Support All Farmers

By: Hope Pjesky

Since 2007 I have been blessed and honored to have the opportunity to travel to several other countries and visit agricultural operations. I have also had the opportunity to host farmers from many other countries on my farm in northern Oklahoma.

During this time, one thing has become obvious to me and that is farmers everywhere have a lot in common. Farmers all have similar challenges and opportunities.

I support all farmers, no matter what country they are from. I know farmers from every continent and I have lost count of how many different countries and I support them all.

I support all farmers, no matter what size their farm is. My farm is middle sized by American standards. I know some very large farmers from developed nations and some smallholder farmers from developing nations and I support them all.

I support all farmers, no matter what they produce. I produce beef cattle and wheat on my farm. I know farmers who produce virtually every kind of crop and food animal on earth and I support them all.

I support all farmers, no matter what production practices they use. I use conventional production practices on our farm. I know farmers that use organic, biodynamic, natural, free range, grass fed, no-till, confinement and high tech production practices using all the latest technology including biotechnology, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones and other animal health products and I support them all.

I want all farmers to be productive and have a good life. I am careful to not be selfish in the policies that I advocate. Because I have a much larger world view now, I only speak out on issues that I believe would benefit all farmers. I encourage all farmers to look beyond their individual farm and think about the larger agriculture and food industry around the world.

When I was in Southeast Asia I saw some farmers that had a much better quality of life than other farmers in the same countries. The difference was they had been given the tools to access world markets for their products. I support free trade because it benefits both small farmers in developing nations and larger farmers in developed countries.

I know farmers from many countries that cannot access technologies that they want to use that have been proven safe and effective because their government has banned the use of them. I also know consumers that would like to be able to purchase products that they do not have access to because their government will not allow the products to enter their country even though they are perfectly safe. These people should have the right to choose.

There are also many farmers in this world that would be much more productive if they had at least the same level of private property rights that farmers have in the United States. These are the issues that I advocate for and I try to be as ideologically pure on these issues as I can. I strive to never to be a hypocrite.

I have also learned that there is no universally good or bad agricultural practice and no perfect size for a farm. A practice that you believe to be the best in your area could be completely wrong in another part of the country or world. Something that you think would be a horrible practice in your area can be absolutely correct in another place.

With nine billion people to feed by 2050 and a quickly increasing middle class around the world, farmers around the world should not be competing with each other. Farmers should be supporting each other so that all farmers can be productive and have good lives. If that happens consumers will also benefit. There will be markets for all of our products.

One of the biggest challenges that farmers all have is activist groups that attack agriculture from every possible direction. How can farmers ever expect to be successful in combating those attacks if farmers are saying negative things about each other? In fact some of those activist groups get their negative ideas about agriculture from other farmers.

I support all farmers. Wouldn’t everyone be better off if all farmers felt that way?

This post first appeared as a guest commentary article in the November 2014 issue of Farm Journal.

Agriculture’s Self-Esteem Problem

By: Hope Pjesky

Farmers are professionals. Farmers are small business owners. If you start your own farm, you are an entrepreneur. I am proud to be a farmer! Why aren’t more farmers?

Over the last twenty years I have been involved with a number of agricultural organizations. For the first ten or twelve of those years I was considered a “young” farmer by some of those organizations. Now, I am not “young” anymore but I am still obviously younger than the majority of the people who attend the meetings of those organizations. Because of this, I have had several older people come up to me over the years and say that we really need more young people to get into farming. The problem is that I know that several of the people who have said that to me have encouraged their children not to farm.

Their children were in 4-H and FFA and were the highest achieving students in their high schools. Many of them wanted to farm but their parents told them “No, you are too good to farm. You should go be a professional, a doctor, a lawyer or a politician.” If they didn’t want to farm then that is great but if they do want to farm they should not be told that they are too good to farm. Farmers do the jobs of five different professionals every day. We are professionals and we are small business owners. Producing the food and fiber necessary to feed and clothe the growing world population is the most important job that exists.

My husband and I both get interviewed by agriculture journalists from time to time. We have had several journalists comment to us that we are always so positive, we never complain. We have had plenty of reasons to complain over the last few years, we have been in a multi-year severe drought cycle. I have never seen the value in complaining in the news media. I answer questions honestly. If I am asked about the drought, I tell what the conditions currently are in my area but there is usually something that is slightly positive to add to the conversation. I never end an interview on a downer.

“Don’t tell people your problems. Half of them don’t care and the other half are glad that you have them.” My husband can’t remember who he originally heard say that but he has been saying it as long as I can remember. We both grew up on farms and we knew what we were getting into when we decided to be farmers. We knew there would be ups and downs. We are proud of what we do for a living. We are both educated and have skills that would enable us to succeed in other professions. We chose production agriculture as our profession.

It bothers me a great deal to hear other farmers discourage young people from choosing production agriculture as a profession and it bothers me to hear other farmers be negative and complain when they are interviewed in the media. How can we expect the general public to have a positive view of agriculture if those of us that are involved in agriculture are always negative?

Farm Bureau, Hundreds of Other Groups Call for Extension of Key Tax Provisions

America’s farmers and ranchers are ready for Congress to act swiftly to restore tax provisions essential to boosting small businesses and rural economies, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

In a letter to House and Senate leaders, Farm Bureau urged members of both chambers to work across the aisle to renew and preserve important tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013.

“Farmers and ranchers rely on tax provisions that allow them to manage their cash flow and put that money back to work for their businesses,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “Section 179 and bonus depreciation are important tools that lend stability and help minimize risk in an unpredictable industry.”

Agriculture is overwhelmingly united in its support of Section 179 and bonus depreciation, which provide flexible means for farm and ranch businesses to write off and deduct business expenses.

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