Commentary: Revamping agriculture’s image

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It’s amazing that in the year 2012 the majority of people in the United States still think the practice of agriculture is antiquated and stuck in the past. The image of agriculture remains the picturesque ideal of open lands with red and white barns. People don’t think that some of the greatest, most advanced technology is being used on the farm.

The agriculture industry has struggled with its image in recent years. Activists want to paint the picture that agriculture is destructive; dumping chemicals and fertilizer on the ground and into the groundwater, uses monocultures that destroy wildlife habitats and produces food that is harmful to humans and livestock. Organic groups want to pit Big Ag against the family farmer. But nowhere in any of these groups is it revealed that agriculture has moved into the modern age of technology. Until now.

This week, USA Today published an article describing the variety of technology now used on the modern farm. Click here to read the story. “Technology is king down on the farm” highlights the use of precision ag tools, which have been reshaping the way the American farmer grows his crops.

The use of satellites, computers, microchips, GPS telemetry and biotechnology has coalesced into a whole precision agriculture package to make growing crops easier. All of this technology allows farmers to place the right product, at the right spot, at the right time in the right amount. Farmers and applicators have data at their fingertips on demand and often right up to the minute they need it. Data is transferred over great distances.

At the Agricultural Retailers Association annual conference and expo Nov. 27-29, retailers got a glimpse of how John Deere sees the future of farming. The company shared a video it uses to demonstrate its concept of farming in the future with FarmSight. You can view the video here. Several attendees mentioned how John Deere and the agriculture industry need to show the world this view of agriculture. They need to realize that agriculture has gone high-tech.

Auto steer tractors, sub-inch accuracy planting, variable rate fertilizer applications and sharing data from the tractor cab are all common place technologies being used today. This technology is new, advanced and critical for farmers to produce high quality crops.

With advances in seed technology, fertilizers and precision application, U.S. farmers are poised to remain the top ag producers in the world. Their job is more complex than ever and thankfully they have sophisticated technology to help them be the most efficient farmers in the world.

So when those city slickers say farming is old school, show them USA Today’s article or the John Deere video. It’s up to everyone in the industry to help share the true view of how agriculture is done today.

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