Every spring seems to bring a new set of challenges to our farmers and ranchers. This spring is no exception.
Three stories on Thursday highlighted the different problems facing producers and how they are at the mercy of factors they can’t control. The issues are regional, national and even global.
An immediate problem facing farmers and ranchers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin is a shortage of fertilizer. So many farmers are getting into the fields at the same time this year that suppliers can’t keep up with the demand for fertilizer. Truckers are crunched for time when making deliveries, partially because they are limited by hours of service restrictions. Under the law, after so many hours of work they must take a break. It’s a rule intended to keep truckers off the road when they are tired.
Gov. Doug Burgum signed a temporary waiver for truckers last week that will remain in effect until May 30. Companies also are trying to increase production and are streamlining loading and delivery systems. Farmers are eager to get into the fields after the cold spring and applying fertilizer is one of the first things they do. It’s the kind of problems producers are used to encountering and finding solutions to.
On the trade front, Chinese buyers are canceling orders for U.S. soybeans. The cancellations are the result of the threat of tariffs and counter-tariffs between the U.S. and China. Roughly 60 percent of U.S. soybeans are shipped to China. If the Chinese continue to cancel orders it could have an impact on North Dakota producers.
Nationally, a new report shows how much farmland is being lost to production. The American Farmland Trust reports almost 31 million acres, double the amount previously documented, were lost to development from 1992 to 2012, About 11 million of the acres were described as “the best farmland in nation.” Expanding urban areas accounted for 59 percent of the lost land.
We see it in North Dakota. In Bismarck, the city continues to grow, especially to the north, eating up farmland. In the oil patch, the search for oil has taken land out of production. Drilling sites, roads and locations for support services all take some land. While oil is an economic driver for the state, so is agriculture. In some ways they compete for the same resources.
Agriculture accounts for more than $1 trillion of the U.S. gross domestic product while providing environmental and recreational benefits, all of which are threatened by the loss of farmland, according to the American Farmland Trust report. The report recommends doubling the funding in the new farm bill to protect farmland through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. It also suggests funding a new 50-state Tenure, Ownership and Transfer of Agricultural Land survey.
The new farm bill will determine the kind of safety net that will be provided producers across the country.
These are just a few of the challenges facing our producers this spring. Farming is one of the most stressful jobs you can have and after last year’s drought many producers are on edge. It’s good that the governor signed the waiver for farmers. Quick action is essential when dealing with agricultural issues.
North Dakota farmers and ranchers have withstood droughts, floods and other calamities in the past. They’ll no doubt endure this year’s challenges. We need to keep them in mind when key agricultural issues are debated in the coming months.