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2020: The lost year with a lot to gain

Farmers have learned to expect the unexpected after the events of 2020.

The world was dealt a blow in 2020 with more than 1 million deaths attributed to a global pandemic. COVID-19 might have changed the way people will live and the way businesses will operate forever. For farming, the novel coronavirus has tested the food production, transportation, and distribution systems. Farm families, while trying to socially distance and shelter in place, found that the world still relied on them to continue planting and growing the world’s food supply.

Also in 2020, Mother Nature unleashed other stressors for farmers. With the formation of Tropical Storm Zeta in late October, 2020 has tied 2005 as the most active hurricane season on record. Also, many Midwest states remain on drought watch for the coming spring after dry conditions prevailed throughout late summer. Iowa recorded a historic derecho that caused billions of dollars in crop and grain bin storage damage. 

The following articles highlight what grain and livestock farmers, ag industry officials, and the world learned about their preparedness, effectiveness, and responsiveness to a devastating pandemic and challenging weather conditions.

Disappearing distillers’ grains

Making a living raising cattle isn’t as simple as just buying a herd and turning it out on pasture. Cattle require a specific diet to maintain proper nutrition and weight gain.

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Better broadband

Our country is far from ensuring abundant broadband is available and affordable to all. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified these struggles.

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Continued uncertainty

As agricultural experts frame up 2020 and look forward to 2021, the words uncertainty and volatility keep floating to the top.

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Farmers size up 2020

Production-wise, U.S. farmers took multiple blows from Mother Nature, only to hang on for a decent year.

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A shocked Infrastructure

There have been a lot of political discussions going on for months, and when you write about agricultural policies and procedures, you are typically going to offend the someone’s sensibilities.

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Less crop diseases

If there was an area where farmers caught a break in 2020, it was in crop diseases.

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Help for managing weeds

Weeds remain the eternal enemy that farmers faced in 2020 and will continue to face. Still, the digitization of agriculture will help farmers fight weeds and other pests in the future, says Howard Dahl, CEO of FarmQA, a Fargo, North Dakota, firm that develops digital tools for crop scouting.

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Cooped up COVID-19 farm kids have had it

Rebecca Wilson raises goats, chickens, and other livestock with her husband, Jeff, and their four daughters near Dixon, California. 

In addition to dealing with very tight COVID-19 restrictions in their state, the Wilsons have had the added stress of nearby wildfires throughout much of 2020.

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 Level up cover crops

Cover crops hold the potential to build organic matter, improve soil structure, prevent erosion, and reduce compaction.

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Proactive conservation

Preparing your fields for seasons of unpredictability is the new norm and a variety of conservation practices can help.

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Nature packs a punch 

 Blaine Groth farms corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and oats with his dad in Tama County, Iowa. The year of 2020 has served up plenty of learning opportunities for the 27-year-old farmer.

The year started with some of the best planting conditions the duo had ever seen. Groth was optimistic in early May as the crops emerged. Mother Nature dealt the first blow, claiming 86 acres of corn, with flooding around Father’s Day. The second half of the summer brought severe drought. On August 10, a devastating derecho flattened more of Groth’s corn and grain bins. Finally, hail struck. All in all, 50% of the farm’s corn was a total loss.

Thanks to the lessons of this season, Groth won’t skimp on crop insurance in the future.

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Turnover and consolidation facing pig farmers

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated trends in the pig business, says Brad Hennen, Ghent, Minnesota. Hennen finishes pigs for Lynch Livestock, as part of its antibiotic-free production system, and is a salesperson for breeding stock company Fast Genetics.

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Online iron sales thrive in COVID-19 world

The trend toward buying machinery online either through auctions or from dealers had been growing steadily in the past decade, but “in person” was still a primary means of equipment and supply purchases … until COVID-19 hit in March.

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Pandemic spawns starvation across the globe

The comparison couldn’t be more incompatible –  or obscene. While North American farmers are awash in cheap grain, major parts of the globe are facing starvation as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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