Young Farmers Podcast

By National Young Farmers Coalition

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crystle BRUCE
 Jun 13, 2019
love THIS TOPIC live IN A Farmer's TOWN

Description

The internet is flooded with food photos, recipes and diet advice, partisan news, and farmer-inspired fashion, but who is listening to the farmers themselves? Farmers grow your food and manage nearly half of all land on Earth. It's time to pay attention to the policies, programs, and events that are shaping the future of agriculture. Our host, Lindsey Lusher Shute, co-founder of the National Young Farmers Coalition, provides a fresh, farmer-centric take on food and farm policy. We talk with policy makers, experts and advocates, and, of course, farmers, about the most critical issues facing farming in the U.S. and globally. Edited by Hannah Beal and recorded at Radio Kingston.

Episode Date
WAYFC Takeover 6: Ariana de Leña on Farmer Stress and Anxiety (Part 1)
00:42:37

Ari de Leña is a farmer at Kamayan Farm is a vegetable, flower, medicinal herb, and education farm just east of Seattle on Snoqualmie People’s land. In this conversation we dive into what it looks like to deal with stress and anxiety while being ‘August tired’. Because Ari and Elizabeth really get into the heart of stress and anxiety we decided to split our conversation into two parts. In the first episode we focus on the ‘big picture’ and make connections between current conditions for farmers and how it affects our mental wellness. Please take care of yourself and your needs before you listen, as you listen and as you process this conversation. 

Join the National Young Farmers Coalition today at youngfarmers.org/join and sign up for our advocacy network by texting FARMERS to 40649.

In Part 1 we mention: 

The Body Keeps the Score: https://www.besselvanderkolk.com/resources/the-body-keeps-the-score Leah Penniman’s Farming While Black: https://www.soulfirefarm.org/media/farming-while-black/ 

Leah Penniman on How to Survive the End of the World Podcast: https://www.endoftheworldshow.org/blog/2020/5/6/apocalypse-survival-skill-4-braiding-seeds In Part 

2 - Ari shares some real-life strategies on how to manage stress and anxiety. In this episode we discuss some embodied techniques that we both use on the farm. 

In this episode we bring the work of: 

Valerie Segrest: https://www.allmyrelationspodcast.com/podcast/episode/32c173eb/ep-2-food-sovereignty-a-growing-movem ent 

Generative Somatics: https://generativesomatics.org/ 

Music credit to Made By Finja by Sascha Ende 

Link: https://filmmusic.io/song/6171-made-by-finja // 

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Jan 22, 2021
WAYFC Takeover 5: Vero Vergara of Sweet Hollow Farm
00:49:57

Vero Vergara is a nonbinary, disabled, brown, queer farmer and food systems cultural worker based on Coast Salish territories. Vero is a founding worker-owner of Sweet Hollow Farm in Woodinville, WA. They work at the intersection of autonomous food systems building and liberatory community care. Learn more about Sweet Hollow Farm at their website: www.sweethollow.farm or their Instagram account: @sweethollowfarm. 

Some folks that are mentioned in this podcast are: Karen Washington: https://www.riseandrootfarm.com/karen-washington Leah Penniman: https://www.soulfirefarm.org/meet-the-farmers/ Mai Nguyen: http://farmermai.com/farmer/ Rowan White: https://sierraseeds.org/rowens-story/ Ashante M Reese: https://ges.umbc.edu/ashante-m-reese/ Ricardo Salvador https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/ricardo-salvador Robin Wall Kimmerer: https://www.esf.edu/faculty/kimmerer/ Winona la Duke: http://www.honorearth.org/speaking_engagements Chris Newman: https://www.sylvanaqua.com/ Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha: http://brownstargirl.org/ Ejeris Dixon: https://www.visionchangewin.com/meet-the-consultants/ejeris/ Music credit to Made By Finja by Sascha Ende Link: https://filmmusic.io/song/6171-made-by-finja License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Become a member of the National Young Farmers Coalition today at youngfarmers.org/join and join our advocacy network by texting FARMERS to 40649.

This episode was edited by Hannah Beal.

Jan 13, 2021
Food Safety Part 2: Lean and Clean with Ellen Polishuk
00:32:02

In part 2 of our produce safety series, Young Farmers' Produce Safety Manager, Maggie Kaiser, talks with Ellen Polishuk about integrating Lean Farming principles into your farm's food safety plan. 

Visit youngfarmers.org/foodsafety for our online produce safety resource library and all of our food safety workshop episodes.

Become a National Young Farmers Coalition member today for major discounts on produce safety supplies and gear! Join at youngfarmers.org/join for $35/year or $5/month.

Produced in partnership with the National Farmers Union.

https://www.planttoprofit.com/

The Lean Farm: https://www.chelseagreen.com/product/the-lean-farm/

Episode edited by Hannah Beal. 

Dec 22, 2020
Food Safety Part 1: Scaling Up with Scott Chang-Fleeman
00:33:21

This week and next we'll be talking about an often overlooked, and sometimes daunting, part of farming: *food safety*! Part 1 is a conversation with Scott Chang-Fleeman, owner of Shao Shan Farm in Marin County, who grows Asian heritage vegetables. It's interesting because it seems produce safety really clicks with Scott, as does farming in general, and he has a natural ability to assess risk. He has scaled his operation quickly and considers produce safety every step of the way. Plus he’s just really got his shit together... Enjoy!

 

Become a member of the National Young Farmers Coalition today! www.youngfarmers.org

Learn more about produce safety at our online resource library: https://www.youngfarmers.org/foodsafety/

Follow Scott on Instagram: @shaoshanfarm

Thanks to our partner National Farmers Union

Edited by Hannah Beal, recorded via Zoom from NY, VA, and LA.

Dec 17, 2020
WAYFC Takeover 4: Miles Griffin and Amanda Doughty on Farmer Mental Health
00:37:56

Miles Griffin and Amanda Doughty currently live on 20 acres in Twisp, Washington. Amanda is a

licensed therapist, who works off the farm full-time but loves a good Saturday weeding session. Miles is the owner and operator of Posterity Farm, producing pastured turkeys, wholesale organic garlic, and diversified vegetables. Miles and Amanda find deep interest in the intersection of their professions, especially the contrast between the risk factors that farmers face and the inherent therapeutic benefits of their practices. Miles and Amanda hope to one day use their experiences to develop a farm therapy

program that reduces stigma around mental health and addresses food insecurity, community-building, and job training. If you are interested in learning more about their farm you can visit posterityfarm.com or email them at eatforposterity@gmail.com.

A note: this episode discusses topics related to suicide and mental health. Please take care of yourself and your needs before you listen, as you listen and as you process this conversation.

At the end of the episode you will hear from Chandler Briggs, of Hayshaker Farm, who introduces you to Justin McClane. Justin was a farmer and an active member of the WA Young Farmers Coalition and died by suicide. His death was a wake-up call for the chapter and the community. Justin continues to impact the work of WA Young Farmers and his contribution inspired us to center care as one of our foundational values. 

Amanda wanted to share the following resources with folks in the audience who want to access more resources for mental wellness: 

National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255 Crisis Text Line - text “help” to 741741 

Telehealth platforms: 

-Ginger.io 

-Talkspace 

-BetterHelp 

For more on the WAYFC Farmer Mental Health Bill: https://www.washingtonyoungfarmers.org/hb2671 Music credit to Made By Finja by Sascha Ende Link: https://filmmusic.io/song/6171-made-by-finja License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

To join the National Young Farmers Coalition, visit youngfarmers.org/join

Nov 17, 2020
WAYFC Takeover 3: Nyema Clark of Nurturing Roots
00:37:22

Nyema Clark is the Executive Director and Farm Queen at Nurturing Roots, a farm and community garden committed to addressing food justice issues in the Beacon Hill Neighborhood in Seattle. Nyema dives into their grow-your-own program Nurturing Your Roots at Home and we talk about how farmers and food-growers can prepare for the long haul in the midst of pandemic. In the episode we talk briefly about Living Well Kent, a group of Kent residents and community-based organizations united to achieve health equity through policy, systems, and environmental change. To learn more about Nyema and Nurturing Roots you check out their Facebook @NurturingRoots206 and Instagram @nurturingroots. If you want to support Nyema’s work you can send donations to cashapp $nurturingrootsfarm or through PayPal at nurturinginfo@gmail.com. 

Become a member of the National Young Farmers Coalition at youngfarmers.org/join and take action to support young farmers and ranchers through our advocacy network by texting FARMERS to 40649.

Music credit to Made By Finja by Sascha Ende Link: https://filmmusic.io/song/6171-made-by-finja License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Sep 16, 2020
WAYFC Takeover 2: Tracy Stewart of Gathering Roots
00:38:27

The Washington Young Farmers Coalition (WAYFC) takes over the Young Farmers Podcast to talk about resilience and community building in the time of COVID-19. Become a member of the National Young Farmers Coalition at younfarmers.org/join and sign up for our advocacy network by texting FARMERS to 40649.

Tracy L. Stewart is a mindfulness based mental health therapist at the Nile’s Edge wellness collective and activist in Seattle, WA. She currently serves on the board of SURGE, a BIPOC centered reproductive justice organization, Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF) – Seattle, and has served on three Social Justice Fund (SJF) giving projects. Elizabeth was able to get Tracy on the phone to help connect the dots between food-growing, uprisings for racial justice, and our mental health. Our conversation sprawls between rage and love, trauma and healing and does include explicit references to police brutality, internalized oppression, and other forms of harm. We acknowledge that some of this conversation could be triggering, and we encourage all our listeners to please take care of your needs. Tracy sees her role in community as working to create supportive, safe space for BIPOC folx in discovering their gifts through mindfulness practice and social justice awareness. Her cup is filled by the outside places, silly friends with microphones, passion for life, and folx sharing their good medicine with each other. “My focus is learning to be a good elder in order to support those out in the community fighting for all us to BE. In my work, I see a lot of suffering of black and brown folx who are warn from fighting to be their full selves. With Gathering Roots, the intention is creating a place where that burden can be released, people can fill their cups with joyful learning and the beauty of the Earth, witnessed and empowered to be all that they are.” 

You can learn more about Gathering Roots at their website: https://gatheringroots.org/ 

Throughout the episode we make reference to the work of: 

Reverend Angel Kyodo Williams : https://angelkyodowilliams.com/ 

Michelle Lee, Author of Working the Roots : https://kpfa.org/episode/the-herbal-highway-may-9-2019/ Llama Rod Owens: https://www.lamarod.com/ 

Leah Penniman: https://www.endoftheworldshow.org/blog/2020/5/6/apocalypse-survival-skill-4-braiding-seeds 

My Grandmother's Hands: https://www.resmaa.com/books 

Music credit to Made By Finja by Sascha Ende Link: https://filmmusic.io/song/6171-made-by-finja

Sep 04, 2020
WAYFC Takeover 1: John Wesley and the Seattle BIPOC Organic Food Bank
00:27:18

John Wesley is a curator, cultural ambassador, and community organizer. He is passionate about designing and producing experiences that connect diverse cultures and cultivate joy. JW is the founder and director of Seattle Bipoc Organic Food Bank; an organization dedicated to providing everyone with clean water and organic food. Their strategy is centered around outreach to the most vulnerable and underserved communities, beginning with the BIPOC community. Their goal is to help connect individuals and families to sustainable ecosystems, instead of merely focusing on short term solution. #foodcomesfromfarms 

Emma Shorr, a WAYFC Board member, and John share a conversation about food access in Seattle, what it takes to start a community-driven food bank and the importance of feeding folks organic veggies. You can find more information about John’s project on Instagram @seattlebipocfoodbank and their GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/f/seattle-bipoc-organic-food-bank-fund In this show John talks about some of the great farm and food projects in the Seattle region led by and serving BIPOC folks. 

Become a member of the National Young Farmers Coalition at youngfarmers.org/join and join our advocacy network by text FARMERS to 40649.

Danny Woo Garden: https://www.dannywoogarden.org/ Yes Farm: https://www.facebook.com/yesfarmofficial/ Nurturing Roots: https://www.facebook.com/pg/NurturingRoots206/posts/ Percussion Farms: https://percussionfarms.org/ Beacon Hill Food Forest: https://beaconfoodforest.org/ Music credit to Made By Finja by Sascha Ende Link: https://filmmusic.io/song/6171-made-by-finja License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Aug 25, 2020
Looking Back on a Decade of Young Farmers
00:35:30

We turn the mic on Lindsey this week for the finale episode of our first season of the Young Farmers Podcast. The National Young Farmers Coalition's Sophie Ackoff, VP of Policy and Campaigns, and Holly Rippon-Butler, Land Access Program Director, join Lindsey in the studio to talk about the early years of the Coalition, big wins, favorite memories, and what's next.

National Young Farmers Coalition website
www.youngfarmers.org

Become a member of the National Young Farmers Coalition
youngfarmers.org/join

Farm Generations Cooperative
https://www.farmgenerations.coop/

Lindsey on her transition from Young Farmers
https://www.youngfarmers.org/2019/01/edsearch/

Recorded at the studios of Radio Kingston. Edited by Hannah Beal and produced by Jessica Manly.

Jun 20, 2019
Hemp, CBD, and the U.S. Green Rush
00:20:11

Today we dive into the heady world of industrial hemp. Hemp is no longer just for Canadian cereal companies and scratchy beige t-shirts. This low-THC strain of cannabis, think of it as the well behaved fraternal twin to marijuana, is, as of the 2018 Farm Bill, a legal crop in all 50 states. And the hemp hype is real, mostly because of CBD, a hemp extract that's popping up in everything from $8 cans of seltzer, to medicinal tinctures, and even Carl's Jr hamburgers. But if there's such huge consumer demand for hemp, and it doesn't even get you high, why was the crop criminalized in the first place? And now that it's legal, what does this mean for farmers across the country who want to start growing it? We talk with Michael "Mr. Hemp" Bowman and Ben Banks-Dobson of Hudson Hemp and Old Mud Creek Farm.

Special thanks to our podcast editor, Hannah Beal, producer, Jessica Manly, Ben Banks-Dobson, and Michael "Mr. Hemp" Bowman.

More on industrial hemp and CBD:
https://nifa.usda.gov/industrial-hemp
https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrebourque/2018/12/17/how-hemp-and-the-farm-bill-may-change-life-as-you-know-it/#1bfcbe2e694c
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/06/us/cbd-cannabis-marijuana-hemp.html
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/05/14/magazine/cbd-cannabis-cure.html

Hudson Hemp:
http://www.hudsonhemp.com/

Michael Bowman:
https://www.agprofessional.com/article/how-serve-growing-hemp-market
https://www.agriculture.com/news/crops/what-farmers-need-to-know-about-growing-hemp
https://www.agweb.com/article/three-potential-paths-for-farming-hemp/

Show art credit: Hudson Hemp @hudsonhemp

Jun 11, 2019
Karen Washington on NYC Food Security and Lifting Up a New Generation of Black and Brown Farmers
00:35:03

Karen Washington is one of the most influential food and farming activists of our time. From starting the Garden of Happiness in the Bronx, Black Urban Growers, and now Rise and Root Farm, Karen is modeling a new food system based on equity, social capital, and health.

New York State has over 57,000 farmers, and less than 200 of them are people of color, and this disparity holds true in every state across the country. Karen challenges Governor Cuomo to meet with black and brown farmers to talk about the policies and programs needed to support their success in agriculture.

Black Urban Growers:
https://www.blackurbangrowers.org/

Rise and Root Farm:
http://www.riseandrootfarm.com/karen-washington

Karen in the press:

Bright Spots in the Food System, Annette Nielsen, Edible Bronx. April 29, 2016

Bronx Urban Farmer Receives Earth Day Award for her Years of Work, Advocacy, Metro. April 19, 2016.

Women in Food: Karen Washington Forges Path for Black Farmers, Laura Hurst, SeedStock. April 11, 2016

Ten Questions with Karen Washington, Co-Owner of Rise & Root Farm. FoodTank. April 9, 2016

Karen Washington, Queen of Urban Gardening, Adrien Schless-Meier, Civileats.com. August 20, 2014.

EBONY Reveals 2012 Power 100! Ebony Magazine. November 1, 2012.

Karen Washington at TEDxBarnardCollegeWomen

Food Hero: Karen Washington

May 29, 2019
Who Owns U.S. Farmland?
00:19:08

The biggest problem faced by farmers across the country is access to land. Who owns it, who rents it—it all has a big impact on the kind of food we grow and who has economic opportunity in rural communities.

Young Farmers' Land Access Program Director, Holly Rippon-Butler, sits down with Megan Horst, professor of urban studies and planning at Portland State University, to talk about who owns U.S. farmland, and whether or not this is shifting.

More research on land access and ownership:

https://civileats.com/2019/01/25/new-research-explores-the-ongoing-impact-of-racism-on-the-u-s-farming-landscape/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/30/america-black-farmers-louisiana-sugarcane

National Young Farmers Coalition land access programs:
https://www.youngfarmers.org/land-access/calculator/
https://www.youngfarmers.org/finding-farmland-course/
https://www.youngfarmers.org/land-access/workinggroup/

Follow Holly's ice cream making on Instagram @farmersconecreamery!

May 21, 2019
Looking to 2020: Climate Action, the Farm Crisis, and Politics in Rural America
00:27:16

Lindsey speaks with Matt Russell, an Iowa farmer and executive director of Iowa Interfaith Power and Light, an organization that brings people of all faiths together in conversation about critical issues, like climate change and the future of rural America. Matt sees an opportunity for farmers to be on the forefront of climate innovation and mitigation, and being in Iowa, he's in a great place to influence policy and the 2020 presidential debates-he's already influencing them, in fact, as co-author of recent New York Times Opinion piece, "What Democrats Need to Know to Win in Rural America."

Recorded at the studios of Radio Kingston, edited by Hannah Beal, produced by Jessica Manly. Big thanks to our podcast intern Maia Banayan.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/17/opinion/democrats-iowa-caucus.html

https://iowaipl.org/

Photo: Jim Young/Reuters

May 15, 2019
"Growing Pennsylvania's Future" with Karen Gardner
00:28:33

"We need to understand the challenges young farmers are facing regionally in order to create solutions." Lindsey checks in with Karen Gardner, National Young Farmers Coalition's Pennsylvania Policy Associate, about what she's hearing from beginning farmers in PA, and the upcoming Pennsylvania Young Farmers Report, "Growing Pennsylvania’s Future: Challenges Facing Young Farmers and Recommendations to Address Them." Join the #morefarmers movement at youngfarmes.org/join. The Pennsylvania Young Farmers Report hits the internet later this month!

Become a member and join the #morefarmers movement at youngfarmers.org/morefarmers

Recorded at the studios of Radio Kingston.

Thanks to our amazing editor, Hannah Beal, producer, Jessica Manly, comms manager, Bilal Sarwari, and podcast intern, Maia Banayan.

Special thanks to Margaret Schlass, a busy PA young farmer who took the time to chat with us for this episode, but whose audio we very unfortunately lost due to a major tech glitch!

Photo by Don Holtz Photography.

May 09, 2019
Kate Greenberg: Young Farmer Becomes Colorado's Commissioner of Agriculture
00:20:50

Lindsey talks with Kate Greenberg, Colorado's new Commissioner of Agriculture, and former Western Program Director with the National Young Farmers Coalition. Lindsey and Kate check in about what it's been like to be the youngest person, and first woman, to hold this role in Colorado, as well as Colorado's plans to address climate change, land access barriers, and to support its next generation of farmers and ranchers.

Kate's advice to young people looking to move into roles of leadership in food and agriculture? "Just do it." Surround yourself with people that love and support you, and don't wait until you feel ready, because you probably never really will.

Follow Kate on instagram @coagcommish

https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/agmain/commissioner-kate-greenberg

https://civileats.com/2019/02/11/meet-kate-greenberg-colorados-new-commissioner-of-agriculture/

https://www.youngfarmers.org/2018/12/commissionergreenberg/

http://www.journal-advocate.com/sterling-local_news/ci_32351814/young-farmers-director-gets-top-post-nod

Kardie Equipment

Apr 30, 2019
Mai Nguyen and the California Young Farmers Report
00:26:56

California produces more food than any other state in the nation. Over one-third of U.S. vegetables and two-thirds of U.S. fruits and nuts are grown in California. But drought, wildfire, and the impacts of climate change are increasing across the state. How are the farmers doing? And how are the young farmers doing? Lindsey talks with Mai Nguyen, Young Farmers' California Organizer, based in San Diego, who is also a heritage grain farmer, activist, and former climate researcher. Mai authored the 2019 California Young Farmers Report for the National Young Farmers Coalition which drops later this week.

Apr 23, 2019
Census Results Are In: We Need #MOREFARMERS
00:15:30

Last week, the USDA's NASS released the results of the 2017 Census of Agriculture, the first count in over five years of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who run them. What do we know now about the state of agriculture in this country? Lindsey talks with Erin Foster West, Young Farmers' federal policy director, about the rise in female farmers, decrease in farmers of color, and what the 6.4 million data points mean for the future of farming.

The 2017 Census of Agriculture: https://www.nass.usda.gov/

Young Farmers Census press release: https://www.youngfarmers.org/2019/04/census2017/

Apr 16, 2019
What Could the Green New Deal Mean for the Future of Ag?
00:33:01

On February 7th, 2019 Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey introduced a resolution in Congress recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.

The resolution starts by listing the many ways that climate change will devastate this country, including mass migration, wildfires, a trillion dollars of economic damage, and then it puts forward ideas to simultaneously reduce emissions and build a just and prosperous society.

Farmers are in there of course. Agriculture is estimated to contribute up to 1/4 of global greenhouse gas emissions, and farmers are on the front lines of global weather changes. Lindsey interviews Eric Holt-Giménez, Executive Director of Food First, who recently wrote "The Green New Deal: Fulcrum for the farm and food justice movement?"

https://foodfirst.org/the-green-new-deal-fulcrum-for-the-farm-and-food-justice-movement/

https://foodfirst.org/

https://www.gp.org/green_new_deal

Photo credit: National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

Apr 12, 2019
Rep. Antonio Delgado @ Radio Kingston
00:42:01

Lindsey is joined in the studio at Radio Kingston by freshman Congressman Antonio Delgado (NY-19) to talk about his hotly contested race for office, representing the needs of beginning farmers in DC, and how he's trying to reach across the aisle in an era of "political tribalism." After the show, Lindsey and Jessica debrief.

National Young Farmers Coalition is proud to have our VP of Policy and Campaigns, Sophie Ackoff, as well as several member farmers on Rep. Delgado's 19th Congressional District Agriculture Advisory Board, including Wes Hannah and Bryn Roshong, Solid Ground Farm; Hudson Valley Young Farmers Coalition, Tianna Kennedy, Star Route Farm; Greater Catskills Young Farmers Coalition, Ben Tyler and Greta Zaro, Unadilla Community Farm; Leatherstocking Young Farmers Coalition and Bari Zeiger, Frost Valley Farm.

Photo from left: Michelle Hughes, Lindsey Lusher Shute, Rep. Antonio Delgado, and Sophie Ackoff in Washington, DC.

Apr 04, 2019
POTUS vs. WOTUS: What Side of the Clean Water Debate Should Farmers Be On?
00:32:29

Passed in 1972, the Clean Water Act (CWA) is one of the most progressive, influential environmental policies in U.S. history. The CWA is charged with keeping U.S. waters "fishable and swimmable," and protected from pollution. Recent proposed changes from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would rollback these protections by changing the legal definition of "waters of the United States" (WOTUS). Lindsey talks with law professor Mark Squillace about the details of the Trump administration's proposed changes and how they could impact agriculture and the environment.

The comment period on proposed revisions to WOTUS are open until April 15, 2019. The public can comment via regulations.gov.

Summary of proposed EPA WOTUS definition change.

EPA Comment Link.

Professor Mark Squillace.

Edited by Hannah Beal, produced by Jessica Manly, and recorded at the studios of Radio Kingston. Cover art American College of Environmental Lawyers.

Mar 26, 2019
Braceros: The Controversial History of US-Mexico Farm Worker Programs with Dr. Matthew Garcia
00:42:10

The Bracero Program began in 1942 as an agreement between the United States and Mexico to bring laborers to the U.S. to replace men who were leaving farms to fight in World War II. The program didn’t end with the war, however, it actually grew by hundreds of thousands of workers, and continued until 1964, laying the foundation for our current agricultural guest worker programs. Lindsey discusses the program's history, and its intersections with contemporary immigration, labor, and food justice issues with Dr. Matthew Garcia, professor of History and Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies at Dartmouth College.

Further Resources:
Matthew Garcia: https://home.dartmouth.edu/faculty-directory/matthew-j-garcia

Bracero History Archive: http://braceroarchive.org/about

Cows, Land, and Labor Conference at Dartmouth College: http://cowslandlabor.com/

Image credit: Time.com

Mar 08, 2019
Broken Promises: 4-H's LGBT+ Controversy
00:42:39

The 4-H program's mission statement includes "a promise to America's kids to reflect the population demographics, vulnerable populations, diverse needs, and social conditions of the country." In 2017, however, USDA administration pressured the national 4-H organization to retract its LGBT+ inclusion policies. Shortly after, John-Paul Chaisson-Cardenas, the progressive 4-H Youth Development Program director who had been working hard to boost equity and diversity, was fired. Lindsey speaks with Chaisson-Cardenas, Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, former director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and investigative reporter Jason Clayworth about the implications of these actions and what's next for the youth leadership organization and its 6 million members.

Further resources:

The retracted policies: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5096567-Iowa-Policy.html

https://4-h.org/about/what-is-4-h/

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2018/11/18/4-h-transgender-lgbt-iowa-john-paul-chaisson-cardenas-iowa-state-university-civil-rights/1572199002/

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2019/01/23/4-h-congress-information-trump-agency-push-dump-lgbt-policy-usda-lqbtq-stand-for-projects-policy/2662533002/

https://youtu.be/tyYUpzjJVxU

https://youtu.be/PN0SJjNh0sQ

Illustration was created for the Des Moines Register by Mark Marturello.

Feb 25, 2019
The Young Farmers Valentine's Lovecast!
00:31:41

Happy Valentine's Day, y'all! To celebrate, we're talking with some of our farmers about L.O.V.E. We’ve got some tips from a couple that have been farming together for 44 years, a story of finding a farm partner and true love on “The Tinder,” and a surprise Valentine’s message for a certain Young Farmers Podcast host.

Recorded at Radio Kingston, edited by Hannah Beal, music by Tom Daly and "Memories in Love (ID 1144)" by Lobo Loco.

Featuring:

Two Bear Farm, Whitefish, MT: http://twobearfarm.com/

Abbie Corse, The Corse Farm Dairy, Whitingham, VT: https://thecorsefarmdairy.com/

Carolina Mueller, Middle Ground Farm, Austin, TX: http://middleground-farm.com/

Cara Fraver, National Young Farmers Coalition, Business Services: https://www.youngfarmers.org/

Harrison Topp, Topp Fruits, Paonia, CO: https://www.youngfarmers.org/2017/03/national-uncertainty-community-hope-and-pruning/

Jeff and Annie Main, Capay, CA, Good Humus Produce: https://www.goodhumus.com/

Ben Shute, Hearty Roots Farm, Germantown, NY: http://www.heartyroots.com/

Feb 14, 2019
From Loss to Action Part 2 with the Washington Young Farmers Coalition, Farm Aid, and the National Farmers Union
00:25:01

Warning: This episode deals with topics surrounding suicide, and may not be appropriate for all audiences.

Suicide rates among farmers and farm workers are among the highest of any occupation in the United States (CDC data). In part two of this series on farmer mental health, we talk to members of the Washington Young Farmers Coalition about the organizing they launched in response to the loss of founding member Justin McClane in 2017. We also hear from Matt Perdue of the National Farmers Union, Joe Schroeder of Farm Aid, and journalist Debbie Weingarten, author of the pivotal Guardian piece on farmer suicide, "Why are America's farmers killing themselves?"

We hope this series will contribute to the effort to break down the stigma surrounding farmer mental and behavioral health, inspire policy change, and grow support for programs addressing the farmer mental health crisis in this country.

Take action today. Text "Farm Crisis" to 40649 to be connected with your Members of Congress to tell them to fully fund the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN).

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Hotline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).
You can also speak with someone directly at the Farm Aid Hotline at (800) FARM-AID (327-6243).

For further resources, please visit:

Policy Victories for Family Famers from Farm Aid: https://www.youngfarmers.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Farm-Advocacy-Policy-Changes-List.pdf

Joe Schroeder at Farm Aid: https://www.farmaid.org/author/joeschroeder/

https://farmcrisis.nfu.org/.

https://www.facebook.com/wayoungfarmers/photos/a.243951272306662/1374009989300779/?type=3

http://www.washingtonyoungfarmers.org/political/hb-2671/

http://www.seattleweekly.com/news/sowing-the-seeds-of-mental-health/

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/dec/06/why-are-americas-farmers-killing-themselves-in-record-numbers

Recorded at Radio Kingston and edited by Hannah Beal.

Feb 08, 2019
Remembering a Young Farmer: From Loss to Action with the Washington Young Farmers Coalition
00:25:22

Warning: This episode deals with topics surrounding suicide, and may not be appropriate for all audiences.

Suicide rates among farmers and farm workers are higher than in any other occupation in the United States. We start this two-part series with the story of Justin McClane, a founding member of the Washington chapter of the National Young Farmers Coalition, who we lost to suicide in 2017.

Our hope is that by telling Justin's story, and sharing the powerful organizing his community of young farmers in Washington State launched in response to his death, we can contribute to the effort to break down the stigma around mental and behavioral health, inspire policy change, and grow support for programs addressing the farmer mental health crisis in this country.

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Hotline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).
You can also speak with someone directly at the Farm Aid Hotline at (800) FARM-AID (327-6243).

For further resources, please visit https://farmcrisis.nfu.org/.

https://www.facebook.com/wayoungfarmers/photos/a.243951272306662/1374009989300779/?type=3

http://www.washingtonyoungfarmers.org/political/hb-2671/

http://www.seattleweekly.com/news/sowing-the-seeds-of-mental-health/

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/dec/06/why-are-americas-farmers-killing-themselves-in-record-numbers

Feb 01, 2019
Seed Matters with Clif Bar's Matthew Dillon
00:27:34

This week, Lindsey talks with Matthew Dillon, Senior Director of Agriculture at Clif Bar & Company, about Seed Matters, the company's organic seed research initiative. We talk about the challenges of food labeling for consumers, the differences between organic and conventional seed breeding, genetic consolidation in the U.S. food system, and Clif Bar's ag policy efforts.

Learn more about Seed Matters at www.seedmatters.org.

https://seedmatters.org/news-from-the-field/

Jan 26, 2019
The Shutdown Show 2 with Secretary Tom Vilsack
00:25:33

Tom Vilsack served as the 30th U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under President Barack Obama. Prior to his appointment as Secretary, Vilsack served two terms as the Governor of Iowa, in the Iowa State Senate, and as the mayor of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.

Host Lindsey Lusher Shute and Secretary Vilsack discuss managing the USDA during a shutdown; the anticipated economic impacts; whether farmers are really still in support of President Trump, as widely reported; and the immigration debate at the heart of it all.

Tell your Members of Congress it's time to end the #GovernmentShutdown. Text "ACTION" to 40649 to join our activist network and to be connected with your Representatives. Also add your #shutdownstories to @youngfarmerspodcast
Link to action: https://p2a.co/SShIhTg?fbclid=IwAR0k4hOcI5BYy3x5EnzU4VMDyqid1IAG7eLNRv016YF8b9nACaek6e8wlxA

Jan 16, 2019
The Shutdown Show with Politico's Helena Bottemiller Evich and Grain Farmer Andrew Barsness
00:32:39

Will 2019 be a year without the USDA? Lindsey speaks with Andrew Barsness, a young grain farmer in Minnesota, and Helena Bottemiller Evich, a senior food and agriculture reporter for POLITICO Pro, about the government shutdown and its impacts on food and agriculture.

Text ACTION to 40649 now to join our activist network and to let your Representatives know that young farmers need USDA agencies up and running ASAP.

Helena Bottemiller Evich

Andrew Barsness - Heart and Grain

Jan 09, 2019
Farm Bill Politics 7: We Have a Deal! Listener Q&A and Young Farmer Wins with Andrew Bahrenburg
00:27:55

After months of waiting, we have a farm bill! Just before 10pm on December 10th, the 2018 Farm Bill dropped. The next day, the Senate passed it through in a landslide, and on Wednesday, the House followed suit. Andrew Bahrenburg, NYFC's National Policy Director, fields some listener questions about what it all means for young farmers and the future of ag. Lindsey is joined in the studio with podcast editor Hannah Beal and NYFC's Communications Director, Jessica Manly.

For NYFC's detailed analysis on young farmer wins in the bill: https://www.youngfarmers.org/2018/12/farmbillforthefuture/

Please rate, subscribe, and review and we'll read your comments and thank you on next week's pod!

Follow us on instagram @youngfarmerspodcast to stay in the loop on Young Farmers Podcast news and to get your questions and opinions on the show.

Dec 14, 2018
Farming in a New Climate Reality with Mark Howden of the IPCC
00:36:39

In October, the The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a stunning Special Report on Climate Change. The study found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate, we will face devastating consequences across all sectors by 2040, much earlier than previously thought. The IPCC is "the single largest science-policy experiment in history" according to Professor Mark Howden, a Vice Chair of the IPCC and Director of the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University. We talk with Mark about the report's findings, the politics of climate change in the U.S., and how farmers need to adapt to a new reality.

https://www.ipcc.ch/2018/10/08/summary-for-policymakers-of-ipcc-special-report-on-global-warming-of-1-5c-approved-by-governments/

https://ccafs.cgiar.org/climate-smart-agriculture-0#.XArwlfZKjUI

https://theconversation.com/new-un-report-outlines-urgent-transformational-change-needed-to-hold-global-warming-to-1-5-c-103237

http://climate.anu.edu.au/about-us/people/mark-howden

https://csa.guide/csa/what-is-climate-smart-agriculture

https://www.ipcc.ch/people/mark-howden/

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/07/climate/ipcc-climate-report-2040.html

Dec 06, 2018
Poder Hablar: The Power of Young Farmers Stories with Isabel Quiroz
00:16:55

"I felt legally supported to participate, emotionally safe, and that what I had to say was powerful - that it counts. Some of the power that I had lost through the [immigration] process, I was able to get back."

The Spanish phrase "poder hablar" translates to both the ability to speak, and literally, the "power" of speaking. This week, we hear the powerful story of Isabel Quiroz of Tequio Community Farm in Mendocino, California. Isabel immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico four years ago, and was nervous about participating in the U.S. policy process, and about whether her experiences would be counted by Members of Congress. She shares with us about her journey to DC for our 2018 Convergence, and how becoming a young farmer advocate has helped her to gain a sense of agency as a U.S. citizen and to feel supported on her farm.

"Tequio comes from an indigenous concept in México that makes reference to a work party, traditionally members of a community would gather on a weekly basis to perform a task that would bring benefit to everyone."

Nov 30, 2018
Farm Bill Politics 6: So, so close (+ lab-grown meat, ready to hit the shelves?)
00:20:18

Teaganne Finn, agriculture reporter for Bloomberg's BNA Washington Bureau, shares the latest on farm bill negotiations. The news? Things are actually moving forward. Teaganne's also been following the regulation of cell-cultured meat. Is it the meat of the moment, or the long distant future?

Follow Teaganne on Twitter @Teaganne_Finn and on BGOV at https://about.bgov.com/blog/author/teaganne-finn/.

["Burgers grown in a lab are heading to your plate. Will you bite?"][1]

Nov 26, 2018
Giving Thanks
00:02:53

We're just returning from our Annual Leadership Convergence in DC, and we're especially grateful for all of the amazing young farmers in our Coalition, fighting for a bright and just future for agriculture. Listen in this week for some words of gratitude from Lindsey Lusher Shute, and a big announcement on some changes ahead for the Coalition.

Here's some footage from #NYFCconvergence 2018:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ROLibZNh1A&list=PLGjXOe-nEUH0H6X5TYStoiDGCY8SraR0z

And here are some of our favorite Thanksgiving recipes!

Cranberry relish (sub in maple syrup for sugar)
https://www.oceanspray.com/en/Recipes/By-Course/Sauces-Sides-and-Salads/Fresh-Cranberry-Orange-Relish

Ottolenghi's sweet potato mash with herb salsa
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jan/27/yotam-ottolenghis-coriander-recipes

Edna Lewis' buttermilk biscuits
https://louisiana.kitchenandculture.com/recipes/edna-lewis-hot-crusty-buttermilk-biscuits

Apple-ginger crisp
https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/apple-ginger-crisp-recipe

Visit us on our instagram @youngfarmerspodcast and share your favorite Thanksgiving recipes (or cocktails)!

Recorded at Radio Kingston and edited by Hannah Beal. And thanks to our podcast intern, Julie Davis.

Nov 21, 2018
Failure to Warn: Monsanto v. Dewayne Johnson
00:34:49

After years of spraying, Dewayne Johnson, a groundskeeper, believes the herbicide Roundup, which contains glyphosate, caused him to develop Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a rare and very painful form of skin cancer. So, he filed a case against Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup. Four years later, a jury awarded Mr. Johnson $289 million dollars in damages (recently reduced to $78 million). Many, many farmers use Roundup, and the question of how dangerous it is has been studied. The EPA found it to be safe, yet the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it to be "probably carcinogenic in humans," so mixed results. Monsanto, for its part, maintains that Roundup is safe but faces over 9,000 similar cases across the country. This week an Oakland, California judge said that another case will go forward next March. This week, Lindsey speaks with one of Mr. Johnson's lawyers, Mark Burton. Mark tells us about the case and how they managed to win it.

The Monsanto Papers

Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto Company

"Cancer patient who was awarded $289 million in Monsanto trial says he'll take $78 million instead"

"Groundskeeper Accepts Reduced $78 Million Award In Monsanto Cancer Suit"

"Cancer Case Plaintiff Continues Crusade Against Monsanto"

Leave us a review and we'll read your name on the air! And follow us on our new instagram, @youngfarmerspodcast.

Nov 16, 2018
Leah Penniman on "Farming While Black"
00:36:03

This week, NYFC's Michelle Hughes interviews Leah Penniman, co-founder of Soul Fire Farm, food justice activist, and author of the new book "Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land." Leah talks about her history, her spirituality, and her work training the next generation of black and brown farmers to build a more sustainable and equitable food system.

“Black people have a history in regenerative agriculture that is not circumscribed by slavery, share cropping, and tenant farming. We have tens of thousands of years of history innovating and coming up with dignified solutions to solving hunger in our communities without destroying the planet.”

NYFC members get 35% off of Leah's book at Chelsea Green Publishing, join today!

www.youngfarmers.org/join

Soul Fire Farm:
http://www.soulfirefarm.org/

Farming While Black at Chelsea Green:
https://media.chelseagreen.com/product/farming-while-black/

Nov 09, 2018
Farm Bill Politics 5: #FARMBILLNOW
00:27:02

The 2014 Farm Bill has been expired since October 1st. What does this mean for young farmers and ranchers and the USDA programs they rely on? This week, we catch up with Andrew Bahrenburg, our National Policy Director and guy on the ground in DC, about the effects of the expiration and fate of these so-called "stranded" programs. We also chat with USDA Economist Dr. Anne B.W. Efland about the history of the bill, and what's at stake if a new bill isn't passed this year.

Also, a reminder to VOTE in the midterm elections this Tuesday, November 6th. In the meantime, you can take action today by calling your Reps and telling them that young farmers need a #farmbillnow. Text "FARM BILL" to 40649.

"Expiration of the 2014 Farm Bill: Some Potential Implications"

Nov 02, 2018
NPR's Dan Charles on the Dicamba Debate
00:35:47

This week, Lindsey talks with NPR's Food and Agriculture Correspondent, Dan Charles, about the controversy surrounding the herbicide Dicamba, and the drift damage it has caused to other crops and wildlife across the country.

A few years ago, Monsanto engineered Dicamba-resistant soybeans because many weeds had developed tolerance to their popular product, Roundup. Many farmers were thrilled, and this year, soybeans were planted on approximately 89.6 million acres in the U.S. - 40% of these are Dicamba-tolerant. Although dicamba is highly effective at weed control, it can volatilize into the air, traveling for miles, and damaging non-resistant crops, trees, and other plants nearby. EPA will have the final say on whether growers can use Dicamba on their crops in the next few weeks.

More by Dan Charles on the Dicamba debate:

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/09/27/651262491/a-drifting-weedkiller-puts-prized-trees-at-risk
https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/10/09/654847573/despite-a-ban-arkansas-farmers-are-still-spraying-controversial-weedkiller
https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/02/14/584647903/these-citizen-regulators-in-arkansas-defied-monsanto-now-theyre-under-attack
https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/10/26/559733837/monsanto-and-the-weed-scientists-not-a-love-story

Visit us on instagram @youngfarmerspodcast and let us know what you think about Dicamba and how you think the EPA should rule.

Recorded at Radio Kingston and edited by Hannah Beal.
Thanks to our podcast intern Julie Davis.

Oct 26, 2018
Cooperative Power
00:35:37

In 1920, 14% of U.S. farmers were black - today less than 2%. Land ownership by Black farmers has also declined over the past 100 years, from 15 million acres to roughly 2 million acres. These numbers are tough, but some say they would be even worse without the leadership of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. Lindsey talks with Cornelius Blanding, executive director of the Federation, about Black land loss, how coops are helping black and rural communities, and their work with young black farmers.

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund
http://www.federationsoutherncoop.com/

October is National Co-op Month!
National Cooperative Business Association:
ncba.coop

#farmbillnow
Text "FARM BILL" to 40649 to support the FOTO/2501 program and other programs young farmers and farmers of color rely on.

Find us on Instagram @youngfarmerspodcast

Oct 19, 2018
Welcome to the Young Farmers Podcast!
00:01:12

The internet is flooded with food photos, recipes and diet advice, partisan news, and farmer-inspired fashion, but who is listening to the farmers themselves? Farmers grow your food and manage nearly half of all land on Earth. It's time to pay attention to the policies, programs, and events that are shaping the future of agriculture. Our host, Lindsey Lusher Shute, co-founder of the National Young Farmers Coalition, provides a fresh, farmer-centric take on food and farm policy. We talk with policy makers, experts and advocates, and, of course, farmers, about the most critical issues facing farming in the U.S. and globally. Edited by Hannah Beal and recorded at Radio Kingston.

Visit us on Instagram @youngfarmerspodcast!

https://www.youngfarmers.org/category/podcast/

Oct 18, 2018
Ndée Bikíyaa: The People's Farm
00:31:38

In celebration of Indigenous People's Day, Lindsey speaks with Clayton Harvey of the White Mountain Apache Tribe in Arizona about how farming has shaped his spiritual identity and helped keep Apache traditions and language alive in his community. Clayton shares how his journey to Standing Rock has influenced him, and inspired other indigenous young people to farm. His farm, Ndée Bikíyaa, has a mission of promoting personal and cultural health among White Mountain Apache through agriculture.

“In Apache, the word for mind and land are the same. It goes to show the relationship that our people had with the land-we're one with the land…Our mother [earth] is alive and has a heartbeat in the same sense that our mind is alive…we can eat all the healthy food, we can be active and involved in our community and our ceremonies, but if environmental health isn't right, then we're just a broken puzzle.”

https://www.facebook.com/ndeebikiyaathepeoplesfarm/

https://gardenwarriorsgoodseeds.com/2014/09/19/ndee-bikiyaa-the-peoples-farm-white-mountain-apache-tribe-az/

https://edibleschoolyard.org/program/ndee-bikiyaa-peoples-farm

https://americanindian.si.edu/nk360/plains-treaties/dapl.cshtml

Oct 12, 2018
How did so many pigs end up in a floodplain?
00:31:57

Hurricane Florence has been a disaster on many levels, leaving economic, social, and environmental destruction in its path across the Carolinas. In North Carolina, a locus of global pork production, continued flooding has also led to a livestock death toll in the millions. This week, Lindsey interviews Tom Philpott, former farmer, and current food and ag correspondent for Mother Jones, about the complex future of confinement meat production in the U.S., and the clean up poultry and hog producers face in the storm’s aftermath.

Mother Jones:
https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2018/09/2-weeks-after-florence-we-still-dont-know-how-toxic-carolina-waterways-are/

The Secret Ingredient Podcast:
http://thesecretingredient.org/

The Bite Podcast:
https://www.motherjones.com/topics/bite/

USDA CAFO facts:
https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/people/?cid=nrcs142p2_000482
https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/plantsanimals/livestock/afo/

Disaster Assistance for Young Farmers:
https://www.youngfarmers.org/2018/09/drought-wildfire-hail-is-there-a-usda-disaster-assistance-program-to-help-your-farm-or-ranch/

Text FARM BILL to 40649

Oct 05, 2018
Facing Disaster, Head-On
00:35:21

Hurricane Florence has caused an estimated $1 billion in damages to farms in the Carolinas, and the destruction continues. Lindsey interviews Davon Goodwin, a North Carolina farmer and manager of the Sandhills AGInnovation Center, to find out what it looks like on the ground, how farmers are trying to recover from the losses, and what can be done to build resilience to natural disasters in the future.

AND, the farm bill expires September 30th. Ryan McCrimmon of Politico's Morning Agriculture gives us the rundown on what to expect by, and after, the deadline.

Politico Morning Agriculture:
https://www.politico.com/morningagriculture/

Sandhills AGInnovation Center:
https://sandhillsag.com/

USDA Disaster Assistance Programs:
https://www.youngfarmers.org/2018/09/drought-wildfire-hail-is-there-a-usda-disaster-assistance-program-to-help-your-farm-or-ranch/

Crop Insurance for young farmers:
https://www.youngfarmers.org/2018/08/one-young-farmer-is-thankful-for-crop-insurance-could-it-be-right-for-you/

Sep 28, 2018
Climate and the Future of Farming with Dr. Nathan Mueller
00:35:03

Can farmers save the planet?

We all know that the weather impacts agriculture, but farmers are also changing the weather. Dr. Nathan Mueller, head of the Mueller Lab and Assistant Professor of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine, walks us through cutting edge research on the complex and interesting relationship between agriculture and climate, and some of the powerful ways farmers can steer global environmental change.

The Mueller Lab:
https://www.ess.uci.edu/~nmueller/people.html

Climate Change and Agriculture:
https://www.ess.uci.edu/~nmueller/research.html

Check back soon for the new study on climate change and the future of the global beer supply!

Xie, W, W Xiong, J Pan, T Ali, Q Cui, D Guan, J Meng, ND Mueller, E Lin, and SJ Davis. in press. Decreases in global beer supply due to extreme drought and heat. Nature Plants.

Episode Transcript

This is the Young Farmers Podcast. I'm Lindsey Lusher Shute. We already know that weather impacts farmers and the food system. So what will the future of farming look like in the face of climate change? To get an answer to that question, I spoke to Dr. Nathan Mueller. He works at the Department of Earth Systems Science at the University of California-Irvine. He's studying this exact topic, how climate change and farming relate to one another, how weather influences farmers, and farmers influence the weather.

Hi, I'm Greta Zarro, organic farmer at Unadilla Community Farm and co-leader of the Leatherstocking Young Farmers Coalition in New York State. I'm a member of the National Young Farmers Coalition because NYFC provides me with a platform for connecting with fellow beginning farmers in my region. For $35 a year, you can become a member too. As a member, you're part of a community of beginning small family farms following sustainable and fair practices. And you get discounts too like 10 percent off High Mowing Seeds. To join, go to youngfarmers.org.

Lindsey:  And Nathan, what is your area of study? And what do you do? I know your website says the Mueller Lab. That is like a group of researchers working together?

Nathan:  So I study, uh, the intersection of agriculture and global environmental change, thinking about land use, biogeochemistry, the climate system. And then I'm also thinking about the ways in which global environmental change is influencing agriculture and farmers. Um, so for example, how changes in climate are influencing crop yields and how we can adapt to those changes in the future.

Lindsey:  Can you talk about how climate change is currently impacting agriculture and what we anticipate for, for the future of agriculture? I heard you share one stat that there's going to be an 80 percent loss of maize production by 2080 just in the US, which is pretty incredible. What are we seeing already and what does it look like, uh, going into the future?

Nathan:   So that particular stat is an interesting one to start with. There was a paper that came out about 10 years ago now, using statistical models of past weather variability and yields and they projected this potentially very large decline in the productivity of US staple crops, and the conversation has evolved since then talking about statistical modeling, so throwing a bunch of data at the problem, talking about process based modeling, so using our best understanding of how crops grow and how they respond to temperature and radiation and soil moisture. And what we see is that the picture is mixed. I wouldn't say we're confident about that 80 percent number. One thing that is clear is that climate change will pose a greater headwind to crop productivity. It's unlikely, given, especially in the US, given the way that technology advances. So it's unlikely that we'll get net declines, but we might see that increase start to slow in the future.

Lindsey: So the productivity gains will not continue on sort of the same trajectory given the increasing challenges of growing food in certain regions.

Nathan:  Yeah, you can think of that in line of yields going up. And we actually have some new research coming out soon, fingers crossed, where we've looked at historical trends in climate over the US. And we've had this really interesting thing for corn farmers where kind of moderate temperatures have increased but extreme temperatures have have actually decreased just a little bit in the corn belt, and this seems to actually have given a little bit of a boost to yields, but looking into the future that trajectory may change as warming is projected to increase quite a lot.

Lindsey:  That's really interesting. The reduction in extreme temperatures, do you think potentially that's related to some of your other research on how corn and agriculture of some of these commodities is changing the weather?

Nathan:  Yeah. So, you know, when we think about climate change our default is to just think about carbon, right? The big greenhouse gas. But there are many different greenhouse gases including nitrous oxide, which, uh, you know, we see released from the use of nitrogen fertilizers for example. But you can also have a regional climate changed by land surface properties. So irrigation, when we have irrigated large swaths of land, that actually can lead to a cooling of daytime maximum temperatures. Think about, you know, when you walk into a lawn that's just been watered or something. It feels nice and cool compared to your pavement.

Lindsey:  So this reduction- am i characterizing that right-- it's a reduction in extreme temperatures or sort of moderation because of this irrigated agriculture. And is that just in the midwest that you're seeing that or is that something that's happening outside of the Midwest as well?

Nathan:  Right. So is something that's happening globally. Everywhere we have irrigation development, it influences regional climate. In the Midwest, we've seen it in the central valley. In places like the North China Plain and other places where a summer crops have intensified and where irrigation has developed as well.

Lindsey:   This irrigation phenomenon in moderating the climate, is this some sort of a bubble...this impact because farmers are in many cases reliant on groundwater and underground aquifers for irrigation? Is this, is this something that you anticipate will not be the case in the future as some of those supplies dwindle? Or do you think that just the techniques, even with rain fed agriculture are so much more advanced than they were at one point that this trend will continue?

Nathan:  That's a great question. If we zoom in on the Midwest and of course as you go to the western part of the corn belt in Nebraska and the great plains, you have irrigated crop lands. But farther east, very little irrigated and in those areas to the east, when there's a big drought, that cooling effect goes away. It evaporates, no pun intended. Um, and so yeah, you could think very similarly in the irrigated areas, if your water dries up, this sort of buffering induced by the land surface change is going to go away. In agricultural landscapes, you've got multiple factors influencing that regional climate. One factor, as we were just talking about, can be changes to the land surface. It can be increasing productivity of crop lands and more water use. But then we also have the influence of what we typically think about as global climate change. We have increasing greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere, trapping energy and leading to warming of air temperatures and surface temperatures. So it's kind of the balance of all of those factors that are going to drive climate into the future. And well, I think it's fair to argue that the landscape change has had a big influence, for example, in the Midwest during the summer, the greenhouse gas signal is having a bigger effect during other seasons and at some point is going to lead to warming during the summer for those very extreme temperatures as well in the Midwest.

Lindsey:  When you say other seasons, I imagine one of the things that you're talking about would be, for instance, in the Southwest, we're seeing some of what would normally fall into the mountains as snow is coming as rain or the melt is happening sooner, that type of thing?

Nathan:   Definitely. Yeah. So winter is warming. In general, nighttime temperatures have been warming more than daytime temperatures and winter temperatures have been waming more than summer temperatures. And I think the snow question is a really interesting one and really critical, especially here in California, we rely so much upon the natural reservoir of snowpack. It's pretty unclear how globally, you know, how much of our food supply is really dependent upon snow melt for water supply and what the vulnerability is in the future. But I would say it's clearly something to worry about.

Lindsey:   Right, yeah, our western farmers are pretty concerned in the four corners area in particular just about what the reservoirs are like right now. Um, some of them didn't get any allocation of surface water, river water this year, and they receive like 60 percent of their allocation of storage water that comes from that snow pack and the reservoir is lower going into the fall than it typically is. So that is definitely on the minds of a lot of our farmers thinking about are we going to get enough snow this winter to keep us through next summer?

Nathan:  And one thing with that is that, you know, it's not just the average changes but also the changes in extreme events and routes that we're really concerned about, especially multiyear droughts like we had in California recently. When these events happen year after year, it can really influence the financial viability for farmers and um, could end up pushing people out of agriculture, which is something we certainly don't.

Lindsey:  Oh yeah, that's absolutely true. You know, we talk about resilience oftentimes when it comes to farmers adapting and being prepared for, um, climate extremes. But there's also like a financial viability as a big part of that as well. Like, can your business make it through those tough seasons?

Nathan: Well, I have a great postdoctoral scholar who is just starting to investigate snow melt dependence of irrigated agriculture from a global perspective.

Lindsey:  All right, excellent.

Nathan:   So we'll let you know what we find out.

Lindsey:  You know, with climate change, there's a couple of other elements of it that I'm curious about. Certainly out east this year we had a major hailstorm on our vegetable farm. It was a really extreme storm with like softball size hail that knocked out solar panels that are rated for golf ball sized hail, that kind of thing. I just wonder like are these sort of extreme storms that we're seeing- is this normal or can this also be in any way associated with climate change?

Nathan:  One of the projections from the models is in fact that we will see more frequent and severe rain events, in the midwest to the northeast. And so that certainly could be related. There is a growing field within the climate science community called attribution. And the idea is that when we get extreme events that you can actually use the tools of climate science, these global climate models, and use them to characterize what the influence of climate change is on the probability of some event occurring. And as scientists we're always very hesitant to say that anything is definitively because of climate change. What we can say is when something is more likely to have occurred because of climate change.

Lindsey:  And I'm wondering too, one of the things that I know we've experienced on our farm has been, um, you know, different pests and disease pressures and whatnot because of, you know, warmer winters. Um, and I'm wondering what do the climate models project in terms of disease pressure and how that is going to change nationally? Is that something that you could speak to?

Nathan:  There was just a brand new study that came out in Science which was one of the, uh, I'll say one of the fanciest journals out there, and they did a nice job connecting climate projections with essentially pest prevalence, and they do predict that this will be a major mechanism by which agriculture is effective.

Lindsey: This is really an intriguing idea how farmers are impacting the weather. It's a difficult thing for farmers to internalize, right? Like what a responsibility it is to actually have impact on global climate systems. To think about that and take responsibility for that I think is quite important. So I'm just wondering if you can just name all of the ways that farmers are presently impacting weather now and into the future.

Nathan:  I guess there are two main mechanisms by which farmers and agriculture in general influence the weather and our climate system. One is by influencing these biophysical mechanisms that we were talking about earlier. So for example, how much water is used on the landscape, irrigation, changes in crop productivity, and land use change. So for example, deforestation. All of these factors influence the climate from that biophysical perspective. And then the other main way that farmers and agriculture influence the climate system is through greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture in general contributes about 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. About half of that is coming from land use change, uh, primarily in the tropics, deforestation and related carbon emissions. And then the other half has to do with kind of on farm management practices as well as livestock. Ruminate livestock commit methane is a greenhouse gas. Um, rice cultivation also releases methane. The use of nitrogen fertilizers releases N2o. And those are some of the big ways in which farmers influence and agriculture and food consumers such as myself influence, uh, the greenhouse gas budget of the world. It's not fair to, you know, I don't think we'd want to put it all on farmers, for some of these are like unavoidable consequences and they are very, I would say, difficult to deal with emissions, compared to changing power plants, etc.

Lindsey: When it comes to transition of forested land or prairie land or whatnot, and I guess a lot of this is happening right now in the tropics, can you explain what that means for greenhouse gas emissions or how that impact occurs?

Nathan: Yeah. So let's take as an example, Indonesian Rainforest that is being cleared for oil palm. And so they'll come in and clear the land often through burning. And so you release the carbon locked up in the above ground biomass in the trees when you burn, and then when the soil is disturbed, that also releases carbon from the soil. And then in Indonesia, there's another interesting case where you have wetlands soils and when these wetland soils are drained, um, that increases the decomposition of the biomass that's essentially locked up in those soils. And so, um, you can see a lot of emissions from the soils as a result of that.

Lindsey: And what about in the Midwestern context? Um, when we see a native native prairie, uh, turned into cultivated land, I suppose as an example. Are there similar greenhouse gas emissions in that scenario?

Nathan:  Yeah, exactly. Very similar mechanisms at play where you have a pulse of carbon coming from the above ground biomass and then also when that soil is tilled and worked with, um, you see emissions from below ground as well. In general, there's this enthusiasm about focusing on soil health and how focusing on soil health can actually be a really key way to help solve the climate problem. Specifically the idea that these soils can be made more carbon-rich through management and that that sequestration of carbon can really help.

Lindsey:  Do you have a sense of like the scope of such soil health practices that would be required to really play a meaningful role in climate mitigation?

Nathan:  You know, I don't have the numbers off the top of my head, but I will say that the researchers that have been doing field studies on this topic, they find that pretty large sequestration rates are possible on cropland and on degraded pastures. And um, and then, you know, when they do back of the envelope calculations to see, you know, how this could scale up, you do get some really large numbers. Um, the majority of countries in the world with the exception of the US have agreed to, um, you know, limit climate warming to two degrees celsius with a more aspirational goal of one and a half degrees. And it turns out that in these models, one of the only ways they can get there is if they assume there's some way in which we're able to actually suck carbon out of the atmosphere. So these are Called negative emissions. And one of the ways that you could get negative emissions is if you produced bioenergy and also capture the carbon and sequestered some of the carbon associated with that bioenergy.

Lindsey:   So when you say a bioenergy, it's some sort of replacement fuel to a fossil fuel in addition to having negative emissions?

Nathan:  Right.

Lindsey: And so negative emissions would be, I guess one way to do that would be soil carbon sequestration?

Nathan: Yeah, exactly. It's a little disturbing that, you know, the scenarios that we can come up with that allow us to meet the goals that we have stated for ourselves with climate change. But it's another way of emphasizing the importance of agriculture in all of this, and we'll see how it ends up.

Lindsey: Some of your work has been on farmer attitudes on climate change and what makes a farmer associate a particular, um, uh, I guess weather event or weather trend as climate change or not. Could you tell me a little bit about the work you've done on that?

Nathan:  Sure. So yeah, I had the opportunity to collaborate with a great researcher at the University of Vermont, Meredith Daniels. So in our specific study we were looking at actually farmers in New Zealand, um, and we were comparing perceptions about how climate was changing to how climate was changing locally in those regions. And so we saw, you know, it was really a mixed bag in that population. One thing that was interesting is that their belief and whether climate change was occurring at the global level was related to their perception of whether they thought that a change was occurring locally, and the farmers were also very accurate in capturing the fact that uh, the winter was warming a quite substantially.

Lindsey:   So if the farmers observed local events, they were more likely to believe that global climate change was occurring. Is that correct?

Nathan:   Yeah. So, uh, it was actually, if they believe that global climate change was occuring--

Lindsey:   Oh, ok, I'm wrong. It's the other way around--

Nathan:  --they were a bit more likely to perceive the local change. Yeah. Which was really interesting. We also saw that you know, for some of the perceptions, like for example, with the winter warming were certainly right on, which tracks with the fact that who's going to be a better observer of weather and climate than farmers.

Lindsey:   So you're finding is that if a farmer believes that global climate change is happening, they would associate weather anomalies or winter warming or whatnot also with that climate belief.

Nathan:  Their beliefs were associated with their perceptions of local change for sure. Um, but, uh, some of the perceptions definitely tracked the local changes. And here in the US, um, my understanding of the latest research on this is that across the country a majority of farmers do believe that climate change is happening and is likely to affect them. But, um, there is still less than half that believe it to be anthropogenic.

Lindsey:  How much should we use that data in thinking about encouraging and working with farmers to get more of them engaged in these efforts on climate mitigation?

Nathan:                     That is a really, really interesting question and I'm not sure I have a perfect answer for you. Uh, but certainly some practices that might be considered an adaptation to climate change may just be also something that's good for the soil. It's good for the bank account and so whether the motivation is fundamentally about climate change or the weather, it may or may not matter as much once you get down to actually just adopting certain practices that are going to be beneficial for the farmer.

Lindsey:   Yeah it's something that I've thinking a lot about since hearing experts say that they need farmers to play such an important role, but also knowing that farmers aren't necessarily aware of what's expected of them or hoped for their practices. And I feel like there's a sort of a fundamental disconnect there, broad scale or maybe just on farm scale. Like what are the top things that could change, particularly with US agriculture, that would really make a significant difference?

New Speaker:  Yeah. So I think all this research coming out about soil carbon sequestration is really key. We also see that nitrous oxide is emissions from nitrogen fertilizer use, but inorganic and organic sources, of course. We also see nitrous oxide from organic nitrogen sources. Managing nitrogen, increasing nitrogen use efficiency, promoting precision agricultural technology are all means by which we can help reduce those emissions. One way that we can influence greenhouse gas emissions as food consumers is through how much room and meat we consume. And this becomes a little tricky. I think it's hard too because, you know, I have relatives that raise cattle and there are livelihoods and cultures, uh, associated with meat production. And so I don't know, it's a hard conversation to have.

Lindsey:   So some of that is reducing meat consumption, but also, we have more people, right? So if we even just stay at the level we're at now, that's less meat per person.

New Speaker:  The key thing here is like if in the developed countries, our diets are a little bit less than intensive, you know, we also have massive population growth, massive increases in the richness of diets. In the developing world, increasing meat and dairy consumption. So I don't think we're talking about like a net negative decline in meat and dairy globally, by any means. But at least, that is a lever that can be pulled on to have an influence.

Lindsey:  And I know this isn't your specific area of study, but when you say ruminant agriculture, there is a difference between ruminants that are grown in a confinement situation and those that are raised on pasture in terms of methane emissions.

Nathan:  Yeah. So I'm not familiar with all of the details of that work. I know that it matters, you know, what the rates of emissions are. And there was some recent work suggesting that the grass-fed impacts are actually a little bit larger.

Lindsey:  Because of the length of time to raise a given animal.

Nathan:  Exactly. Yeah. So I think one bigger picture thing that I've found since getting into this topic from an academic perspective is that it's difficult because we all come from different backgrounds and have different ideas about, you know, what we think sustainable looks like or ought to look like, and you find yourself sort of humbled over and over where you know, you realize maybe your perceptions weren't right and you have to reevaluate in the face of evidence. You know, for example, in the case of this greenhouse gas emissions of grass fed cattle thing, it was a surprise to me.

Lindsey:   Is there a tendency to just look at all of that carbon emissions narrowly too, as opposed, you know, like you think of a pasture based system as being very healthy for the ecosystem as well, that it supports, whereas a confinement operation is dramatically altering that ecosystem to support growth of animals and livestock. So I think it's really interesting to see what that carbon balance is, but what is being missed in that conversation?

Nathan: That's a great point. Yeah. Even though we, you know, need to bring numbers to bear on all of these issues, it's really important not to look too narrowly and to consider all of the dimensions of the system, all of the services that are being produced by that landscape, and the impacts of how it's managed. And in research about ecosystem services as a little subfield of environmental science where we're talking about how the services provided to humans of different landscapes-- they often have these plots that are like flower petals. And each petal encompasses some dimension that we care about. So you know, one could be greenhouse gas emissions, one could be biodiversity for example. Something that's nice about that is you get this nice visual picture of how these different landscapes compare. You can see what it looks like and not just go down to one particular axis but look at a bunch of different outcomes together and that's a nice framing to keep in mind.

Lindsey:  There is so much complexity to all of this and I think there is no choice but to embrace that complexity. Right? Because ignoring any part of it, I think--

Nathan:  Exactly, I think that's very true.

Lindsey:  You know, not just this narrow sort of carbon balance equation when you're thinking about um, raising livestock, but also just like thinking about how we get more farmers engaged in climate mitigation. We're like attitudes and cultural beliefs and you know, regional practices, etc. like how that plays into economic variables and I don't know, the list goes on and on and on. But yeah, these are the conversations we need to be having and as challenging as they may be, because the climate impacts, it's happening now.

Nathan: Absolutely.

Lindsey:  Nathan, thank you so much for joining us today. I learned a lot.

Nathan:  Thanks so much for having me.

Lindsey:  Thanks so much for your time. Dr. Mueller, thank you so much for being on the show and for explaining so much. I have to mention that Nathan Mueller is also a coauthor on a new paper on the impacts of climate change on the global beer supply. We will link to that paper in the show notes as well as some of his other research. If you like what we're doing here on this show, please leave us a note on iTunes. It really does help more people find the pod. This show is edited by Hannah Beal and recorded with the generous help of Radio Kingston. See you next week.

Sep 22, 2018
Farm Bill Politics 4: Down to the Wire
00:19:34

As the September 30th farm bill expiration date looms, Lindsey checks back in for a status update with NYFC's National Policy Director, Andrew Bahrenburg. What do the "Fab Four" have to do with farm bill conference negotiations? Will Congress pass a final farm bill in time? And what will happen to the programs young farmers rely on if they don't?

Take action, and tell your Representatives that we need a #farmbillnow. Text "FARM" to 40649 today.

For more about the farm bill programs young farmers rely on:

https://www.youngfarmers.org/2018/09/beginning-farmer-and-rancher-training-programs-in-danger-of-farm-bill-cuts/

https://www.youngfarmers.org/2018/09/young-farmers-rely-on-the-organic-cost-share-program-to-afford-organic-cred/

Episode Transcript

This is the Young Farmers podcast. I’m Lindsey Lusher Shute.

Currently, there is a Senate version of the farm bill, and a House version of the farm bill. And unless they resolve their differences, the farm bill will expire at the end of this month. And that means the Senate and the House are in something called a conference committee to work it out.

And what are the things they have to work out? Well, the House bill would remove an estimated 2 million – yes, 2 million people from federal nutrition programs; the House version would eliminate funding for farmer markets, organic certification, and it would take billions from conservation programs — even as farmers in the West endure one of the worst droughts of their lives. The bill needs to be passed by September 30th, and our representatives are taking recess starting Monday and won’t return until Sept. 25!

Andrew Bahrenburg, our guy on the ground in Washington, was at the first public conference committee meeting last week. Today, he brings us up to date on what happened.

Lindsey: So tell me what happened.

Andrew Bahrenburg:

Yeah. So, it was the first official meeting of the Farm Bill Conference Committee yesterday and they met for about three and a half, four hours. There are 56 members of the conference committee and each of them gets three minutes to make their opening statements. Um, so after, after some longer opening statements from the chair and ranking member of the committees, the so-called “big four,” or as Senator Roberts calls them, the “fab four,” they kind of set the tone. And then from there, each member of the committee got three minutes to basically stake out their priority issues.

Lindsey: Wait, wait, wait–all 57 members got the opportunity to [speak for] three minutes?

Andrew: Every single one. That’s right. A few were in and out from other, you know, I mean Senator Leahy of course, is one of the top Democrats on the judiciary committee. So he was in the Supreme Court confirmation hearing most of the time. So it was mostly ceremonial I would say. Of course, this is not the venue for actual negotiations. This is more the ceremonial pomp and circumstance around the conference committee. So you saw a lot of members, um, you know, getting in their primary talking points about the things they like and the things they don’t like.

Lindsey: So it’s like the opening ceremonies for the conference committee.

Andrew: Exactly.

Lindsey: How do all fifty-some people get beyond their talking points to actually, you know, work this thing out?

Andrew: At the end of the day they really don’t. Right? I mean, I think they will meet as a big group like this. You know, they did yesterday. They likely will at least once more. The main negotiations are happening behind closed doors with the top members of the committee. That’s not really a mystery who will be negotiating the actual brass tacks of this thing. It’ll be Senators Roberts and Stabenow and Congressman Conaway and Peterson, the people who have been really steering this ship from the get go for the last, you know, the better part of two years now.

Lindsey: Who’ve been doing it all along..

Andrew: Mmhmm, and their staff. And there are members of their staff who, you know, know more about every single line in those bills than anyone here in Washington. They’ll be putting in some long hours ahead, particularly as we get closer and closer to the September 30th deadline.

Lindsey: But the actual negotiations, none of that is happening in the public view.

Andrew: Not yet. I mean there will be some controlled releases to the press. For instance, after the long three and a half to four hour conference committee meeting yesterday, the Fab Four, they then met privately immediately after that meeting to really continue negotiating. And that’s more or less the dynamic and then you know, coming out of that couple hours long meeting, but they kind of held forth with members of the DC press. But again, you know, most of their comments publicly are not real substantive, because, you know, these are really delicate negotiations and I think to say too much publicly, for better or worse, could swing things in one direction or the other. Or at least you lose some degree of control over how negotiations are going. And they are trying to thread a very small needle here.

Lindsey: I mean, just the idea that they’re going to be able to do this by the end of the month. Is that realistic? I mean, just a month. It doesn’t turn out to be a whole lot of time.

Andrew: I would say it’s possible. It’s going to be very difficult. There are still are some pretty big issues and big differences between the two bills. I mean the big wild cards are non-farm bill related things that are also required of these legislators in September. Right? So the entire federal government for 2019 is not currently funded. So September 30th is not just the deadline for the farm bill. It’s the deadline for funding the federal government. You’ve seen President Trump saying that if a shutdown happens, it happens, right? Having kind of a cavalier attitude toward the entire federal government grinding to a screeching halt. Um, and then there are some other big things. Of course there’s a supreme court nominee to be possibly confirmed this month as well. And you have some potential battles over immigration, and oh yeah, every member of the house is on the ballot in early November for reelection and a third of the Senate. So there are plenty of things that could get in the way of them doing a farm bill on time.

Lindsey: If it doesn’t happen by the end of September, what do they do?

Andrew: That’s an important question. They have to pass an extension, which is not a particularly uncommon thing to have happened with a farm bill. Uh, it’s such a big piece of legislation, you know, it’s a five year authorization bill, but also in part because politics have gotten more divisive than partisan over the last decade or two. So it’s gotten harder even with the farm bill. The big concern particularly for a lot of our priorities is with those so called stranded programs that would not automatically be extended because they’re so small. Right. Which is, you know, almost ironic in that sense. They’re the smallest, cost the least, and yet they’re the hardest to make sure they continue. So if we reach October one, we wake up that morning, and even if an extension has passed, unless that extension specifically funds those programs (like beginning farmer and rancher development program, like organic cost share, like value-added producer grants, farmer’s market promotion, that kind of stuff), those programs will in effect cease to exist at least for the time being until they pass a permanent farm bill.

Lindsey: Right. Which is what happened in 2014, and then there wasn’t a year of funding for projects that are funded by the beginning farmer and rancher development program, which has a big impact for a lot of the young farmers in our network, because those are the training programs and technical support programs that many of them rely on.

Andrew: Exactly…which isn’t to say that those programs aren’t already impacted, right? Because so the way that money kind of moves out the door through USDA is not always just, you know, “here’s some money.” But instead, you know, they’ll put out requests for proposals for this or that program. There’s a whole bureaucratic process that has to take place before you can start writing checks to farmers or to community based organizations or to lenders or something like that, and so even by coming up to the deadline like we are right now is inevitably going to cause some delay in those requests or applications getting out the door. Now obviously those problems would pale in comparison to an entire year of no funding for some of those programs.

Lindsey: Of course.

Andrew: But the impact will still be felt regardless.

Lindsey: And so what are we hearing on big ticket items like SNAP and food stamps? Do we expect that the house is going to back down on some of the work requirements? I know just right before conference committee, President Trump tweeted out his support for the work requirements. I mean, how is that going to play out?

Andrew: And he did so again earlier this week and Vice President Pence has as well. In a way that seemed almost a little bit coordinated, right? Like they are still digging in and at least trying to fortify the house position on some of that stuff a little bit. Now, of course like that is also quite possibly negotiating tactic, right? You want to seem like you’re not going to cave right up until the moment that you maybe do make some concessions. There has been some indication that the both sides have been moving a little bit. There were reports earlier this week that Chairman Conaway, the chair of the House Ag Committee, had essentially made kind of a compromise proposal and had put it on the table in the form of a memo that kind of outlined some of the things within the nutrition title that he could envision softening on, I guess. No one but for a handful of people well above my pay grade have seen that memo. Right. So we have no idea what’s in it. The press has only been able to report that it exists, but we’re not sure where he has identified there is wiggle room, but it’s at least a signal that they’re starting to kind of do the horse trading that will be necessary, right. And I think because the Senate Farm Bill passed with 86 Yes votes at the hearing yesterday, there were two senators absent during that vote that would have voted yes. So really it would have gotten 88 votes. Right. That’s an overwhelming majority that gives them a very strong negotiating position on this stuff. You know, that’s kind of impacting all of these negotiations, right? It’s to say, “look, our bill is bipartisan and popular. It doesn’t have all of those work requirements that made yours so divisive. We’re holding all the cards here and we can’t pass anything that’s not going to get 60 votes. So you know, put your gun down and we’ll do the same.”

Lindsey: Yeah.

Andrew: Yeah. So that’s the big piece as you correctly identified. I mean, and then there’s plenty of other things, especially around the conservation title that I think are also going to come down to the wire. Right. I expect that those will be the last pieces to fall into place. And particularly around funding. Right. I think where negotiations have gotten so far is on a lot of the policy pieces because that’s like an easier place to start, but the actual money discussions, which are arguably the most important, those are kinda gonna be saved till the end I guess.

Lindsey: All right, so what’s the next step here? When’s the next public meeting of the conference committee? When do you start to see some text?

Andrew: I mean little bits and pieces of text will trickle out and, and I think that’s, you know, you asked earlier how transparent this will be. I think the answer is not very for now. Um, but they are pulling in key stakeholders on particular chunks of the bill. Right? So it’s like for us, you know, if there are beginning farmer provisions of the farm bill being negotiated, um, you know, a lot of times the committee staff will kind of reach out to us and be like “like how would you feel if we were to move this section and eliminate this part?” Right. So that will happen across all stakeholders, I think as we go. There is no next meeting formally on the books, uh, so that’s an open question. The Senate Ag Committee interestingly did schedule a hearing for next week on trade where they are hauling USDA’s topic economist before the Senate committee, probably to yell at him about tariffs and trade and also ask a lot of questions about that trade bailout package, for which the application process began this week. Money is going to start moving out the door at a pretty steady clip.

Andrew: And so who receives that money and where it goes is going to be a particular interest to the Senate Ag Committee.

Lindsey: And what day is that hearing scheduled for?

Andrew: That’s on the 14th. That very much seems like an election year type hearing. So every member can kind of stake out their turf and talking points on the trade situation, particularly those up for reelection in big ag states.

Lindsey: So even if they support the administration that has created the tariffs, uh, and they can’t do anything about it from a policy perspective, at least they are on record saying they don’t support it or they’re concerned about impacts.

Andrew: And asking some tough questions of the people overseeing where this money goes, which to be clear is their job as the legislative branch– to conduct that level of oversight. So I don’t mean to cast too cynical a pall over it, you know, it is a very necessary hearing I think. And a lot of us will be watching to see what sorts of questions are asked and the answers given.

Lindsey: Yeah. And these senators are in a really tough position, right? I mean because I think that they have very, I mean they might support the administration on, on some level, even if it’s just in support of their party, but you know, the impacts at home are very real. Um, and I think many of them are quite upset about the tariff situation. So…

Andrew: Yeah. And I think it’s particularly interesting for members that are big on agriculture and may sit on that committee but also come from big manufacturing states. Right. Senator Sherrod Brown in Ohio comes to mind who is a Democrat and so obviously is often very critical of things the Trump administration does. But at the same time, as steel workers in Ohio celebrate those tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, he has to walk that line between knowing that the retaliation is, you know, the hammer’s going to come down on farmers in his state, but at the same time he’s got an interest group in, in a lot of the manufacturing sector. I don’t envy that position one bit.

Lindsey: Yeah. On one level, I guess maybe it’s a difficult position to be in, but it’s good that senators like Senator Brown are, you know, looking out for all sides of the equation here.

Andrew: Mhmm. It kind of underscores the point about global trade, which is that when you get to that level, everything’s connected, right? Like you can’t separate raw metals from soybeans traded on the global marketplace, right? Everything is connected. And if you pull on one thread, all of a sudden the whole thing starts to come apart.

Lindsey:

Well we certainly hope that the farm bill doesn’t fall apart and we will be closely following what comes next in the days ahead.

If you want to take action on the Farm Bill and join the National Young Farmers Coalition’s network of activists text ‘FARM’ to 40649.

There is a lot at stake here.

As a reminder, the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program (FOTO), remember Tiffany Washington from an earlier episode, is in the Senate version of the bill. That’s the funding for beginning farmer training nationwide, and outreach and support to veteran farmers, indigenous farmers, and historically underrepresented farmers. I don’t know who is against this program, but it won’t be in the bill if our network doesn’t step up.

The Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP for all policy wonks out there) is the program we need to support farmers markets and local and regional food. The House bill eliminates funding for it all.

To take action, text “FARM” to 40649.

The Conservation Stewardship Program–USDAs largest conservation program–assists farmers in taking care of natural resource concerns on their farm — resources like soil, air and water that impact everyone. A recent study showed that for every dollar spent, the Conservation Stewardship Program returns nearly 4 dollars in public benefit. The House bill also gets rid of this one.

To take action, text FARM to 40649.

SNAP benefits give a very modest boost to families in need. The maximum value is $1.86 per meal. The House bill would take this small bit of help away from nearly 2 million people, including 740,000 adults living in households with children – many of whom do work, but whose wages are so low they qualify for assistance. These are the ‘working poor.’

To take action, text FARM to 40649.

We’ll keep you posted.

If you like what we are doing here, please take a second to review us in iTunes, or tell a friend about the show.

Andrew, thanks for your updates. This podcast is made with support from the staff at National Young Farmers Coalition. It’s recorded at Radio Kingston, and edited by Hannah Beal. Podcast transcript by Julie Davis.

See you next week.

Sep 14, 2018
"Water is Scarce, Water is Rare"
00:36:25

"If we don't start doing things differently, there won't be agriculture to pass down."

Climate change is a hot-button political issue, but in the Western U.S., no one can deny that the drought and above average temperatures are real. Mike Nolan, a young farmer in Mancos, Colorado, gives an insider perspective on farming in extreme weather conditions, building resilience, and shares how an innovative conservation policy idea that started over beers and ended up in the Senate farm bill.

What is the path forward for farmers in the arid West?

Mountain Roots Produce:
https://mountainrootsproduce.com/aboutus/

U.S. Drought Monitor:
https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Drought Diaries:
https://www.rmfu.org/homepage-2/latest-news/happening-now/the-drought-diaries/

Episode Transcript

This is the Young Farmers Podcast. I’m Lindsey Lusher Shute. Today I’m speaking with Mike Nolan, a farmer at Mountain Roots Produce, and chapter leader at the Four Corners Farmers and Ranchers Coalition that’s based near Mancos, Colorado. Mike is already growing in a dry climate, but this year has been especially tough. He explains the challenges brought by drought and severe weather and how he is cop

ing with it all. He also tells us how micro-equip, an idea he had over some beers, made it all the way to the Senate version of the farm bill.

I’m Julia Sherman, farmer at Rag and Frass Farm in Jeffersonville, Georgia, and a leader of the Middle Georgia Young Farmers Coalition. I’m a member of the National Young Farmers Coalition because it’s so important for young farmers to work together to create change. For $35 a year, you can join too. In addition to being part of a bright and just future for agriculture in the United States, you’ll also get discounts like 40 percent off Filson and 25 percent off farm to feed socks. To join, go to youngfarmers.org.

Mike: You know, you guys had that at your place. You had that massive hail storm.

Lindsey: Yep. Mmhmm.

Mike: You know, we’ve had like kind of like one of those events or something like that, like every 10 to 14 days where it’s like—

Lindsey: Woah Woah Woah…

Mike: We’re like really? It’s either hail or bug infestations or water issues or smoke or fire or something.

Lindsey: Ah wow, you’ve had it all. So can you just, you know, even now when I talk about the water situation, particularly to really new farmers where you are, who are east coast farmers, it’s just so different. I mean you’ve farmed on this side of the country for a while so you can understand the contrast. Could you just very briefly describe how your farm gets water?

Mike: Yes, definitely. Um, basically our water rights go back to the late 1800’s. They’re some of the oldest in the state, so a lot of the farms and ranches here have adjudicated water rights. So they’re water rights that kind of stay with the ground. Like ours come off river. So we have river water rights and then we also have storage water rights. So we have storage water out of our lake, which serves to make this valley, and that deeds us an acre foot of water per acre on an annual basis. And then we have–

Lindsey: And that’s not water that you have on your farm–that’s in the reservoir.

Mike: Yeah, that’s in a reservoir. And that reservoir also serves Mancos role water, which is our domestic water. It serves the town of Mancos and it also serves to Mesa Verde National Park. And that reservoir is small compared to a lot of place

s. It’s only 10,000 acre feet when it gets full. And right now after this summer, I think it’s sitting at about 1400 acre feet going into the winter with the 2 municipalities or municipal water. Mancos and Mesa Verde will be continuously using it all winter.

Lindsey: Okay. So over 10 percent full. Uh, how does that compare with a normal August? Like where should the reservoir be at this time of year?

Mike: You know, normally the reservoir would be 30 to 40 percent full, possibly higher. The tricky part this year, Lindsey, was that in a normal year we get to run off our adjudicated water, our priority water, and in the past five years on this place we can run off river water until about, you know, fourth of July, sometimes early August, and this year we didn’t get a single day of river water. And then our storage water was limited to 60 percent of our total allotment. So this is really abnormal. And the hardest part about it honestly was we didn’t get any precipitation all winter, so the ground was so dry. So even hay guys around here, they could grow two to three inches of water in 24 hours on hay grounds and it would just drop right into the water table. Like you’d come back seven days later and it’d be bone dry.

Lindsey: If you have senior rights, then there’s a lot of other people who clearly didn’t get water either.

Lindsey: Yeah. Some folks, I mean, some folks still have river water. Um, so here’s kind of an interesting thing. The town of Mancos is priority 3, but the priority is sitting at two right now. Um, so the town of Mancos is actually using their storage water and there’s two irrigators in the valleys that are priority one and two that are using water right now to irrigate hay. So the town has actually fallen out of priority, which rarely happens.

Lindsey: So the town has fallen out of priority for its river water?

Mike: Yeah. So the town usually is able to pull off the Mancos River for their domestic water use. Um, but right now they’re just pulling off the lake

Lindsey: And so they’re further depleting the reservoir?

Mike: Yeah. And I don’t totally know what their usage is. It’s a small town so I can’t imagine it’s more than an acre foot or two. So yeah, they were using their lake water. Everyone’s on storage water right now and it’s scary out there.

Speaker 2: Yeah. So you have received 60 percent of your total allotment this season for storage water. How is that impacting the farm?

Mike: So we, this winter by farm partner and girlfriend Mindy Perkovich and I kind of sat down and we knew it was going to be tight, so we wanted to, we knew we needed to do the CSA crops and we can kick that on domestic water. Then we kind of had tears of like, okay, storage, beets, potatoes, winter squash. You know, last year we did about seven acres in production. This year I think we did about 1.7 or 2 acres of production. So we’re super limited. Our water came on about four weeks later than it should and we’ve been out of water for I think two and a half weeks now. And we’ve had like barely any rain. We’ve been running off our Mancos role water just to ease things along, and we’ve just taken crops that we would like to finish out, like the cabbage and the beans. And we’ve either just mowed them and decked them or picked them early. We could afford the water with rural water.

Lindsey: That’s like from the town?

Mike: It’s our domestic water for the valley. So it, you know, we don’t like to use too much of that stuff because the Ph is a little bit off. It’s a little bit higher in salt, it’s chlorinated.

Lindsey: It’s treated water.

Mike: It’s treated water and I hate using treated water for vegetable production personally.

Lindsey: And it’s expensive I imagine.

Lindsey: Oh yeah. You know, we budgeted about a thousand dollars for the last six weeks of the season to be able to tide us through.

Speaker 2: Wow. So what, so what is next for you guys for next season? Doesn’t seem like it’s expected to get much better next year and the reservoirs are lower than in previous seasons. What are you thinking about for the 2019 season?

Mike: We’re thinking a lot of stuff. It’s, you know, with all the workers in NYC, you know, we are always talking about resiliency, right? Resiliency and drought. And what I’ve realized this year is that I can totally figure out how to be resilient, resilient with my markets and crop production. What I’m having a hard time with is being resilient in relationships and with mental health. And I don’t think that Mindy and I could do this again next year. I think it would crush us. So if things don’t get better, we’re just going to get jobs for a year. Um, we’ll have some water. We’ll be able to cover crop things great for some rain. Um, in the meantime, financially we’re okay. Like we’d have enough to start up again next year. Um, but if we don’t farm, we won’t have enough to do it again in 2020. We’re being, we’re trying to be really pragmatic about it and not take it too close to heart personally if we can’t farm next year, because fighting it is not..you can’t fight this. In order for us to be looking good next year. Um, and these are things I think folks out of the Mountain West don’t totally understand about water is that, you know, we need some good fall rains to wet the mountains so that the snow, and then we need a good snow pack and then we need a good slow melt. And the reason why we want mountains to go in wet is that if the mountains go in dry, which is what happened last year, the little bit of snow there, you know, for every 10 inches of moisture up there, you can lose 40 to 60 percent of it to the ground and we want that to run into the rivers. So we need to kind of have like a very normal fall, winter, spring, um, in order to kind of pull ourselves out of this.

Lindsey: If there are those conditions possibly in the fall, then you and Mindy might consider making a go of it for 2019.

Mike: The plan will be to farm next year until we really get those clear signals that it’s not a good idea basically. Every year is a gamble that, you know, I have this silly analogy when it comes to this water stuff that helps me understand it, is that it’s all this stuff. It’s kind of like a GPA. So it’s like you do all this. It’s good, good, good, good, good. And then you have one year or one bad grade and it totally screws you up. And then it can take years to get back to that place that you were prior. And that’s kind of where we’re at now is that one winter is not going to save us. We probably will have a limited year next year. It’s going to take a couple of good winters and some good summer rain to pull us out of this.

Lindsey: And what are you hearing from folks who give technical support and are making projections on the weather?

Lindsey: You know, all spring they were like “this is going to be one of the best months and years on record” and we have gotten about an inch of moisture or less than that all summer. And so it’s like they’re predicting for a wet fall. But I, I honestly have no idea like what to expect. We’re just grateful that it’s cooled off a little bit because the other thing is that, um, our nighttime and daytime temperatures are five to 10 degrees above average for most of the summer as well. It was, it was a very bizarre summer here. But you know, some of my 80 year old neighbors are like, they’ve never seen this before. So we have some CSA members that do, you know, there’s a lot of folks that work for the FEDS around here, a federal government, whether it’s BLM, Forest–

Lindsey: On federal lands?

Lindsey: Yeah, national parks, I mean they employ so many people in our region because we’re surrounded by every form of public lands. Um, so there’s lots of scientists and biologists and we have a woman who is a CSA member and she does lizard studies and she was telling us that she’s seeing Pine, Pinyone and Juniper trees that are 80 to 90, 100 years old, just completely dying in front of her plot that she’s researching.

Lindsey: Because, because of the weather, because of lack of rainfall.

Mike: 2018 is one for the books is the most quiet way I can say it.

Lindsey: And then on top of that there was, was the 416 fire, is that the one that has impacted you as well? I know there have there been quite a few in the region.

Mike: The big impact of the fires is that, um, it just, it hit the economy super hard. Everybody’s numbers are down. I mean, wholesale numbers are down across the board for farmers. People weren’t eating out as much. Tourism kind of dropped off. Honna and Daniel, who are NYFC members, um, they’re about 45 minutes away from us. They were saying that there was a four or five week period where their wholesale numbers were down about 60 percent or more. Locals were leaving town, so they weren’t buying the local restaurants and tourists weren’t coming and it was just this really weird—. Like one restaurant we sell to was closed for three weeks because the fire, because they couldn’t access it, um, they’ve pulled them out of there on opening night. So we’d lost that account for about three, four weeks. And then you first smoke on top of that and you know, that kind of messes with the plants, we would call it. It was causing all of our head-lettuce successions to bolt, because I think it was messing with their, with their daylight requirements. You’d have multiple times where our visibility was like a mile and a half, two miles and the sun was red. Kind of like the eclipse last summer. And we would plant these head-lettuce successions and they would just barely grow and then bolt. It was usually a couple days after you’d have one of those kinds of smoke events. So yeah, that’s another, another crazy thing about the fires, but the economy hit was the really big one. Um, and I will give props to everyone, like being really resilient about it and also to our elected officials on both sides of the aisle that showed up. I mean we had our congressional rep, both senators, governor, um, everyone in the State House, State Senate, county commissioners. Everyone’s really pushing for people to like come back to our area because we’re such a tourist economy.

Lindsey: Just by, just by promoting it and saying it’s still safe. You should come. It’s beautiful.

Mike: We’re still open for business.

Lindsey: I mean, I guess that sort of brings me to another question. How does policy relate to any of this and what do you want elected officials to do to help farmers in your region?

Mike: Havin

g direct assistance payment is I think what they really need. There’s so many cattle producers, hay producers, you know, producers that are just on the verge of bankruptcy. The last thing they need is a loan.

Lindsey: And you’re talking about like an emergency loan offered by a farm service agency?

Mike: Yeah, and those, you know, I appreciate those and I think they work for some people, but we’re down here with our state representative, Marc Catlin, and that’s what all, I mean these are guys and girls that do not want to ask the government for everything. And they were like, we need something. Otherwise, you know, our centennial farms are going to be filing for bankruptcy and we’re done. And there’s no reason for the next generation to come in if it’s not economically viable in any way, shape, or form.

Lindsey: I don’t disagree with you at all. But I wonder what is the strategy to keep those farms viable if these conditions continue? Like I think they do need, you know, more than a loan potentially. But like for how, I mean no one knows for how long. What we’re seeing with global warming is only going to make these conditions potentially even worse than they are now. So what are people talking about just like the future of agriculture in the region? Like is there a path forward?

Mike: Yeah. So I would, I think that’s a great question. I don’t think it’s smart for anybody to prop up types of agriculture that are long-term unsustainable. Stewardship-wise, but also economically. I think a couple of steps would be to like prop things up now and get it so you know, these families aren’t dipping into all their savings and their kids are going to be left with nothing. Just prop them up for a minute so we can all sit down and figure it out. There are a lot of families in this region who are coming to. I’m on the Mancos Conservation District Board as well. And we have multi-generational families and cattle families that are coming to our offices being like, “what can we do that’s different? Like what crops can we grow that are more profitable, what’s up with all this market gardening stuff? What’s up with this root crop vegetable stuff? Like what can we change to be more economically versatile and resilient?”

Lindsey: And what are they growing right now?

Mike: I mean in this valley like hay and cattle. There’s no real crop production in Mancos per se.

Lindsey: So one of the things that I’ve heard you talk about that I appreciate is this need for young farmers to really stand with multigenerational farmers. Some farmers who are doing things very differently at a much different scale. You describe culturally like the importance of having this farm community intact. Can you just speak to that for a minute? Like why do you think it’s so important to have these larger farms in your region?

Mike: Farmers make up two percent or less of the population and whether somebody is raising commodities or you know, these hay guys are raising hundreds of acres of yay, you know, and hundreds of heads of cattle, and I’m over here doing an acre or two of potatoes. We’re all on the same boat. We’re all in that small number of people. So, inadvertently creating divisions, being like we’re really different and better or worse than or any of those kinds of things. I don’t think that’s helpful because you sit down with a lot of these farmers and ranchers and you know, I understand there’s a unique set of struggles that NYFC is addressing really well when it comes to young and beginning farmers and ranchers, but they’re not too dissimilar to some of the things that these farmers or older farmers or ranchers have gone through and also are kind of struggling with too. I mean it’s still hard to make a living whether you’re starting out or three, four or five generations in. It can be really challenging. You know, there’s just such a wealth of knowledge there. And so like that kind of cohabitation is really important to me.

Lindsey: We’ve definitely had a similar experience in New York. Just really needing those farmers to be there for so many reasons because they’re the reason we have a tractor dealership and a market, you know, and availability of, you know, mechanics and even if we’re doing things totally differently and even if they think we’re crazy on some level, you know, they still, there’s still like this mutual respect and understanding about the life we live and the hours we work and the seasonality and the risk and that sort of thing that is just like so, so vital for farmers to do well. I think it’s just too hard to be out there by yourself.

Mike: It’s pretty awesome to have those kinds of connections.

Lindsey: So, you know, on the federal level, I think people are looking at conservation programs. Do you think conservation programs can help them in a moment like this?

Mike: Oh yeah. I mean, I don’t have any ground and obviously in CRP. And there’s a lot of ground in our region that’s in those conservation programs, and on a year like this that ground has become really vital. A lot of folks up in the Duck Creek area and some of these other places in Montezuma county and Dolores County, the state has allowed them to graze their CRP ground, which has been in literally a lifesaver for some of their herds.

Lindsey: So you guys in the Southwest are really feeling the brunt of climate change. And I think people are, seems like with, with rising temperatures and extended drought, folks are more comfortable pointing to your farm and saying, Oh yeah, that’s climate change. So do you feel, how do you feel about the government’s response on climate and to what extent do you feel like there should be greater action taken on it? Or do you feel like it’s just so slow moving? It’s not really gonna make a difference?

Mike: That’s a loaded question.

Lindsey: Like, if anyone should be complaining, it’s you and you’ve got a pretty strong case to make that climate is having a major impact on your farm, on the local economy, on food security. I mean, I feel frustrated about some events that I associate with climate change in New York, but we’re not having to cut our production by more than half. Do you feel like, um, we should be taking more action on climate? Do you feel like the farmers in your region are feeling more passionate about climate issues as well?

Mike: To be totally frank on a federal level, with the Paris accords and all those other things, I honestly don’t know what the Feds can do. The western slope for the most part is pretty conservative. Folks don’t want government help for the most part. What I see is that that’s changing a little bit. So people want pipelines put in, they want dams and storage upgraded. Um, but what I see is people aren’t really on the ground talking about climate change. What they’re talking about is that water is scarce and water is rare, and we need to adapt our farming models and we need to do all this kind of stuff. So it’s kind of funny. Like I don’t, we don’t actually have the climate change conversation around here all that much, so I don’t know how much whatever the Feds are going to do is really going to change that? There’s a lot of people, the majority of folks around here understand that something is changing and that if we don’t start doing things differently, there won’t be agriculture to pass it down to the next generation.

Lindsey: So when they’re thinking of doing things differently, that’s we need to farm differently, we need to manage water differently. It’s not we need to stop emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Mike: Yes, exactly.

Lindsey: And uh, and I guess it’s like we have to bring these communities together at some point, right? Because you guys are feeling that you are, you’re in it, right? You have the stories to tell that I think can really move people to take action, broader action on climate change. Obviously taking care of this season and next season and keeping a family and business needs to be priority one. But clearly to achieve climate mitigation, to lessen the longterm impacts for, you know, for 100 years from now, we all sort of have to have that recognition of how the United States and globally we’re impacting this situation.

Mike: Yeah, I totally agree. Mindy and I were having a conversation about this maybe yesterday, the day before. You know, a lot of the old timers that we know, like they just don’t believe in climate change. And I said, well, what I’ve kind of realized is that when you tell somebody who’s in their sixties or seventies that climate change is going on, I don’t know if it’s not that they don’t believe it, but I think their perspective is that they’ve been farming for 60 years. Every year is completely different. They see what they think is climate changing all the time. So telling them like we need to do something. They were like what are you talking about? Like we’ve kind of realized that kind of stuff and I think that’s like, you know, a lot of the others, like the things you’re talking about, I agree with. And I think for me, doing what we can here when it comes to management practices in water efficiency, I think that’s really huge.

Lindsey: When President Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Accord, was there any reaction from the farm community?

Mike: No.

Lindsey: No. Yeah.

Mike: Not really. But also, you know, we live in the wild west, like, you know, I grew up in California and living here now the political landscape is, I find it super intriguing. It’s like you can throw yourself into a ditch in the middle of winter and anybody’s going to come by and pull you out, like people get along really well here and you know, you just don’t talk politics.

Speaker 2: It’s like we have, we have to maintain these strong and positive relationships that are really driven by being neighbors and being fellow farmers and community members, but also figure out some way to recognize and take action on these global issues because they are also impacting us locally too.

Mike: I think the other thing, you know, with doing all the advocacy within NYFC and locking down Farmers Union and the conservation district and all this kind of stuff, is there are people in our region doing that thing you’re talking about. And I just realized my role is to not do that. I’m going to sit on my four wheeler on the fence line and talk to my neighbor about, you know, whatever. You know about the boxes and chickens and like what’s wrong with this chapter and all this kind of stuff. And that’s kind of my end.

Lindsey: Yeah, I mean it’s all gotta sort of start at the fence line anyways. Right. It’s has to be like a personal trust and communication.

Mike: Yeah.

Lindsey: So my last thing, I just wanted to congratulate you on micro-equip and getting that into the Senate version of the farm bill. And I wanted to ask you just to, if you could describe sort of the process of making that happen.

Mike: Yeah, thanks. You know, it’s funny. So Alex funk, who used to be the western policy director, so we we’re at convergence two years ago in San Diego.

Lindsey: And I’ll say, convergence is National Young Farmers Coalition’s gathering of chapter leaders from all across the country. And Mike is the chapter leader of Four Corners.

Mike: Basically, we were sitting around one evening after everything having some beers and what I realized about this, it’s very hard to get anything new into the farm bill, and so if you do want to make changes or want something new, to me the smartest way to go about it is taking an existing program and make an adjustment. And part of the inspiration was what you did and what NYFC did in its early days with the micro loan.

Lindsey: Microloans. Sure.

Mike: Yeah. So you were taking something that’s there and you’re like well let’s just tweak it and see if we can get more people in the door and more people accessing it. So that’s kinda the idea between for micro-equip. There’s lots of programs that small scale growers can access, but there are certain aspects of it that’s really challenging, but the hope is to change the equip program a little bit. So we just have more young beginning and small scale growers walking through the doors in our CRS offices. That alone to me is super beneficial because if we don’t have that generation of folks coming through the door, what’s the point of those offices being there in 20 years?

Lindsey: And it’s like the identifiable product for I think a lot of young farmers, the micro loan has been. So, like they know, “oh yeah, farm service agency through USDA. They have those microloans. I should go check that out.” Now that so many new farmers have gotten microloans, it’s like it seems like a place to start for a lot of people, which is great. So and micro equip– so environmental quality incentives program, which is how we’ve used it on our farm for instance, to do high tunnels, to build greenhouses for season extension. Was there a project on your farm that you sort of had in mind when you were thinking about this concept?

Mike: I had looking at the cover crop payments. We do a lot of cover cropping here and the payments didn’t make sense for me to access them, both for my agent to deal with the paperwork and also for me to make the trip over the Cortez to kind of deal with it. A lot of the payments for some of these programs… they’re scaled out so big. So the payments per acre are actually really low. So how do you incentivize somebody who’s doing say three acres or two acres of market grabbing crop who’s contributing to the local economy? How do you incentivize them to go and access something for subsurface drip or some sort of other aspect of an equip program where the payments are really low? And I think if there was a micro equip where paper work was kind of streamlined and we could kind of trial out some of these programs to see if they can be scaled differently or the payments could kind of be different, I think that’d be really great.

Lindsey: All these programs and why the micro lending program was necessary, all of the paperwork is pretty intense. I mean it’s a lot because it’s written and designed for oftentimes a much larger system, a much larger farm and much more scaled farm than what many of the projects that beginning farmers are bringing to the table. Like that’s, that’s why we just need to have, you know, different, a more flexible system that can make it easy for agents to say, of course. Yeah, let’s, let’s work with you. I have this program that was designed for this case.

Mike: Yeah, exactly, and that’s the thing. I will say, I’ll give a shout out to Julie, our NRCS agent over there in Cortez. This program wasn’t coming out of him not being able to do anything or that office not being able to do anything. It’s more that with the hiring freezes and everything going on, these offices are stretched so thin there. So part of the idea of micro equip is to obviously incentivize young beginning and small acreage growers that need to instill, like you’re saying, we need to incentivize the agents. They do so much work and there’s just so much paperwork and bureaucracy to be able to access these things. So if this program can alleviate even a little bit of that, I think they’d be much more amenable and available to work with young, small beginning producers.

Lindsey: So the idea for this started with you and Alex having beers at convergence and then like what was the, what was the next step?

Mike: Well it’s funny like when we had the idea we weren’t expecting it to go anywhere, to be quite honest. Like, you know, we were just like, we both thought it was a good idea. So then like, you know, Kate Greenberg, who’s western program director, you know, I told her about it and she talked to people about it. I talked to Andrew in DC about it and it just kinda kept on getting kicked around. It was like kick the can to be quite honest. It was just kinda like, oh, this got mentioned here, it got mentioned here, it got mentioned at Bennett staff or it got mentioned to Tifton and it got mentioned blah blah blah. And you know, I think it’s serendipitous to a certain degree. I think we’re lucky because there’s all this awesome NYFC infrastructure. For some silly reason, I love policy. And also, our state Senator Michael Bennett is also on the Senate Ag Committee. So there’s these little things that part of it’s luck, part of it’s hard work. Yeah. And I think eventually it just kind of got picked up like when all that went down and I was like, okay, this is, this is crazy. All of a sudden, you know, there’s like a signed thing with Michael Bennett’s signature being like, you know, “this is going into the farm bill” and he’s like saying my name on the Senate floor and I’m like “okay,” so at least you know, my mom’s proud now.

Lindsey: Well, she should be.

Mike: Yeah, so it was kinda good. I mean the thing that, you know, if I want to communicate to those listening to the podcast, NYCF members or not, is that those crazy ideas, you know, those late night ideas, early morning ideas like if you think it’s a good idea, try kickin it up the chain. Email your congressional staffer, email your senator. Like if you think you have a good idea, like see if they can go up the chain

Speaker 2: I mean the best ideas definitely come from real life experience in the field and interaction with federal programs. We need that as Young Farmers Coalition to know what ideas need to be moved up to Congress. And frankly not everything needs to be in the farm bill. Right? A lot of the micro equip program, or excuse me, the micro loan program was piloted by USDA, by farm service agency, before it was put in the last farm bill. So there are things that can change, you know, just through a conversation with folks at USDA. We can make a lot of change by just as you said, like thinking about how this might be different or how it might be better and with the knowledge that indeed we can be quite powerful in this and really help to make those changes become reality.

Mike: Yeah. And I think another big thing for me is like thinking about changes in programs and adjustments that aren’t super major but benefit, you know, your neighbors too, or even just benefit your neighbors. Because what I realized around here is if my neighbors are happy and healthy, that has a direct effect on what’s going on with me. I hope, hopefully we’ll access micro-equip. Um, you know, it’s my plan that if I don’t, that’s okay. I just hope that for a whole bunch of other people, that it benefits them.

Lindsey: Well, we’re going to be fighting for it in the House version of the farm bill and the final conference version. Of course, if you know we don’t have a farm bill this year, we will look to your administrative changes or if it’s not put in the farm bill this year, I mean that, that won’t be the end of it. Uh, so thank you so much for your leadership with your chapter, with, with Four Corners and thanks for speaking to me today and man, I really hope that you guys have a good fall because I know you need it. I hope you’re going to be farming in 2019.

Mike: Well, I appreciate you giving me the opportunity.

Lindsey: All right, Mike, thanks so much.

Next week, the farm bill is back. Andrew is going to tell us all about what’s going on in conference committee as they try to get a farm bill done by the end of this month. Thank you to Mike Nolan for being on today’s show. This show can be found wherever you get your podcasts. If you like us, please take a second to both rate and review us on iTunes and tell somebody else about what you learned on the show today. Thanks to Radio Kingston. Thanks to the National Young Farmers Coalition, the whole team for being there, to Hannah Beal for editing and to you for listening. Thanks so much.

Sep 07, 2018
Bonus Episode: Vets Need Farm Bill Action
00:12:30

Today’s bonus episode is about an important program in the 2018 Farm Bill that needs your support: Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO). Tiffany Washington, Navy Veteran from Austin, Texas, shares her personal journey to farming, and how farm bill programs are helping her find success.

Take action:
Text "Farm" to 40649 to join NYFC's Team Farm Bill

Farmshare Austin:
https://www.farmshareaustin.org/

Texas AgrAbility:
http://txagrability.tamu.edu/

Sep 05, 2018
OG Weather Nerds
00:23:04

It's hard to imagine anyone thinking more about the weather than farmers, but then again, there's Chief Meteorologist Mark Brusberg of USDA’s agricultural weather and assessments group. This week, Lindsey talks with Mark about the ways that drought, extreme weather, and the changing climate are impacting farmers and agricultural production globally and here at home. Mark also talks about "the blob," building farm weather resilience, and how farmers can keep track of it all.

Mark Brusberg
https://www.usda.gov/oce/forum/2018/bios/Mark_Brusberg.pdf

US Drought Monitor
https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

Tropical Tidbits
https://www.tropicaltidbits.com/

The Blob
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blob_(Pacific_Ocean)

Weather Underground
https://www.wunderground.com/

NOAA Weather
https://www.weather.gov/

Introduction
Lindsey: This is the Young Farmer’s Podcast. I’m Lindsey Lusher Shute. First, a quick announcement. If you’re in New York State or care about state policy, I want you to know that NYFC just released a report about New York’s high farmland prices and policy strategies to keep that land affordable for future generations. Check it out at youngfarmers.org. Onto the pod. Most farmers i know are obsessed with the weather, and for a simple reason. The weather is tightly linked to how profitable and successful a farm will be in any season. On our farm, for example, we had a short-lived but major hail storm that knocked out nearly all of our crops this spring. And our western farmers, many of them are dealing with a deep drought and are trying to make it through the season. Today I’m talking to Mark Rosberg who serves as the chief meteorologist at USDA’s Agriculture Weather and Assessments Group, a component of the World Agricultural Outlook Board. He talks to us about the weather across the country and how farmers can keep track of it all.

Dustin Stein: Hi I’m Dustin Stein, ranch manager at Stubborn Farm and Bert Beef in Mancos, Colorado, where we raise grass fed and finished beef. I’m also a leader of the Four Corners Farmers and Ranchers Coalition. I’m a member of the National Young Farmers Coalition, because it’s extremely important for young and first generation producers to have a voice at our nation’s capital. For 35 dollars a year, you too can join. In addition to being part of a bright and just future for agriculture in the United States, you’ll also get discounts like 16% off earth tools , walk behind tractors, and 5% off of Felco. To join, please visit Youngfarmers.org.

OG Weather Nerds
Mark: My name is Mark Rosberg. I'm the chief meteorologist here at USDA's office of the chief economist. I'm physically located in Washington D.C. in the USDA south building.

Lindsey: What is the office of the chief meteorologist like?

Mark: Well, we're a staff of five meteorologists. We cover global weather, uh, to provide whether intelligence to USDA’S monthly supply and demand estimates report. So you have one meteorologist monitoring weather in the United States. The other four are monitoring global conditions. I personally happened to be the South America weather analyst amongst other areas, you know, Canada and Mexico. So if there's a drought in, for example, there was a drought in Argentina last year, I provided weather information and helped us try to determine exactly what the what the condition of the corn and soybean crop was.

Lindsey: And where does your weather data come from?

Mark: It’s primarily through our agreement with National Weather Service

Lindsey: And the National Weather Service, it has its own worldwide network of weather stations.

Mark: Well, they get the data from other countries through an agreement through the World Meteorological Organization. That's a United Nations, uh, agency. So the weather bureaus of other countries have signed an international agreement where they promised to give a certain amount of data from their countries.

Lindsey: I see. I, you know, just with all of the conversations these days around trade and tariffs and what other countries are producing and how that competes with the US corn...I'm just thinking of the example of Brazil, uh the commodity market...I guess these agreements are long standing and shared, but none of that data is sort of protected from those, uh, I mean, I wonder if any ---

Mark: Oh you mean, would there be an embargo of data for any reason?

Lindsey: Right, uh huh.

Mark: Well I've seen it twice and the one time was during the first Iraq war when Iraq stopped transmitting their data during the war. The only other time that I’ve seen a reduction of data--I can't remember the year, but it was in the 1990’s. Germany had a policy where they wanted to charge more for their data and that sort of went against what the WMO was sort of supporting and they started giving us less data. I couldn't see a country whoa withholding data for any, any purposes like that because it is, especially in this day of satellites, I mean, you could do a fairly reasonable job estimating rainfall and temperature using satellites. I think they'd be cutting off their nose to spite their face, really. They started doing things like that and you know, the scientific community, we sort of stick together. I don't know that we would want to politicize what we're doing.

Lindsey: I’m just wondering, does politics, do different administrations impact fear core responsibilities or your work at USDA or is the weather something that everyone can agree on?

Mark: Yeah, we've, we've never had any political pressure put on us to do anything. Um, there's been times, uh, I remember one of my predecessors as chief meteorologist was asked to put his name on a declaration regarding climate change. And he refused to do that because it wasn't part of our purview and he was absolutely correct. I mean, we don't do anything with climate change here. You know, we don't do climate research, we’re not the ones that do that. So, you know, we didn't want to step on anybody's toes or pretend that we know more than we do.

Lindsey: We don't have to call it climate change or talk about causation or anything, but I am wondering what the data would say about the current conditions across the United States that are, that our farmers are facing. We're seeing severe rainstorms, certainly drought conditions in the southwest. Uh, I had a written you earlier about the significant hail that we saw on our farm this season as this system of thunderstorms came across the country and it was like softball size hail. We're seeing a lot of extreme weather. As long as USDA has been, um, and National Weather Service have been monitoring this type of thing...is what we're seeing in terms of extreme weather in over the last few years.. is this unusual from a data standpoint?

Mark: I don't know in terms of severe weather and it's, it's hard to make a, it's hard to make a call on severe weather weather. There was more observations there, more people reporting, things like that. So I don't know if you could say anything about just the number of hailstorms. I don't know if that's actually increased or if that's just a sign that the data is better. Now some of the things that we've seen agriculturally in the West are unique. We monitor one of the networks that USDA maintains. It’s the Snow Tell Network, so we have snow observations and one of the things that we're witnessing in the western United States is the snowpack is melting earlier. Uh, we're getting rain, uh, at times of year at elevations where you would expect snow like in the Sierras recently. We saw that. So that is something that’s a bit disconcerting and obviously, you know, we know what's happening in the arctic with the polar ice cap. We know about the ridging in the Pacific because of the sea surface temperatures being, you know the northern Pacific blob.

Lindsey: And remind us about the northern Pacific blob.

Mark: Yeah. That. Well, yeah, I'm sorry. There was a pool of above normal sea surface temperatures in the northern Pacific that was attributed to ridging over the western part of the United States in the Pacific. They called it the blob because if you look on a sea surface temperature anomaly map, it just looked like a red blob on the map. Meteorologists and climatologists not being the most clever people in the world...they just called it the blob.

Lindsey: How does the current drought in the southwest, how long has this current drought been going on and how does it compare with past droughts on record?

Mark: Looking back at the history of the drought monitor, so going back to about 2000, um, the southwest has had periods of drought, uh, almost nonstop. If you were to go to the, uh, the drought monitor page, which is droughtmonitoror.unl.edu. You can see a time series for the states. The United States itself has had, you know, some percentage of drought, uh, just about through the entirety. There's always someplace in drought. If you were to look at individual states, this year's drought, for example, in Arizona, really doesn't look as bad as it did say in 2002, 2003. Um, but they've had spikes of drought also in the early 2000’s, 2011, 2012. There was another spike of a, you know, fairly significant drought in 2013. So they, they have been experiencing problems really for, you know, a good part of the last two decades.

Lindsey: But this a year in the southwest, this is one of the hottest years on record. Is that, is that correct?

Mark: Yes. See that’s another thing because we seem to be setting a record just about every month.
Lindsey: Right. It’s not good news.

Mark: Yeah it’s really hard to compare this with past years because it feels like the playing field keeps changing on us.

Lindsey: And how does drought differ in different parts of the US?

Mark: Well, I mean, starting, starting in the southwest sort of as an example, uh, you've got, uh, a climate that's already arid. As a matter of fact, the infrastructure in general in the southwest is to retain water here in the east and northeast where we, we get 40 or more inches of rain. The infrastructure is designed to move water away from population centers. You know, we've got, we've got drainage ditches, we've got storm drains. It's like get the water the heck away from us so we don't get swamped. So there's that. Um, now if you look at, say the corn belt, you know, parts of the south western corn belt had a drought this year, um, Missouri and eastern part of Kansas that came right when they're trying to grow their corn and soybeans. So the combination of the dryness and the, you know, the 95 degree days that they had took a big bite out of their agricultural production. However, they can recover. I mean, they can recover from that if they have a wetter than normal winter, they can rebuild their moisture supplies going into next growing season. Um, Missouri has also experienced flooding, so they're one of those unique parts of the country where they can have drought that impacts their ag production, but they can also have severe flooding that can impact their drought production. I mean, we had, you know, the big drought of 1988 in the midwest. It was one of the more famous droughts before 2012. It was one of the more famous droughts. And then five years later they had the floods of 1993, so within just a few years they went from a horrendous drought to horrendous flooding.

Lindsey: Yeah. And so the 20, the 2012 drought had a significant impact on um, corn yields and soybean yields. Can you, can you speak to that and how sort of where that ranks among, among drought conditions?

Mark: Um, you know, people, they always keep going back to the dust bowl years of the thirties and you know, the droughts in the 1950’s. So depending on the indices that you look at it, it was ranked up there with some of the worst droughts that producers had seen in the United States. One of the good things is when you're looking at comparing these types of phenomena, uh, historically back in the thirties, we didn't have the soil conservation techniques that we do now. I mean you still get dust storms in severe events, but you know, you don't see the loss of top soil farming practices have. Claude is that you need to have cover crops and you need to, uh, you know, maybe use less tillage in certain parts of the countries to, to prevent disasters like that from occurring again. So you know, we don't see the severe impacts that we did back in the 1930’s.

Lindsey: So farmers are, are more well prepared for I guess these, these severe droughts. And are those farming practices, do they have an impact also on the weather?

Mark: Um, you know, that's difficult to say. I mean, I've actually seen studies where, you know, rainfall does have an imprint or a footprint rather. If you have rain over an area, then depending on the time of year and the types of crops, you can actually see the transpiration after a, after a rain event. And um, you know, and I, I have seen research showing that, you know, that added moisture does fuel summer storms. So it, so it is possible. I mean, if you have, again, if you've got bare soils or the water's running off, um, you know, you've reduced the ability for it to be reintroduced into the atmosphere. So that is, that is a possibility.

Lindsey: I see. Interesting. So across the country right now, what are, what are the patterns that we're seeing that are going to have an impact on how well farmers are doing in 2018?

Mark: Actually, if you take away the drought that they had in the southwestern portion of the corn belt, most states had a pretty good year given the latest outlook from USDa, it wasn't a bad year. Now one of the things that we did see that sort of help things out was we had a relatively mild July for the corn belt. Now, what we hope to see is, is sort of maybe some good finishing rains or immature soybeans, this the eight to 14 day outlook issued by CPC which goes through the 10th of September, is calling for near to above normal rainfall. So the next week or so it does look favorable or finishing up in some of the later planted corn and soybeans.

Lindsey: How many, how many crops does your office track for the United States?

Mark: My office works with the National AG Statistic Service. They're the ones responsible for monitoring or, or I guess keeping estimates of crop production in the United States. We're more, uh, responsible for the international production and then we work very closely with foreign ag service and Economic Research Service to come up with a global supply and demand balance sheet if you will, you know, looking at, looking at yields, but also looking at production, looking at ending stocks, et Cetera. So it's a, there's a lot of people working on this to try to come up with a global balance.

Lindsey: The Global Balance, what is the value of that information?
Mark: Well, I, I just real quick, knowing what the global situation looks like helps our farmers. It helps us to target foreign markets and it helps us to know who our competitors are and how they're doing.
Lindsey: I see. I assume it's also used for the evaluation of crop futures.
Mark: Right. That will, that will be a, a sort of an end result to the work that we do. Um, you know, the price is sort of settled. I mean we do a price estimate but the market really determines what the price is going to be.

Lindsey: I’m wondering just in general, how important do you think it is for a given farm to have that sort of a personalized weather forecast or to have a weather station? Because the weather underground, I know, you can connect your weather station in. Is that a good thing for farmers to consider doing?

Mark: Well, absolutely. Well first of all knowledgeable of your climate. Just to know what the, what the expectations are for given times a year, the length, if you want to become a farmer or start farming a different crop, uh, being aware of what the growing season length is, you know, knowing when the first autumn freeze and the last spring freezes is, is vital for anything that you're trying to grow. Going to a place like the weather underground is, is really, um, I, I would think that that would be very important because they can give you more of a focused forecast, um, and give you some products to work with. Um, there was, there was some other sites that will give you other models to look at . Tropical tidbits is one that I look at for international areas, but they have a lot of the other models like the euro model along with the, the gfs, which is the American model. Um, so that's very, I mean, that's very important. If you're looking at something like a hailstorm, that's, that's pretty difficult. That's a very, that can be a very isolated phenomena. So something like that is, is very rare. And I don't know that anybody would be able to say, hey, you're going to have a hailstorm tonight. Maybe if you, if you look at the weather too closely, it might drive you crazy.

Lindsey: Well, I know it drives my husband Ben crazy, but it's part of being a farmer, understanding the weather. It couldn't be more important. And i wonder, as you are predicting, most of your calculations I assume are related to precipitation and to temperatures and these environmental factors. Is disease..disease is one thing that we talk a lot about as we're seeing different sorts of pressures as we have longer warm seasons in the northeast, in our region. Is disease pressure something that you're also... how is that shifting pattern being monitored by the agency?

Mark: For example, if we see the weather has been very wet somewhere, um, it's sort of in the back of our mind that there could be disease pressure, but that's usually a local phenomenon. Um, and I'll give you one example internationally, uh, Brazil’s soy beans got hit, I'm going to say about… it was over 10 years ago by now, but they got hit by a rust and that surprised us. So we don't look at, say, a very wet weather pattern and say, “well we're going to reduce the yield by this much because there's probably going to be disease.”

Lindsey: Well mark, thank you so much for this this time. It's been really interesting to learn about what you do as the chief meteorologist and how some of these weather patterns are shifting and changing across the country. Sometimes, we'll literally be standing there and Ben will be looking at his phone at the NOAA predictions in the radar and I'll be like, pointing to the cloud and saying, “I think it's going to rain,” you know, one of these situations. And you kind of need both, right? So I feel like there is a skill that needs to be--

Mark: Yeah, I was going to say.. you can't tell many farmers about the weather. They're telling you about the weather.

Lindsey: Right. We care a lot about it. It's absolutely, absolutely true. Great. Well thank you so much for your time and um, I hope we can speak again. Mark, thank you so much.

Mark: You’re welcome.

Lindsey: All right, talk to you soon. Bye-bye!

Mark: Bye-Bye.

CLOSING REMARKS
Lindsey: Next week, we are going to hear from Mike Nolan. Mike’s one of the leaders of our Four Corners Farmers and Ranchers Coalition in Colorado, and he is a farmer at Deep and Drought. He will tell us how the season is going and his campaign, that started over some beers, in New Mexico, to get the US Department of Agriculture to help smaller scale producers. You can now find and subscribe to this podcast on Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts. If you have a minute, please review us on Itunes and tell us how we’re doing. Thanks to Hannah Beal to editing, Radio Kingston, and the whole team at the National Young Farmers Coalition.

Aug 31, 2018
An Extraordinarily Difficult, Uphill Battle.
00:30:14

Commodity farmers across the nation are struggling under the weight of low prices and tariffs, resulting in bankruptcies and crisis in farm country. In this second conversation with Roger Johnson, farmer and president of the National Farmers Union, we talk about how putting controls on production may be the toughest and most important battle for the future of agriculture.

Episode Transcript

Lindsey: Hey, this is the Young Farmers Podcast. I’m Lindsey Lusher Shute.

In our last episode, Roger Johnson, President of the National Farmers Union, walked us through how US commodity producers face declining prices and a trade war with China. I’m looking for ideas about how family farmers can get out of this mess and stay in business. Today, we’re going to see if Roger can offer us any solutions.

Selwyn Justice: Hi, this is Selwyn Justice of Justice Brothers Ranch in beautiful Waddell, Arizona, where we grow citrus and raise beef cattle. I’m a member of the National Young Farmers Coalition because even beginning farmers need every chance they can get to create a more sustainable future for farming. For just $35/year you can join too. In addition to being part of a bright and just future for agriculture in the United States, you’ll also get discounts like 40% off Filson and 25% off Farm to Feet socks. To join go to youngfarmers.org.

An Extraordinarily Difficult, Uphill Battle

Lindsey: I wanted before we talk about sort of policy opportunities and changes that are necessary. In the National Farmers Union policy book, it talks about the family farm as a keystone of a free progressive democratic national society. And it says that a vertically integrated in our multinational grain and food conglomerate is not a family farm. So I’m just wondering before we talk about policy, how do you distinguish between who you’re helping when, when we’re talking about international trade and supporting viability of, of farms and specifically trying to give some sort of preference for family operations.

Roger: Sure. The way we decide what we’re going to do, what we’re going to advocate for, is decided entirely by our membership. This, this question of economic concentration and large corporate – either buyers or sellers in agriculture – is a question that we have wrestled with since we were organized more than 100 years ago and it’s one of the reasons why, uh, much of our formative years were spent organizing cooperatives. That question is really important and family farmers, we need to live in an environment where there are fair markets.

Lindsey: So I’m wondering in this current situation where we have, sort of, one crisis on top of another crisis for commodity producers and thinking about those family farmers – what can be done to turn this situation around, to create a more stable situation for American family farmers?

Roger: Yeah. And let me answer that in the context of the dairy debate that’s going on right now because milk prices are very low. There’s significant oversupply, over capacity in the marketplace. USDA just announced a special program where they’re gonna buy I think $50 mIllion worth of fluid milk and donate it to food banks. That’s one way of dealing with a surplus supply. So we have long advocated and what a lot of the dairy producers are re-advocating right now is some system of supply management. Now this doesn’t have to be the heavy hand of the federal government in saying what you can or can’t do on your farm, but there does need to be some sort of a policy put in place that provides incentives when there’s overcapacity in the market for farmers to produce less. And last time we talked, I spent a lot of time talking about how when farmers are producing and the prices get low, there’s no incentive to cut back on production. And so we keep adding to this excess supply and keep driving prices even lower and lower. And the only thing we’re waiting for is some major weather catastrophe somewhere in the world to cut production so we bring it back in balance. For many, many years the federal government served, uh, in a way to balance those supplies. And we’ve had different programs so that if you had too much production on the market, there would be incentive for farmers to set aside some production, to not produce. Maybe they’re paid to produce less, or maybe the market price they get for all of the milk that they produce is a little higher if they hold their production constant to what they have historically produced or higher still, if they cut it, let’s say, five percent below what their average production has been. But that they be financially penalized with a lower price if they’re expanding production at a time when there’s a surplus in the market. That’s the concept of supply management and it works because of this fundamental economic characteristic that we talked about last time. Which results in, in the market really not being able to send the right signals to farmers to cut back on production during times of overproduction. The signals are too slow and in fact they’re too weak. There needs to be an additional kind of signal that comes in. And that’s one of the things that we’ve argued for in farm bills, that there should be that kind of a policy that incents folks to produce less because it would be far cheaper for the government to provide modest incentives for people to produce less than it would be for the government to come in with these big bailouts. This bail out that USDA is talking about doing – it’s a one time deal. It’s going to largely be paid out in advance of the election. It’s going to be paid out for losses that are presumably largely to the degree that they can calculate it incurred as a result of the trade war. Okay? But as we talked about before, this trade war will have very long lasting implications and markets are going to be lower for a long period of time to come as a result of this trade war. So there’s likely going to be a need for additional sums of money to be paid out over the upcoming years instead of a more thoughtful policy that’s laid out in advance that says, you know what, we’re going to protect prices to a certain level, and we’re going to hold these prices relatively constant. It is the beginning farmers that suffer the most with this high price volatility because their future is going to depend almost entirely on when they chose to start farming. If they started farming when we were looking at $13 or $14 soybeans, the relatively high price period, they’re starting to farm at a time when the land values are high, machinery values are high because commodity values are high.

Lindsey: Because, so they paid too much for everything, to start their farm and they can’t sustain it.

Roger: Exactly. And so they go in, they’re gonna take on a whole bunch of debt and then the market falls to a point where now they’re going to have to farm for a number of years at a loss. They haven’t had a chance to build any equity so they cannot survive that loss and they’ve got too high a cost structure built into their farm because of when they started. On the other hand, in the 80s when we had the economic collapse and I worked as a farm credit concert during that period, that would have been a really good time for young people to start farming. Land values were low, machinery values were really, really cheap.

Lindsey: But every farm parent was probably saying “Do not get into, don’t get into this! This is not a good business.”

Roger: Exactly. The psychology was against doing it then, so, so bringing some sort of…

Lindsey: Which is when we lost the generation that’s missing now, it was in the 80s, because you have these family farmers now that our retiring that should have, should have kids ready to step up. But kids that were told to do something else during that, during that period of crisis.

Roger: Or they started farming and they went broke and left, you know. And as they left they didn’t have a, a family that was there. And so you just, as you pointed out, you lost a generation. And in some cases we lost more than a generation.

Lindsey: So Roger, a lot of what you’re talking about sounds like what Canada is doing with milk and that supply, which is something that we hear a lot of farmers complain about and even the Trump Administration complain about. So is Canada doing doing the right thing by their dairy farmers with, with that inventory management, their supply management. Is that something that we in fact should sort of, look to model here in the US?

Roger: I think we should. Now that’s not to say that the Canadian system is perfect because I think there is a part of it where they’re cheating. But one of the principles of some sort of supply management program that countries need to follow, is if they’re going to do this, they cannot set prices at a level that incent more production. And then instead of doing programs to moderate production, to bring production down during periods of big surpluses, if countries are just taking that surplus and dumping it on the world market, that’s when you create a problem. And that’s what the Trump Administration is objecting to relative to the Canadian system. Because what Canada is doing is they’re, they’re not throttling back production quite enough. And so they’ve put in place this thing called a class seven milk, which is priced very cheaply and then is sold into the international marketplace. That’s the part that folks are objecting. In the overall scheme of things, it’s relatively modest, it’s probably having very little impact on our prices here. But just the fact that they’re doing it is something that, that gets a lot of people really concerned. Having said that, Farmers Union state members have done a number of meetings where they’ve invited a farmers, dairy farmers from Canada, down to speak to us. They’ve had overwhelming attendance and overwhelming support from the dairy farmers in the room after they hear how the Canadian system works. Dairy farmers are very reluctant…

Lindsey: So U.S. dairy farmers are interested in having a system like Canada’s?

Roger: Very much so, yep. Earlier this week, in fact, there was a meeting in Albany, where a big dairy coop, uh Agrimark did that meeting and there were, I think 300 or 400 dairy farmers that came in and my, I wasn’t at the meeting, but the reports I got back were, people were very interested and very animated about putting in place some sort of a supply management system because there’s just too much milk on the market right now. It’s very destabilizing.

Lindsey: And I think it’s worth pointing out for listeners who might not understand sort of just the degree to which dairy farms have scaled. Here in New York, we see multigenerational dairy farms that haven’t really changed in scale too much, but you know they’re doing 30 to 50 cows. And then you have these newer dairy farms that are doing hundreds if not thousands of cows at their, their operation that are milking that many.

Roger: Yeah and in some places it’s tens of thousands of cows on a single farm and so. Listen, this isn’t sort of a diatribe against, uh, you know, the, the size that everyone has to be, it is more, we need to understand what the consequences of these kinds of policies create for us. And if we had a supply management system that sort of held people to something close to what their historical production was, and we can meet the market demand, you can hold prices relatively constant. Consumers are also going to be better off because they’re not going to have those prices fluctuating up and down. And the farmers are going to be better off because they’re going to have, you know, a, a narrower a channel in which prices are going to be moved. They’re going to have a much more predictable, way of, of living. And if you, if you survey dairy farmers in Canada and compare their economic well being to dairy farmers in this country, I mean, you would see a dramatically different result and much more favorable positive attitudes on the part of the Canadian dairy farmers. And that’s really what I hear from all of these meetings that have been held all over the, especially the northern part of the country this past year.

Lindsey: So what are, what are the chances that we’re going to be able to have supply management for commodities, for dairy in the United States? Is there a political support for that? Is there bipartisan support for that? Are there bills that are trying to craft how this might work or would that be something that would happen on the administrative side? How do you get there?

Roger: No. I think the only way you get there is we continue to have really major economic problems in agriculture to the point where farmers stand up and start saying, we want this to happen. Because right now the politIcal atmosphere in Congress is they’re not going to do this.

Lindsey: Why is, why is that?

Roger: Well, it can best be summed up by a comment that then Speaker John Boehner made on the floor of the House during the debate over the 2014 Farm Bill when he called the supply management provisions a Soviet style agriculture. And it’s so unfair and so untrue. It’s not that they have supply management, they got a whole entirely different system and negative incentives and all that kind of stuff. It was an unfair characterization and it was made over a provision of dairy policy. And so what we ended up with a dairy policy was just incredibly, uh, almost useless but despised, I think is a good way to describe it by almost all dairy farmers. They just hated the program.

Lindsey: And, oh so this is just the last, the policy that’s currently in place, from the last farm bill?

Roger: Yup. We’ll see whether, whether this is going to change, but there’s no question that getting supply management provisions in the farm bill is an extraordinarily difficult uphill battle.

Lindsey: It’s too late, right?

Roger: For this farm bill, no question it’s too late. I think we are likely going to be in a position, uh, like we were in, uh, following the 1996 Farm Bill. And for folks that maybe don’t remember in 1996 or weren’t around, they had had high prices when they passed it, but after they passed it, we entered into a period not unlike what we are facing today where there was relatively good weather, production overtook demand and you drove prices into the toilet and you had very, just a lot of financial distress in agriculture. And so Congress, every year for a number of years, just did a big – they call it economic emergency, uh, payments that were made to farmers. Not particularly well targeted, but they had to respond to this economic crisis. That’s essentially what Secretary Perdue is doing right now with this $12 billion plan that’s been announced. He’s got a crisis on his hand. It’s not solely because of trade, but it’s exacerbated because of the trade war that the Administration is promulgating. Um, and I don’t see any way that Congress or the Administration is going to avoid having to do this again next year and maybe the year after and the year after. There’s just going to be too much financial disruption. That really argues that people ought to put some of these sort of prejudices aside and sit down and talk about – is there a better, cheaper, you know, a more thoughtful way that we can proceed? If you look at the cost of farm bills before the ‘96 Farm Bill, when we had paid land diversions and set asides, and things that, that were designed to incent farmers to cut back on production during periods of, of, of too heavy stocks. Uh, the costs of those farm programs was far less expensive to the government than the cost of the more modern programs after they took all sorts of controls off production, let production run wild, and then they tried to fill up the economic, uh, jar that was only half full with tax dollars. And I think we’re back in that scenario right now.

Lindsey: So the 1996 Farm Bill signed by Bill Clinton sort of, started a different era of farm policy. Is there opportunity for bipartisan support? Is there, is there a leadership that is starting to talk about what else can be done? Because clearly this system is broken and not working.

Roger: I would say in Congress, not yet. And it isn’t going to happen in Congress until it really happens out in the countryside. I mean that’s the way our political system works. And so as more and more farmers are struggling and are saying something needs to be done, uh, then they put pressure on members of Congress and then eventually you get someone who will stand up and say, you know what, we need to do this.

Lindsey: The Chinese tariff clearly were aimed at US farmers and I, you know, like, uh, and our rural population, uh, that oftentimes voted to make America great again and, and for President Trump right? I, I live in a district that voted for Trump in upstate New York. Do you think that that pressure specifically put on Trump voters can help to, to spur some new conversations about a change in agricultural policy?

Roger: Uh, yes it can. I mean, but I do want to make a point here. When the Trump Administration decided that rather than sit down and, and talk to other countries and bring the rest of the world together in an effort to bring China to hold them to account because they’ve been cheating, they’d been stealing, they’ve been, you know, they behave in non-market economy ways. I think most people agree that something needs to happen with China on the world stage, that they need to be constrained in some fashion because of how they operate economically. But what should have happened in my opinion, is the President should have sat down with other world leaders who largely view China the same way that I’ve just described them and would have, I think been willing to work with us, uh, to bring pressure on China. That would have been one way to do it. But rather than that, it seems like the President has sort of picked a fight with all our allies, in addition to China. And so it, I don’t know how this ends, we’ve offended a lot of the allies, natural allies that would have been in our corner. The other point I want to make is that no one should be surprised that it was agriculture that was targeted for retaliation by China. And the reason I say that is because the US has an enormous trade deficit and it is the biggest share of that trade deficit is with China. A trade deficit simply means that, that we are buying more from China than we’re selling to China. And so China ends up with a whole bunch of US dollars because we’re buying all this stuff and it’s unbalanced. Okay? Because the US has such a large trade deficit, there are not very many exports that we send to China that China can put tariffs on except for agricultural exports. Okay? And that’s the one place where the US has a trade surplus and so the chinese obviously responded to agriculture. Well first of all, they had no other place to go, but then secondly, the political benefit was they could, they could very much target Trump voters. And that’s what you typically see when you find countries retaliating against other countries. There’s a lot of thought that these countries put into, how they impose tariffs to extract political pain, uh, in the country that they’re imposing them on in order to try and get a result and so we shouldn’t be surprised that the tariffs came back against agriculture.

Lindsey: In all of this farm expansion that we’re seeing, these very large dairies coming online in particular, to what extent should the farm credit system and banks take responsibility for that? I just don’t understand how all these banks think that these farms are going to do well given the current situation. So it’s always, it’s kind of surprising to me and maybe it shouldn’t be that someone is lending to this farmer to create this enterprise that clearly is not going to be profitable and by the way, this bank probably holds loans with all these other producers in the case of farm credit in particular, that, that need to do well also. So should we also be targeting the farm credit system and other agricultural lenders to take charge here and to take leadership and help to have some common sense when funding these farms?

Roger: Yeah, that’s a really good and sort of complicated question. Lenders, they kind of make their decisions like farmers do. They make them based on the application in front of them. But you raise a larger question about if you think about the overall health of the economy, if you have a lender who’s got lots of loaners to smaller producers and then they make loans to really large producers that are going to put those smaller ones out of business, how does that impact your book, the business? To that point, local lenders generally, in my opinion, make decisions that are better for local economies. Because the larger the business, the more likely it is that the financing for that business is gonna come from further away and from larger entities that have fewer connections to the local community. And that raises a really important public policy question about whether we should have policies that provide incentives for these local communities, larger incentives for them to build themselves and perhaps disincentives for these very large businesses. Because from a public policy standpoint, from a societal standpoint, communities are better off if we have more producers in the area, then if we have fewer. But that’s only true if the more producers are profitable and so all these policies need to kind of work together. As a country, we’ve gone too far down this “let’s just deregulate everything” road. As farmers, we love it because we don’t like anyone telling us what to do. But to deregulate sort of, the financial industry and, and allow these really large corporations to grow and grow and grow and get to the point where there’s, their monopolistic or at least oligopolistic in how they impact us. Those are negative impacts on society and that’s what Congress should be put in place to pay attention to – to have an economy that’s more competitive, that extends its benefits more broadly to more people rather than more narrowly just to the largest corporations that are out there.

Speaker 2: Well, there is work to be done. Roger, thank you so much for your time. And you know, I think it’s a, it’s a message to people who are listening to this podcast, both farmers and consumers, that to change any of the above it really does take grassroots action. Everyone needs to hear that something is very wrong in farm country and that we need some common sense policies put in place to make sure that the farmers that we have in place can stay there, can do well, can make a fair living.

Roger: Thanks Lindsey.

Lindsey: Thanks for getting on the phone again today. I just felt like, man, we’ve got to talk about what you do about it. The problems are so immense, we need to know, how to, how to direct our energy.

Roger: We have a responsibility as citizens to hold our representatives to account and I think that’s really the bottom line. We need to engage and I think when we do you’ll find members of Congress and local legislators and others that will be more responsive to us.

Lindsey: Roger, thank you so much.

Roger: You’re welcome, take care Lindsey. Bye.

Closing Remarks

Lindsey: Okay everyone, we have our work cut out. To find out more about the National Farmers Union go to NFU.org. Please subscribe and rate and review the podcast on iTunes so more people can find us. Thanks to Radio Kingston, to Andrew Jerome and Roger Johnson of the National Farmers Union, the wonderful team at the National Young Farmers Coalition, Hannah Beal for editing and thanks to you, for listening. Talk to you next week.

Aug 24, 2018
Trade Wars Aren't Cool
00:32:33

President Trump's trade war is sending U.S. agricultural markets into shock. Roger Johnson, farmer and president of the National Farmers Union, talks us through the situation on farms, the $12 billion bailout, and what it all means for the future of U.S. agriculture.

Episode Transcript

Hey, this is the Young Farmers Podcast. I’m Lindsey Lusher Shute.

Okay, let me tell you about this trade war. On March 8th, President Donald Trump put tariffs on steel and aluminum from all countries except Canada and Mexico. In response, on April 2nd, Chine put tariffs on 128 U.S. farm products. The very next day, April 3rd, the U.S. went after 1300 good from China, and the day after that, April 4th, China fought back with 106 new tariffs on the U.S. including soybeans, the country’s top agricultural export to China. Commodity producers already have a tough time getting good prices, and this trade war is making things even harder. Today, I am speaking with farmer and President of the National Farmers Union, Roger Johnson. This is actually part one of a two-part interview. He talks us through how these tariffs work, the farmer bailout everyone’s talking about and the impacts for the future of U.S. agriculture.

Krisan Christensen: Hey friends, my name is Krisan Christensen and I’m the one-woman operator, farmer, steward of Farm N’ Wild Wellspring, a modest 1-acre vegetable and cur flower farm in beautiful Boulder, Colorado. I’m also one of the leaders of the Flatiron’s Young Farmers Coalition here on the front range. And I’m a member of the National Young Farmers Coalition because I truly believe in and rely on the efforts of our national and local leadership to help keep the transitioning farmland in agriculture and work on policies that provide training as well as microloans for beginning farmers. As a first-generation farmer, I am forever grateful for the support NYFC provides through trainings, policy work and community building. And for just $35/year you too can join. In addition to being a part of a bright and just future for agriculture in the U.S. you also get discounts like 10% off Farm Tech, 30% off Chelsea Green Publishing and so much more. It’s completely worth it and I highly recommend it. To join, go to youngfarmers.org.

Trade Wars Aren’t Cool

Lindsey: So just to get started, when did you start your tenure with the National Farmers Union?

Roger: I started in 2009 so I’ve been here for about nine and a half years.

Lindsey: And can you just in brief tell me sort of how, how you came to be president of National Farmers Union?

Roger: Sure. Uh, I’ve been a farmer all my life. I bought the land the farm from my father who bought it from his father who homesteaded it back in the early 1900s. The farm is in North Dakota. It’s a diversified grain and livestock farm. The one piece that’s really important is that I grew up in Farmers Union. North Dakota is a very strong Farmers Union state and very active in the organization and I think that is why I was sought out to run for the position of president of National Farmers Union.

Lindsey: And does Farmers Union distinguish itself from a mission perspective as well? I mean clearly owned by farmers and driven by farmers and informed by farmers. Beyond that, how do you think Farmers Union stands out? One thing that comes to mind is really standing with family scale agriculture and family farmers.

Roger: Yeah, it’s good that that stands out for you because that is very fundamental to who we are. We represent family farmers, predominantly from a policy standpoint, but we’ve for since the beginning, when we were organized over a hundred years ago, our forefathers sort of adopted the triangle as an emblem of the organization. The base of that triangle is education and the sides are legislation and cooperation.

Lindsey: So one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you today is because you are working with farmers that are much more established than Young Farmers Coalition oftentimes and have larger commodity operations and in some cases that are selling to this international market. So many of our farmers, because they’re starting out, they’re not selling to an international market and we want them to have an understanding of what’s happening with trade and tariffs. So I guess to start with, to what extent are members of the National Farmers Union right now being impacted by this trade war and tariff situation?

Roger: Well, let me start by talking economics just for a little bit. The last farm bill was passed and signed into law in 2014. Net farm income since 2014 to today is less than half of what it was back then. So in roughly in four or five years, net farm income has fallen in half. Now that’s across, that’s a national number that USDA puts out, so it includes CSAs and commodity farmers, but it’s overwhelmingly overweighted or weighted I should say by commodity production because that’s the biggest part of agriculture in this country. That statistic tells a lot about the economic stress that farmers, ranchers are going to right now.

Lindsey: Before tariffs were put in place.

Roger: Before tariffs even came into being and so we’ve got a new farm bill that’s in the process of, it’s been, there’s one version passed in the house, a different version in the Senate. They’re going to try to reconcile those and get them passed as a single bill in these next couple months and sent to the President. We’ve been arguing that in that farm bill, Congress needs to put more money in to shore up the safety net and to provide more of these kinds of services that beginning farmers and ranchers need. We’ve worked really hard to have a lot of different places in there where there are incentives for beginning farmers and ranchers. They’re all part of the overall farm bill and the overall farm bill has to respond to this overwhelmingly crushing economic situation that it’s facing a lot of these commodity producers. Now these commodity farmer/producers that as you say, rely on the international marketplace. They’re fundamentally an international market. They’re based on supply and demand. We have a surplus of production in this country and in fact, in much of the world, and so those burdensome stocks overhang the market, that drives prices very low, that ends up in net farm income being very low. When you add tariffs on top, now what initially began was the Administration was putting tariffs on imported steel and aluminum because of overcapacity problems, largely driven by China, but really coming from many countries around the world. A tariff is nothing more than a tax, in this case on exports that has to be paid by imports, you know. So whoever is buying these products, let’s say if it’s China buying soybeans from the US, the tariff is a tax that gets added to the soybeans. Now Trump put the tariff on steel and aluminum. China immediately retaliated and put tariffs on soybeans and whole bunch of other agricultural products because agricultural products is mostly what China buys from the US. So that’s a place where we were very vulnerable. The tariff on soybeans generally is 25%. So if you got $10 soybeans and you put a 25% tax on them, that’s about $2.50. Okay? So what that means is for the Chinese buyer of buying US soybeans, that buyer now has to pay the $10 plus $2.50. Well he or she isn’t going to do that, they can go to Brazil and buy the soybeans for $10. So in effect, what it does is it provides a penalty to US soybeans of $2.50 a bushel. I’m talking in round numbers. So what has really happened is we’ve seen the market for soybeans drop by about $2 a bushel in the US. And the market for other countries, soybeans that are selling into the world market, is about $2 higher than our market.

Lindsey: Just to give some perspective, in 2014 what was, per bushel, what was sort of the high point for soybeans?

Roger: Yes, soybeans were $13, $14 I think, at the high point. They were running at about $10 then the tariffs start, they’re probably around $8 or thereabouts right now. Of course, they fluctuate every day so.

Lindsey: So are farmers selling at a loss at this point with the $8 dollars?

Roger: Yes.

Lindsey: What is, what is the cost, assumed sort of cost of production for soybeans?

Roger: The cost of producing soybeans is probably somewhere around $8.50, $9, some places $10. It varies by area in the country. And incidentally, of the major commodities, soybeans were the crop that was making the farmers the most money, or alternatively put, losing them the least amount of money before this tariff war started. Corn, wheat were even worse off. In fact, if you looked at farm budgets across the country using sort of average, USDA numbers, both wheat producers and corn producers were expected this year to be losing money on every bushel that they sold. Now with the tariffs on soybeans, one could argue that the same thing is likely to happen with soybeans as well.

Lindsey: Goodness. And so wheat and corn. The reason that farmers were expected to take a loss on those was because of increased production in places like Brazil and from other parts of the world selling into those same markets?

Roger: Yes. Well, and its, and it is because there has just been very strong increases in production over time in this country and that technology has been adopted by other countries around the world and so agricultural production just keeps going higher and higher and higher, and I’m talking about production per acre, so our productivity keeps increasing and increasing. That produces more total product and population is growing at a rate that is slower than our production is increasing. Now there is this other dynamic where you’ve got an expanding middle class that’s coming up in some of these other countries that’s tending to consume more. So that sops up some of that production. But there’s a fundamental imbalance – we’re producing more than what we’re consuming. And that extra that we’re producing are burdensome stocks. This is an important point here, Lindsey, because there’s a dynamic that’s very different in commodity agriculture as opposed to CSA agriculture. In commodity agriculture, if there’s too much that’s produced, that land does not go out of production. That farmer’s going to keep producing it even if they’re producing it at a loss until eventually maybe that farmer goes out of business, but the land does not. Another farmer buys the land, rents the land, keeps producing, so the production machine keeps going. There’s an incentive for that land to always be producing even if it’s being produced at a loss. Because the fixed costs are so high.

Lindsey: So just so I’m clear, so the fixed cost of a commodity agriculture is so high that there is an incentive to keep going regardless of whether there’s a loss with the assumption that things are gonna get better.

Roger: Yes. Yeah. You’ve got a lot invested in land and machinery and if you’re producing at a loss, you’re losing less money than if you stopped producing because you can’t – to continue making the land payments, you have to continue making the machinery payments and now you’re not going to get any income at all, because you’re not producing. Even worse, the weeds you’re gonna grow, so now when you do decide to come back in production, you’ve got even more expense to bring the land back into production. So those dynamics are very powerful. It’s a fundamental supply-demand sort of paradox that agriculture faces, which is that when farmers are faced with low prices, they try to produce more bushels so that more bushels times that lower price, will give them a slightly larger income. And when farmers are faced with higher prices, they’re going to want to produce more bushels because now they’re going to take advantage of those higher prices, so the so their response is the same. And since these commodities are storable, they then tend to overhang the market for a long period of time until eventually something has to come back into balance. We used to have farm programs that had incentives for farmers to throttle back production when we had too much supply on hand. Now that we no longer have those provisions in the farm bill, really what you’re left with is hoping for a major supply disruption, meaning drought, floods, hail, tornadoes, hurricanes, what have you, that’s going to take a lot of production out.

Lindsey: I think you’re the only farmer wishing for those conditions, but yeah, we had a terrible hail storm this year, so that’s all I can think about. But, yeah.

Roger: Well, and so did we. I mean our farm is mostly been hailed out about a month ago and so it’s just one of those things. Across North Dakota they’ve got really, really good crops because when you have hailstorms you generally have a lot of rain and so.

Lindsey: And when you have those hailstorms then you get an insurance payment, I guess at least. So there’s some, there’s some protection. I mean for a grower doing commodities, they are able to secure insurance. So if they have a loss, they are, they are compensated for that loss and I guess it helps to reduce supply. So you would assume that the price overall would maybe stabilize a bit more or potentially even go up.

Roger: Yeah, the much larger supply reducing event is likely to be a widespread drought, they don’t have a meaningful impact in reducing the overall total supply because along with those hailstorms came rain that everybody else got so their supply is gonna go up. The point I was making here is you’re left with sort of wishing that somewhere on the globe there’s going to be a major, longer, bigger, deeper drought that’s going to wipe out a bunch of production. Now, none of us wish ill on anyone, but we’d prefer that it be somewhere other than where we are right?

Lindsey: Right, of course. And something to just reduce the overall supply. There’s this whole discussion as you know, can we feed the world, there’s not enough food being produced. This conversation about oversupply does provide contrast to that argument there there’s not enough out there or am I wrong about that?

Roger: No, you’re not wrong about that. In fact, there’s plenty of total supply to feed every hungry person on the planet. The problem that we have is that people are hungry not because there isn’t food, they’re hungry because they have no income to buy the food. And so you might say it’s a market failure at least for those hungry people. But we overproduce and the major producing countries, commodity producers, we significantly overproduce over time. And we’re left with trying to find other things that we can do with this crop that is so abundant here. And you know, we say, well, we’re here to feed the world, but in fact, unless you give it away, a lot of those folks who are hungry aren’t going to get it. I mean it costs money to give it away too so that’s why there’s always been different sort of programs to try and, you know, feed the hungry, that are included in the farm bill as well.

Lindsey: So the $12 billion bailout got a lot of news. It got a lot of headlines. Can you explain what that is, where that money’s going to go, who it might help?

Roger: Yeah. So we don’t know for sure where the money’s going to go. We know that USDA has standing authority through something called the CCC, the Commodity Credit Corporation, which is a government owned corporation that was established during the 30s. Anyway, the CCC has enormous authority that has been granted to the Secretary to buy commodities or even to do direct financial compensation for different things. And that’s what the Secretary is proposing to do. He’s announced it’ll be $12 billion that will be spent. Most of it will be spent in direct payments to compensate, presumably, soybean growers more than anyone else. And then probably corn, wheat producers. Most commodities I would expect would get some amount. The reason I say soybeans more than others is because this bailout as you term it, is designed to compensate for losses as a result of the tariffs. You kind of have to, when you hear $12 billion, it’s like, wow, that’s a big pile of money. How do you put that in context? Well, one way to put it in context is just those three commodity farmers – wheat, corn and soybean – across the country. If they were in a position to have sold in the first of June and they waited until the end of June to sell, they would have lost $13 billion. Now they didn’t all do that. For most of them, the crop hasn’t even been harvested so it’s a moving target because just like CSAs, you sell your products at different times of the year. These crops generally are harvested in the fall and then for many of them, they start their marketing the previous spring, so they’ll sell some on contract. And then after harvest, they, during harvest, they may sell some more of their crop and then they will store much of the crop and then sell it either later, at the end of the year or into next year. And so they try to spread their marketing out over what’s called the marketing year.

Lindsey: So you have to manage your risk by trying to sell during different seasons where you expect different prices, but you have more certainty about what you’re going to produce?

Roger: Exactly. Unless you do this, it’s really confusing.

Lindsey: Right. I feel like I need it on paper. I need to live a season on a commodity operation farm to really get it.

Roger: You do, yeah.

Lindsey: So the Commodity Credit Corporation, the CCC, they’re, I guess they will work out a process to establish who has suffered a loss in some application. I guess you would make, like a crop insurance claim for instance, where you’d say, we sold this many bushels during this season and this is the price we got and this is? I don’t know.

Roger: Yeah, that haven’t announced how they’re going to do it yet, but almost certainly it’ll work something like this. Most counties in the country have a USDA agency located there and farmers work with those county – usually it’s an FSA agency. So that FSA office is the office that’s going to issue these payments to the farmers. So once Washington decides how the money’s going to be distributed, they will basically, let’s say it’s a dollar a bushel on soybeans, is what they calculate they’re going to pay. Whatever the total soybean crop is, times a dollar, is what the payment would be. And then that payment gets allocated on the basis of what was produced. More typically they do it based on previous production because that’s already established, but I think it’s going to be based on current year production is the way they’ve announced that this year.

Lindsey: And this Commodity Credit Corporation, the funding reserved there. That likely would have gone to these same growers anyways?

Roger: No.

Lindsey: No it wouldn’t? So what is that money normally used for?

Roger: Yeah, so that, that’s a really good question. The CCC does not have money per se, to spend this $12 billion. What it has is $30 billion worth of borrowing authority granted from Congress. So the CCC will go and borrow, and in the grand scheme of things there’s a real irony here. Most of our trade deficit that President Trump is trying to deal with through these tariffs, most of that trade deficit is with China. We buy way more stuff from China than we sell to them. The whole economy now, not just agriculture. And that sends us dollars over to China. Okay? Because we’re buying more from them than we’re selling to them. So the CCC is going to borrow this money. But in fact, this money, a fair amount of this money is going to be borrowed from China because all those dollars that China gets, they turn around and invest in the US financial markets.

Lindsey: Wow.

Roger: Yeah. So the CC will borrow..

Lindsey: This is not sounding like a smart move.

Roger: Yeah. So the $12 billion will be borrowed by the CCC and paid over to farmers based on the formula yet to be determined. And then Congress will need to replenish that. They’ll need to pay that back. So this is borrowed money that’s being used to finance this one-time payment. Now, what Farmers Union has argued, for some time, well before this was announced, we have said it would make a whole lot more sense, instead of USDA borrowing the money and making this decision all on their own, for them to sit down with the members of Congress, the Agriculture Committees, put more money into the farm bill and spend it in that way. Because these tariffs are going to have a long-term impact on our price competitiveness in the world market. Countries that get in a trade war with us, we’ve spent enormous amount of time and energy and money establishing those markets. And those markets are likely going to be lost for a long, long time. They’re not going to come back because they’re going to view the US as an unreliable supplier. They’re going to turn to Brazil and buy these commodities from Brazil. Brazil is going to turn around and bring a whole bunch of new land into production, start producing even more. This surplus, this glut of production I was talking about, it’s a worldwide glut and we’re going to keep producing here, but we’re going to produce at lower and lower prices. So this has a long-term, very negative impact on farmers across this country.

Lindsey: These types of crises have a big impact on farmland transition and just the stability of these family farm enterprises. I wonder, what kind of impact is this going to have in terms of farmland?

Roger: Well, it probably will, over time it’s going to push farm land prices lower. Now that’s good for someone who just wants to get started farming because they can buy in cheaper, but it’s not going to be easy to buy in even cheaper, because lenders, when land values go down, lenders get real skittish and money gets really tight to buy land because the land. So that’s another one of the sort of, the characteristics of the agricultural economy is when land values are declining, credit tends to shrink, to get tighter and tighter, it’s harder and harder to buy it. When land values are increasing, credit tends to expand and so you tend to buy during increasing prices and sell during decreasing prices, which kind of is not the way you want to do it. But over time, these tariffs are likely to drive land prices lower because land prices are always the residual to profit on the farm. In other words, if farmers are making money, after they eat, after they repay their debts, after they cover all their farm operating expenses, the money that’s left over, that profit that’s left over, they’re going to attend to apply that to buying new capital assets – land, upgrading, machinery, equipment, etc. etc. When they’re losing money, they quit buying those things. And so the point here is that land values tend to follow profit. So as profit goes down, land values will, over time, they will come down. When profits increase, land values will increase in sort of parallel with increasing profits.

Lindsey: And do you expect in this moment to see more bankruptcies and consolidation?

Roger: Yes. We’ve already seen a significant increase in bankruptcies. There are a number of hotlines that are running around the country. We get a regular report from Nebraska for example, that there are the calls to the hotline from farmers that are in financial distress. There are record highs month after month after month. So there’s a lot of stress that’s out there already. As these market prices have come down that’s created more stress in this and they continue to come down. They’re now into the fifth year of declining prices. It looks like next year likely to be lower again. Uh, this year is going to be even lower than what was initially projected because of the impact that the tariffs. So yes, you’re going to see more bankruptcies. You’re going to see more financial stress as a consequence of these bankruptcies. You’ll see more land sales and you’ll see more consolidation. So, you know, it wasn’t that long ago when in North Dakota a thousand-acre farm was a big farm. You know, a thousand-acre farm is going to give you $10,000, $20,000, $30,000 of profit. And I mean that’s not really enough to live on anymore. So it wasn’t a that long ago. And today I’m looking at 5,000, 6,000, 7,000, 10,000 acre farms that are actually quite common. So this trend is just going to keep increasing and increasing and increasing as the farm economy struggles, and as I indicated is likely to struggle for a long time. History would tell us that you will 5-7, maybe 8 years of declining prices and revenues in agriculture followed by one or two years of up prices. And then you’ll go into a long decline again. Generally, you’re going to see a lot more down years than you are up years. And that’s because the up year happens because of some supply disruption in aberration – a shortage – and prices go high very, very fast in agriculture when there’s a supply disruption. Well, when they’re, when prices go very, very high, farmers produce, quickly respond to those higher prices. And so you’re going to see production increase pretty fast and that’s going to start building up surpluses again. And then you’re going to see the price start to slide as a result of that. And that takes a long time. It just continues to slide down. You know, in earlier years we had farm programs that were designed to sort of moderate supply when it got out of balance, these cycles were shorter. Today they’re likely to be longer. You’ll see a longer depressed price before something happens to move them high. And like I said earlier, with what happens here as a result of these tariffs, you’re likely going to bring major new production – land that’s not in grain production today, it’s pasture land, it’s range land, it’s forest land in Brazil that will be cleared. In a lot of eastern Europe now there’s vast areas of land that have not been producing. There will be economic incentives to bring that land into production, that will add more to the worldwide supply and that’s going to hold prices lower.

Lindsey: Thank you so much for your time today. I have learned a lot and I know this is going to be really illuminating and helpful for our young farmer community to feel more educated on what is going on with these tariffs and to, I think, develop greater empathy and understanding for producers that are doing things very differently and are really under such threat and risk right now and stress. And we’ll be in touch, thanks so much.

Roger: Alrighty, take care.

Concluding Remarks

Lindsey: In my next conversation with Roger Johnson, we’ll talk about what’s needed to get out of this mess and stabilize the farm economy. Don’t forget to subscribe and share this podcast. Thanks to Andrew Jerome and Roger Johnson of the National Farmers Union and to the wonderful team at the National Young Farmers Coalition. To Hannah Beal for editing, to Radio Kingston for use of a beautiful podcast studio and thanks to you, for listening.

Aug 17, 2018
High Holy Days of Farmers Markets
00:33:10

In celebration of farmers market week, we bring you an interview with Ben Feldman of the Farmers Market Coalition. Ben talks about the state of farmers markets across the nation; why farmers may soon have a hard time selling food to customers using SNAP/EBT; and how the farm bill could help farmers markets thrive.

Aug 08, 2018
Farmworkers are Farmers, too.
00:39:47

Immigrants make up nearly three-quarters of all farmworkers in the United States. Their labor is critical to US farms and consumers, but being an immigrant farmworker can come along with some major challenges -- from the risk of deportation to basic safety. Lindsey Lusher Shute interviews Iris Figueroa, staff attorney at Farmworker Justice, about these issues. They talk about who farmworkers are, the recent Goodlatte bill to change guestworker policy, and a proposal to give farmworkers legal status. www.farmworkerjustice.org

Aug 05, 2018
Minnesota Young Farmers Organize to Pass Innovative Law
00:32:52

Eric Sannerud of Mighty Axe Hops and the Central Minnesota Young Farmers Coalition talks about the campaign to pass the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit in Minnesota. This new law gives a tax credit to landowners who rent or sell their land to a new farmer. This year, a million dollars have been allocated for this bill and 162 farms were sold or rented to beginning farmers. Hear about how this ambitious group of young farmers stood up for the future of agriculture in the state and helped to solve one of its toughest challenges.

Jul 28, 2018
The Land Problem and a Bill for Governor Cuomo
00:33:38

In the next 5 years, 100 million acres of farmland will need a new owner -- yet finding farmland is the hardest thing for young farmers. Why is that? Holly Rippon-Butler, director of the land program at the National Young Farmers Coalition, talks about why it's so hard for farmers to find land, how land can be protected for farmers, and a bill that young farmers are asking NY Governor Cuomo to sign.

Jul 21, 2018
Farm Bill Politics 3: Talking Crop Insurance and Commodities with Ferd Hoefner
00:21:38

Ferd Hoefner, the senior strategic advisor to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, schools us on how crop insurance and commodity programs work and why they're causing problems. This podcast is critical listening for anyone looking to understand the farm bill. Lindsey Lusher Shute interviews; Andrew Bahrenburg walks and records; Hannah Beal edits; music Lee Rosevere.

 

Cerity – Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Jul 13, 2018
Farm Bill Politics 2: Senate Passes the Farm Bill
00:21:30

How do you pass a bipartisan bill these days? Lindsey Lusher Shute interviews NYFC's National Policy Director, Andrew Bahrenburg, on the passage of the Senate farm bill. They cover the nutrition debate and midterms, an unexpected Cuba wrinkle, and what's next in the political process.

Jul 07, 2018
Farm Bill Politics 1: So Much Drama
00:56:41

What does it take to pass the farm bill? The House of Representatives voted in favor of a controversial Farm Bill on June 21st, and the Senate will vote on their version soon. Lindsey Lusher Shute interviews Andrew Bahrenburg, the National Young Farmers Coalition's policy director, about the highs and lows of farm bill politics. Stay tuned for Part II.

Jun 26, 2018