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Four reasons to feel good about farming

Gil Gullickson 10/16/2013 @ 11:22am Crops Technology Editor for Successful Farming magazine/Agriculture.com

Even as crops prices near harvest lows, there are plenty of reasons to feel good about farming. Here are a few that popped up this morning at a North American Agricultural Journalists breakfast hosted by Successful Farming® at Meredith Corporation headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa.

1. Farmers participating in the 2013 DuPont Stover Harvest Collection Program near Nevada, Iowa, stand to be compensated $55 to $75 per acre on top of their corn grain revenues, says John Pieper, DuPont Pioneer director of cellulosic ethanol. This program partially removes corn stover from participants' fields to fuel a cellulosic ethanol biorefinery near Nevada, Iowa.

That figure is based on payments that include compensation for partial stover removal and accompanying nutrient removal. Even though this field operation removes plant material, sufficient residue remains, he says.

2. So far, soybean yields in many parts of Iowa are holding their own. “There are good yields in places in spite of bad weather in August and September,” says Bill Northey, Iowa secretary of agriculture.

3. Northey’s bullish that Iowa’s Water Quality Initiative will help stave off a federal plan for the Mississippi River Basin that mimics one in the Chesapeake Bay in the eastern U.S. A federal judge ruled in September that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could continue with its plan that requires Maryland and five other states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to reduce pollution.

Farm and building developer groups filed a lawsuit to stop EPA. They argue EPA regulations are too onerous for farmers and builders, and that EPA is overstepping its bounds. They are appealing the judge’s ruling.

Northey thinks voluntary efforts under the Iowa initiative will work better. Already, around 1,000 farmers have signed up for cost-sharing to plant 100,000 acres in cover crops. “We will see cover crops in areas they have never been grown before,” says Northey.

Northey says initiatives like these are better than a one-size-fits-all approach that a federal mandate would entail. Even within EPA, though, he says there are those who agree with the voluntary approach like those contained in the Iowa Water Quality Initiative. “EPA is not a monolith,” he says.

4. Finally, if you’re in an area where this year’s weather ravaged your corn yields, take heart from this story:

Iowa corn production astonished the late Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev when he visited the state in 1959. At that time, Iowa’s average corn yield hovered around 75 bushels per acre.

An inspired Khrushchev traveled back home and mandated Soviet farms to grow corn. “They couldn’t do it,” says Northey. “Weather was one reason.”

Although the Soviets could grow corn in the agricultural Ukraine, it flopped in Siberia.

Another reason for failure, though, was Khrushchev’s mandate.

“In the U.S., no one mandated corn production,” he says. “It relied on innovation, the chance to succeed or fail.”

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