garrett Lofto, president, Agribusiness Group, Simplot, as the keynote speaker at the AgGateway conference, took the discussion to the level of agricultural retailers and product manufacturers. His presentation was titled similar to economists’ presentations of the previous week at the ASFMRA conference in Indianapolis, Ind., but Lofto provided a local business view to his “Influences on Agriculture and How They Will Shape Our Future.”

Lofto began by talking about the challenges of producing enough food and feed and how U.S. farmers have gone from competing with farmers in the neighboring county to farmers around the world. He quickly transitioned to how farmers in the U.S. are rapidly advancing in utilizing technology to stay ahead of those global competitors.

Today’s growers are becoming extremely sophisticated. They are showing talent to link all their technology and precision systems for increased production. Staying ahead of the most sophisticated farmers is becoming difficult.

“People calling on them will have to have a high degree of intellectual capacity. So, our challenge is how to stay ahead of the grower…We need people who can take technology and apply it to the dirt,” Lofto said.

Simplot’s crop advisor sales people came to a realization “a while back,” he said. “If we don’t start looking at things differently, farmers won’t need us anymore. So, we better bring something to the table because tomorrow’s grower will be willing to fire our industry if we don’t bring something of value.”

AgGateway is an association that collaborates in advancing connectivity in this new electronic communications world while being aware of regulations against establishing monopolies. Lofto said that collaboration by companies to link technology and advanced systems to provide what the farmer needs is becoming more and more necessary. Companies need to rely on new discoveries and sharing what makes sense to share.

“Competition is healthy, but there are areas where we can collaborate as an industry as a whole, and we need to identify where those [areas] are,” he said.

Lofto quoted Franklin D. Roosevelt to end his presentation. “Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point, not further. Cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off.”

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