FARMER EXPLAINS WHY CHEMICALS ARE IMPORTANT TO HIS FARM

To follow up on yesterday’s post, meet Jake Freestone again, as he shows us around two local plots of farm ground in the EU.

One plot is planted in cover crops. The cover crops help fix nitrogen into the soil, so that Jake doesn’t have to apply additional synthetic fertilizer before he plants his cash crop. The cover crops reduce soil erosion because all those roots are fixing the soil and protecting it from heavy rains. The cover crops add organic matter to the soil which you can see is teaming with life. The cover crops are a huge benefit to the soil and to the environment.

But the cover crops are only an option if farmers have access to chemicals that will kill the cover crops and prepare the field for the cash crop in the spring. Without access to safe chemicals, the barren field becomes the necessary management tactic.

Without cover crops, heavy tillage is what farmers must do to prepare the field for spring planting. The soil is left vulnerable to heavy rains. No organic matter is added. No nitrogen is fixed, so fertilizers must be applied. More passes over the field use more fuel and equal more air emissions.

Glyphosate and other safe chemicals HELP farmers protect the environment. If you don’t believe me, believe Jake.

THE CONSEQUENCES WHEN TECHNOLOGY IS WITHHELD: A FARMER’S PERSPECTIVE

This article originally posted by Global Farmer Network.

How much would your life change if suddenly the government were to ban mobile phones?

It would alter everything, from how you work to how you communicate with your family. In time, perhaps, you’d get used to it: Our parents managed to survive without these devices in their pockets for most of their lives. I anticipate we’d figure out a way as well.

I, along with the majority of the population, do not want to revert to 20th-century technology. We’d lose so much.

Farmers, however, face constant pressure to go backward in time. Here in Europe, for example, politicians last year nearly banned us from using the world’s most popular crop-protection tool. This year, a court has released a judgment that will deny our access to several products that defend crops from pests whose activity damages or destroys.

All too often, people see technology as a threat rather than a resource. This is especially true when it involves a poorly understood technology that’s vulnerable to propaganda and misunderstanding. In my case, this means technology specific to agriculture, needed by farmers but also scorned by people who don’t understand or appreciate the difficulties of sustainable agriculture and take for granted that their food will show up at reasonable prices in grocery stores and restaurants.

An obvious example for Europeans is GMO food. Whereas much of the rest of the world has embraced this safe technology—Argentina, Brazil, Canada, South Africa, the United States, and more—much of Europe has rejected it. Most consumers don’t know what they’re missing, but we farmers do, because we know that our competitors in other nations have taken advantage of sound science to grow more food on less land.

The debate will only intensify, as gene-editing tools give farmers even more versatility—especially as consumers begin to clamor for near-future advances that promise to improve the nutrition and taste of what we eat every day.

But that’s to come. We’re presently in the thick of several controversies that affect how I farm and produce food right now.

Consider the case of glyphosate, a crop-protection technology that helps me fight weeds. In 2017, the European Union nearly banned it—and the activists behind this political agenda haven’t given up. They may yet succeed in having glyphosate outlawed

For two decades, glyphosate has helped us grow food sustainably on our farm, which is in the United Kingdom, in an area called the West Midlands. We raise bread-making wheat, malting barley, linseed, and more. We also set aside a small part of our acreage for salad onions and handpicked peas and have a flock of 1,200 grazing ewes.

If we were to lose glyphosate, we’d have to return to old-fashioned cultivation for weed control, which means using machinery to turn over topsoil. This would come with a steep environmental and economic cost. We’d suffer soil erosion, turn to stronger chemical controls, and produce less food.

Long experience tells us that glyphosate is safe. If it weren’t safe, I would refuse to use it on my farm. When it comes to chemical applications to fields, of course, farmers are on the front lines. We face the greatest risk of harmful exposure. It makes no sense for us to adopt products that pose threats to our health. That would be suicidal.

Better than experience is science—and science, too, tells us that glyphosate is safe. It’s toxic to weeds, but it breaks down quickly and does not enter the human food chain. Regulatory panels have confirmed this, including the European Food Safety Authority and the European Chemical Agency.

The French-based International Agency for Research on Cancer is the single outlier. It claims a connection between glyphosate and cancer in people. Mainstream scientists have debunked its conclusions, and IARC has a reputation for pursuing scary theories rather than embracing scientific evidence. Yet its statement have prompted activist groups to turn glyphosate into an issue of politics, rather than a matter of science, agriculture, and consumer economics.

Some might say: Better safe than sorry. Initially, that familiar saying sounds reasonable, and it’s at the heart of the “precautionary principle,” which drives so much of the regulatory decision-making in Europe.  The idea is that if we can’t be absolutely certain about a product’s potential hazards, then we shouldn’t allow its widespread use.

In practice, the precautionary principle smothers innovation: nothing is ever safe enough to satisfy everyone. If we followed it in everything, we’d have to ban mobile phones, because the IARC has classified them as “possibly carcinogenic.”

Thankfully, we haven’t taken this step—but we’ve taken it in other areas, especially agriculture. This is partly because only farmers see the regulations that affect us. They in fact affect everybody, but they’re invisible to non-farmers, which is to say most people.

As it happens, there’s nothing safe about denying farmers access to the crop-protection technology of glyphosate—and doing so would deliver a series of unwelcome and unintended consequences on my farm and the farms of others.

The first is that our soil would erode, causing us to lose moisture, nutrients, and biodiversity. We’d resort to alternative sprays that are more toxic and stay in the soil longer. We’d also run our equipment over our farmland more frequently, increasing our emission of greenhouse gases.

The advent of glyphosate allowed us to abandon these harmful practices. Banning it would pressure us to take them up again.

We’d grow less food, too. If our crops face more competition from weeds, our acres would become less productive. This means that food prices would inch upward. It’s simple economics: Reduced supplies mean higher costs for consumers.

One of the miracles of modern agriculture is that we grow more food on less land than ever before.  This is a boon for conservation.  A ban on glyphosate would turn back the clock: We’d grow less food on more land, hurting our efforts to conserve.

Will we lose glyphosate? I’m not sure. But I do know that we’re losing crop-protection tools all the time. In May, for example, a European court approved a ban of “neonics,” a popular pest-fighting technology. The allegation—and it’s merely an allegation—is that neonics kill too many bees. The science on this is far from clear, and many factors stress bee populations, from parasites and diseases to a loss of habitat and nesting sites. None of these causes have anything to do with the crop-protection tools that farmers use, and yet we’re the ones who have to pay the price.

So imagine a ban that causes you to give up your mobile phone. The sensation is not altogether different from my experience as a farmer, forced to confront the possibility of losing the latest technologies and drifting backward in time.

Jake Freestone
Farm Manager at Overbury Farms, West Midlands, United Kingdom

PESTICIDES ARE NOT REGULATED – FALSE!

We have a surprise for you! The crop protection industry works in concert with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal and state regulatory agencies to bring products to market after a thorough evaluation and approval process.

EPA regulates pesticide use pursuant to the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. Before a pesticide can be sold to farmers, pesticide manufacturers must demonstrate that the pesticide will not result in unreasonable adverse effects on the environment and a crop may not be treated with a pesticide unless EPA has specifically approved the pesticide for use on that crop.

Federal law ensures that any pesticide residues on your food are safe for you and your family. The process of gaining pre-market approval or “registering” a new pesticide product is intentionally rigorous, and it takes up to a decade before a new product is available to growers. As companies register new products, EPA requires them to submit more than 1,000 pages of scientific data that evaluate any potential product risk for the Agency to review.

Since 1959, Congress has updated pesticide laws multiple times and currently mandates that EPA re-review registered products at least every 15 years to make sure they meet current scientific and regulatory standards. In addition, manufacturers spend a great deal of resources ensuring the continued agronomic value of their products.

Source: http://giveacrop.org/myth-vs-fact/ 

FARMERS DON’T SPRAY A LOT OF CHEMICALS …

If you’re worried about the chemicals or pesticides in your food, Sarah, a farmer from North Dakota can ease your mind.

In this video, she teaches us that farmers are applying chemicals equaling no more than a cup of coffee to their fields that are about the size of a football field. She also explains that the technology farmers use today allows them to control the size of the droplets of pesticides they apply and that they can apply varying amounts to the field – depending on each section’s need – down to the square inch.

Feel better? If not, ask questions in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!

YOU’VE GOT A NASTY BUG ON YOUR HANDS

This is definitely funny, and we love the way that CropLife America makes using crop protection funny, but it’s a serious issue too.

My son learned about using pesticides this year with his 4-H flower gardening project. Asian beetles were eating his geraniums until we got the trusty old Seven from the garage and sprinkled some all over his flowers, protecting his hard work for the coming county fair.

The same is true for farmers and their crops, except more is on the line. If they don’t use pesticides to protect their crops from bugs, diseases, and weeds, their crop could fail. And without an income for the year, the future of the family farm is in jeopardy.

Crop protection is sorely needed. Yes, the idea of pesticides is a scary one for some people, but farmers use them safely and each pesticide is thoroughly tested before it is approved for use.

Stay tuned for more on crop protection the rest of this week!

NEEDING PATIENCE

I came across this post on Facebook recently and after I thought about it for a few days, I just couldn’t not share it with you.  How many of us haven’t been through this?  

Little ones are always a challenge, but it is even more important on the farm that they are included and invested in the work farmers are doing.  Only ONE PERCENT of the population are farmers.  If we want to be able to keep the family farm afloat in the U.S., farmers must invest in their children along with everything else they are supposed to do.

Farmers are the ultimate superheroes.

PUT ON YOUR PATIENCE PANTS, by Krista

This photo was taken while planting last spring but it sets the stage for a story that has been on my mind lately so I wanted to share now. Side note, browsing my May 2017 pictures to find this one I couldn’t help but have conflicting love/hate feelings in seeing how much the girls have changed in the last year!

The machines we use to harvest ours crops have “buddy seats” and large cabs with space for passengers to ride along. But tractors, the machines that pull the planter, have a much smaller cab, so it’s not as easy for extra people to ride along. Plus, planting must be done with great precision and distractions can mean the seeds do not get planted correctly.

For those reasons, we typically do not spend much time in the tractor during planting. But on the day this photo was taken, Brett was going to be planting late into the evening so the girls and I took a meal he could eat on the go. And the two big girls rode one round in the planter with him.

After the crop started growing, Brett came home one day after he had been out to check this field and told me he could tell exactly where the girls got in and out of the tractor. There were skips in the field because he didn’t get the planter turned on and off in the right place. The initial feeling when you see skips in your field is frustration. Isn’t it always frustrating when something doesn’t turn out as you planned?

But let’s be real. Often when little kids are involved the things we do don’t go as planned. Or maybe they take a bit longer, or aren’t done as well as the experienced person would have done, or maybe there’s extra time spent on clean up.

This isn’t just applicable to farming, but everything. I think of this often when the girls want to help with preparing a meal or baking a batch of cookies. Wouldn’t it be so easy to just do it myself? I would get done faster, the finished product would be just how I want it, and I wouldn’t have as big of a mess. This is especially applicable to decorated sugar cookies. Have you used those itty bitty round sprinkles that roll for miles and are virtually impossible to sweep up? Whoever came up with those has clearly never decorated cookies with a 3 year old.

But here’s the thing. If we don’t put on our patience pants and take time to allow the kids to be part of the things we do, how can we ever expect them to want to be involved with those things as they get older? How can we expect them to develop a passion or appreciation for those things?

While it’s our hope that at least one of the girls will want to continue our family farm, we want the girls to grow up with a strong appreciation for agriculture regardless of what they choose to do in their future. If we want to instill our passion for agriculture in them, we have to make them a part of the farm and give them a chance to start taking on roles now.

And you know what happens when the kids become involved and have a chance to participate in the things you are doing? They improve. They learn what the next step is. They pull ingredients out of the fridge. They open the gate to the barn. They grab a rag and clean a spot off the floor when they spill. They color quietly during the Church service. All are a work in progress, but you can see improvement when they are excited to be included.

And you know what happens to parents when they let kids become more involved? You realize how helpful little ones can be. You find ways to simplify and eliminate frustrations. Like using the long bar sprinkles “jimmies” instead of those little round sprinkles.

I admit, I still have a great deal of improvement to make in this area myself. When I begin to feel a frustrated about something, I remind myself that sprinkles on the floor or a blank spot in the field are pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things. If that’s the cost for building passion in the girls, that’s a price I’m willing to pay.

5 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT FARMING

Originally published by BestFoodFacts.org

Cows and chickens, fields of corn, a big red barn, green tractors and dusty jeans – these are just a few of the images that come to mind when people hear the word “farming.” But for today’s farmers, there is much more to agriculture than meets the eye. We spoke with three farmers for their insights on how and why they’re committed to producing safe, nutritious and affordable food.

Here are five things we learned:

1. Most farms are owned and operated by families.
The 2012 Census of Agriculture shows that 97 percent of the 2.1 million farms in the United States are family-owned operations. Most farmers would tell you that working with their family is key to why they are so passionate about what they do.

“The biggest misconception I’ve heard would be that, as farms have gotten bigger, they have been labeled as factory farms. That we just use the land and move on. Yet, every farmer I know is very family-oriented. I love that our farm is something I can pass on to my family, a legacy, a business and a way of life that my kids love,” said William Layton, a third-generation Maryland farmer and owner of Layton’s Chance Vineyards and Winery.

Jenny Rhodes, University of Maryland Extension Educator in Agriculture and Natural Resources, who owns and operates a grain and broiler chicken farm with her family, said, “I love the whole family aspect and wanted my children to grow up the way I did. Instead of rushing home to spend a few hours with my family, we can spend time together working together. We are all family farms and at the end of the day it’s families working.”

2. Farming is efficient because it is high tech.
Farmers use technology to make advances in producing more food that is more safe, affordable, and produced more efficiently than ever before. Layton said, “Many people have an idea of the old-fashioned farmer, but in reality I spend half of my time in the office making GPS maps for what is going on in the field at any given point. We also have tractors that drive themselves, so we are very technology-based, and technology creates efficiency.”

“Everything you do in farming has to be efficient and sustainable and I love working to improve the resources on our farm so that we can do that,” explained Jenny Schmidt, a registered dietitian and Maryland farmer, whose family produces corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, hay, tomatoes, green beans and wine grapes. “When I talk to people about pesticide usage on our farm, I explain that our sprayer for our tomatoes, green beans, wheat, corn and soybeans sprays at the rate of 15-20 gallons per acre for herbicides. It is a 750-gallon tank so using 15 gallons per acre, this sprayer can cover 50 acres per tank – that’s only 0.04 ounces per square foot. This type of efficiency wouldn’t be possible without technology. Also, many people think we are dousing our fields with pesticides, but that would be inefficient. Spraying isn’t dousing.” Learn more about how the “dose makes the poison” in pesticide usage in “Should You Be Concerned with Pesticides On Produce?”.

3. Farmers are passionate about producing food.
“The thing that I love most about farming is working hard and seeing the results of that hard work. At harvest, I love quitting at dark after a 14-hour day and seeing all that I’ve harvested right in front of me. It’s a great feeling to see that,” said Layton.

“Farming is a passionate job and requires patience to weather through the ups and downs. Ultimately, I love being able to care for the soil and land with the available resources and set the stage for the next generation,” said Schmidt.

Farming is a lifestyle, not just a job. It is 24 hours a day, seven days a week and every day of the year! (Yes, this means vacations are nearly impossible to take!)

4. Farmers use a variety of production methods.
Debates about “organic” and “conventional” crops suggest there are only two ways to grow food: a “good” way and a “bad” way. But an important question to think about is, “What is the best way to feed a growing population, while reducing the amount of resources required?” To address this, farming will need multiple approaches, not just one.

“Many farmers don’t want to be seen as one thing; for me, I want to be seen as both holistic and sustainable. For example, there are trade-offs with all production methods. And each provide different benefits: it’s not an either/or, it’s more about melding the practices together,” added Schmidt. Want to learn more about organic versus conventional? Check out “Organic versus Conventional Foods: Is There a Nutritional Difference?”.

5. There are many ways to become involved with agriculture.
Farm and ranch families make up just two percent of the U.S. population, while most people are at least three generations removed from agriculture. However, the farmers we chatted with all agreed that getting involved in agriculture is for everyone.

Rhodes said it’s important to know what your goal is: Do you want to learn more? Do you want to own your own farm? “After you figure out your goals, then you can decide how to reach them through things like farm tours, working with different national councils, talking with your University extension programs and, of course, talking with the farmers in your area.”

“Social media is a great place to start and to seek out transparent farmers if you have questions about food. I love sharing information about my farm and interesting news articles that are related to the happenings on my farm,” Schmidt added.

Layton concluded, “Agritourism, corn mazes, farm stands, community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, farmers markets – these are all ways to connect with farmers. Talk with the farmers – they are happy to chat with you! I give tours twice a day every day at the winery and people ask questions not only about the grapes and wines but about our crops, too. I love answering these questions.”

Our food supply is abundant, affordable overall and among the world’s safest, thanks in large part to the efficiency and productivity of America’s farm and ranch families. Want to learn more about growing food? Reach out to a local farmer or let us know and we can connect you with one!