Author Archives: Glenn Brunkow

National Security and the Farm Bill…Wake Up D.C.

We are looking right down the barrel of an important junction in the history of our nation. I am sure that we all are disgusted with the bi-partisan arguing and inaction in Washington, D.C. I don’t care which side of the aisle you align yourself with, no one can be proud of what is going on, or more accurately, not going on in our nation’s capital. This summer the inaction seems to have gotten to a fever pitch, and I fear it will affect the very bedrock of our nation. That bedrock is agriculture and that means a farm bill needs to get done and needs to get done right now.

A strong agricultural system has always been the key to the success of the United States. Not only can we feed ourselves, but we can also provide food and fiber to a good portion of the world. I would challenge you to go through history and find an example of an enduring world power without a strong agricultural foundation. Food security is the first thing that must be established to ensure that a society will grow and flourish.

The United States has been a prime example of this. For many years we have known that our success lies with the success of our farmers and ranchers and their ability to not only survive but to also increase their productivity as our need for food and fiber increased. This dependence on a strong agricultural system is what led to the development of the farm bill and what has sustained the farm bill no matter which party was in control or what else was going on politically. It has long been understood that a farm bill needs to be a priority. A strong food and fiber production system was undeniably a matter of national security.

I think my friend Ben Boyd, a farmer from Georgia, summed it up best. Ben said, “If you like being dependent on foreign oil, you are going to love being dependent on foreign food.” Just think about how the price of crude oil fluctuates based on the whims of other nations who do not have our best interests in mind. Now think about how it would be if that was your food we were talking about. Maintaining and protecting our farmers and ranchers is of utmost importance.

Want an example of how important the farm bill is? Probably the most important piece in the farm bill is the support of crop insurance. Without subsidized crop insurance most farmers could not afford it. Without crop insurance many of my friends in western Kansas would now be out of business because of the sustained drought. Did they get rich because of this coverage? Absolutely not, but it did allow them to pay their bills and stay in business.

Yes, it allowed them to pay their bills, which also allowed Main Street in many small western Kansas towns to survive. We often worry about the outward migration from rural America; I promise you this would have been even worse in the past few years without crop insurance sustaining many of the farmers and the communities they live in. Crop insurance has become our food safety net.

Crop insurance has also become absolutely critical when we go to secure loans with which to operate. In a time of increased oversight and regulation on our lending partners, crop insurance allows bankers to feel more secure loaning the large amounts of capital it takes to operate a farm or ranch. Without crop insurance, many younger or newer farmers would not be able to obtain the loans they depend on. The next generation of ag producer needs to be encouraged, not discouraged, from picking up the torch and running with it.

Right now Congress is out on recess (seems kind of ironic because in school if we didn’t get our work done, we didn’t get recess), and it is a great time to contact your congressional delegation. Folks, we are all in this together, because if you aren’t producing the food, you are certainly eating it. We all need to reach out to our elected officials and let them know that a farm bill is something that needs to be done now and not later.

Maybe this stalemate is a sign of the times because most people have never had to worry about food or thought about the farmers and ranchers who produce it. It might be that it is a product of the “my way or no way” attitude that permeates our government. Whatever the reason, a farm bill must be crafted and passed. I would ask that you contact your congressional delegation and let them know that passing a farm bill is not a Republican agenda item or a Democratic agenda item; it is a matter of national security for each of us.

Farmers and Ranchers, the Ultimate Environmentalists

Yesterday I had the unique opportunity to take part in a survey administered by two K-State geography students. This survey was gauging how those of us in agriculture viewed climate and the environment around us. As I answered I realized those of us in agriculture go to great lengths to protect our environment. Here is what I shared with them.

Farmers and ranchers have always been keenly aware of the land, water and air around them and we have always tried to protect those valuable assets. But in the past ten years we have come to an even greater understanding of how to protect and improve the world around us. Improvements in technology (yes, the same technology the radical fringes would try to use against us) have allowed us to preserve more of the soil, water and air we all depend on.

Advances such as genetically modified crops have allowed us to use better herbicides allowing for less invasive weed control methods. Many of us now use herbicides such as Round-up to control weeds rather than mechanically cultivating the ground. Mechanical cultivation tills the soil allowing for erosion due to the wind and water. By not tilling up the land we are also keeping more of the organic matter on the soil surface. This not only helps hold the critical top soil in place but also helps with the overall fertility of the soil.

No-till farming practices coupled with soil conservation methods such as terraces and water-ways help to insure that we will never see another Dust Bowl. Not only protecting our soil but our air quality too. Our farmland is not only healthier but more productive than it ever has been and we are striving to improve it everyday.

I also noted that we have improved our native range. Many ranchers are utilizing methods such as rotational grazing to improve the health of our native warm-season grasses. We have a better understanding of the growth patterns of our grasses and we can tailor grazing programs, prescribed burning of those native ranges and herbicides to keep them growing vigorously and free of invasive brush. Our tall grass native prairie in the Flint Hills is a very fragile ecosystem and must be maintained with regular burning and grazing. Our ranchers have an intimate understanding of the ecosystem and work tirelessly to maintain and improve it for our future generations.

The final part of the survey was about climate change. The students looked at me with furrowed brows when I told them I thought it was fairly egotistical of us to think we could change the earth’s climate. Personally I believe everything runs in cycles and we must work with those cycles. However, I am also equally sure that as farmers and ranchers we are doing everything we can to both protect and improve the environment around us.

I am not sure what they thought of my answers. They were very polite and told me they would share the results of the survey with me this fall. What I am sure of is that as I answered their questions, I once again reaffirmed my belief that those of us in agriculture are the ultimate environmentalists. After all we are the stewards of the land who rely on the air, soil and water around us to make a living off of the land and we are the same stewards of the land dedicated to protect it for future generations.

We Care About Our Livestock

I work with livestock because I like working with animals. I enjoy taking care of them in all conditions and would never intentionally harm an animal. The care and well-being of my livestock is first and foremost in my thoughts at all times. The safety, comfort and health of my animals on my ranch come first, period.

I make this statement because recently an undercover video of animal abuse on a dairy farm has surfaced. I do not know how long it took to get the several minutes of footage, the circumstances it was shot in or how it was obtained. What I do know is that kind of treatment is not acceptable anytime or anyplace.

Every occupation has its bad people and that is exactly what you see in the video. Let me assure you that 99.9999% of all producers are good, decent people who respect the animals they spend their life raising. I don’t know how many thousands of producers the activist group had to go to and how many years they spent looking for someone like this but the abuse documented in this video is certainly extreme and unacceptable. It breaks my heart to watch it.

The only person I can speak for is me, but I would never, under any circumstances abuse one of my animals. While I know that the purpose of the livestock I raise is ultimately for food, I also believe that their health, comfort and safety is my number one job. The livestock I own depend on my care for their every need. I strive each and every day to make their time with me as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

I hope you will take the video at its face value. It is one or two bad people doing bad things and it certainly does not represent the vast majority of the hardworking men and women who work on family livestock farms. This is another reminder that we as farmers and ranchers need to reach out to our customers. I promise as you get to know us personally, you will realize that we care about our animals and treat them with dignity and respect.