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  • Last modified 312 days ago (Feb. 7, 2018)

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to the editor

Ag ed suggestions

To the editor:

The opinion piece in last week’s paper was good and timely in recognizing the part agricultural education in high school plays in preparing a new generation of farmers. I hope that in the curriculum there is some recognition of the part that farmers play in preserving the environment.

Marion County has a water quality problem as evidenced by algae blooms, atrazine, and glyphosate spikes in the lakes, and water wells with high coliform bacteria and nitrate levels. These problems can be traced to over-reliance on chemicals, over-application of phosphorous and nitrogen fertilizer, and mishandling of manure, particularly in concentrated animal feeding operations. Ag educators can be a large part of the remedy of these problems through explanation of the problem and use of solid scientific solutions that may even require recognizing that the climate is changing and food production will have to adapt to survive as an occupation.

Another aspect of an agricultural education is a need to impart basic fundamentals of capitalism: supply and demand. If the market price of your commodity does not yield a margin, stop producing that product.

It is generally accepted that conventional GMO corn requires a $4 bushel price to break even. The board price for corn has been below $4 bu for the last three years in a row and only above $4 bu for five out of the last 11 years. Young people considering agriculture should have their eyes opened to the role the USDA plays in supporting agriculture through tax supported crop insurance that insures for low market prices without supply management that would correct low prices and stabilize markets.

Of course, supply management would run counter to the concentrated grain industry that benefits greatly from over-production, low prices, and government subsidies to farmers.

One need only study conventional dairy farming in the United States that has increased individual dairy size and production, while prices have tanked to $15 hundredweight. Compare to dairy farming in Canada that uses supply management and currently has a milk price of $23 cwt, which equates to a living wage for the Canadian dairy farmer.

The production of food, farming, is among the most necessary and noble of callings. Let us hope in the future many more talented young people answer that call.

Harry E. Bennett
Madison, Wisconsin

Last modified Feb. 7, 2018

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