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Across the Editor's Desk: Disaster lessons

LOREN KRUSE 04/05/2011 @ 3:20pm Editor-in-Chief Successful Farming

Japan is in the midst of a great disaster as I write this column on National Agriculture Day in mid-March. Massive earthquakes and tidal waves caused enormous loss of life and widespread destruction of property. The most immediate urgency is to contain and prevent a potential nuclear disaster caused by radiation leaking from heavily damaged power plants.

While our concerns and prayers are with the Japanese people, such disasters also serve to remind us of the vulnerability of our own businesses to uncontrollable outside factors. Managing risk – with so many dollars at stake in your business – is more important than ever. Risk protection comes with a cost, but it is a cost that helps assure that your business can stay in business.

Priority one in risk management is keeping yourself safe and healthy. Be careful, especially in this busy planting season, and treat your health with the same care and protection you give your crops and livestock.

Taxpayers Weigh In On USDA Budget Allocations

Crops Technology Editor Gil Gullickson stoked up some fond memories for me through his column, “1.123 billion reasons for funding agricultural research,” on page 12. He tells of the measured economic benefits that have flowed to farmers from a 20-year private-public partnership funding of the Dakota Lakes Research Farm in South Dakota.

Early in my career, I was an ag research editor at Oklahoma State University. It was both fascinating and exciting to observe and report on the application and impact of ag research findings in farming operations. Over the years, I've felt that diminished public funding of ag research has been a mistake. A 2009 study by Julian Alston at the University of California-Davis found that each dollar invested in ag research generates 10 more dollars for farmers.

A new study (www.agriculture.com/taxpayerpreference) presented earlier this year by Oklahoma State found that taxpayers would prefer a much different allocation of the USDA budget, including a major increase in ag research. Participants in the study prefer deep cuts in the budget's food assistance programs, milder cuts in farm and commodity support programs, and reallocating those funds for a big boost in food safety and inspection, as well as major increases in natural resources, research/education, and rural development. Would you trade some farm support dollars for greater returns in your pocket from investment in ag research? 

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