The Apocalypse is Not Nigh: There Will Always Be a New Day

Phil Apocolypse
On April 25th I started planting corn.  Boy, was it cold.  I know there won’t be much growth at this stage, but I really never hold back when ground conditions are good.  It has been an off and on week with several showers pushing me out of the field.  However, I really long for warmer weather for planting.  Surely that is right around the corner.

It is a world of difference now planting corn versus when I first started my career.  It might be cold this week, but my tractor has a satellite radio, auto steer and a heater or air conditioner depending on how you feel.  When I first started farming, I drove an open cab tractor and basically froze to death.  I was young and tough and that was deemed good enough.  I had a lot of work to do and I would almost do anything to get that crop planted.  It’s the same way now in terms of I’ve got a lot of work to do but putting the crop in the ground is much more comfortable.  Thank goodness it’s more efficient too.

I got thinking about this the other day as I hit the auto steer yet again.  Productivity in my cornfields generally leads my farm.  It is so much better than soybeans.   The secret will be to keep it that way.  It means I will probably engage almost any advantage I can think of to make things better.

For many of us in agriculture that means taking advantage of the latest herbicides, fertilizers, biotechnology or the next big thing that comes along.  However, that road is growing increasingly complex especially at a time when society is judging agriculture a little bit differently.  For instance, today I was featured on the Al Jazeera TV network in Qatar about some of my views on Glyphosate.  Some of the active ingredients in glyphosate have been classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” in a report released last year by researchers affiliated with the World Health Organization.

Al Jazeera before has contacted me so this was not new.  They are always hungry for farmers to express their opinion especially about things like herbicides and biotechnology.  I had said that I grow genetically modified corn along with non-GMO soybeans and I do use lots of glyphosate.  I said I did not know the future of glyphosate especially in the light of the controversy about some of it possibly being a carcinogen.  I’m no scientist, I’m an agricultural economist and that’s what I thought glyphosate was all about.

Needless to say, there is a lot of debate about glyphosate around the world now.  I had known about the controversy but I really didn’t take it too seriously.  However, the comments coming into Al Jazeera reconfirmed some of my beliefs that agriculture might have to take this seriously.  I have farmed without glyphosate, back in the day.  However, farming with it in 2016 and spraying it with that nice tractor of mine makes my new world so much better.  I think it even makes food cheaper in the long run.  Needless to say, I can hear the cacophony rising against it.  Needless to say, I’ll keeping applying my 1 litre/acre burn down on my fields this spring.

At the same time I read with interest about the introduction of Roundup Ready Extend soybeans into the United States this year.  As of now, American farmers can plant them but won’t be able to apply dicamba to them in 2016.  The Europeans have not approved the import of them, so some American elevators won’t buy them.  Does it sound like somebody has put the cart before the horse on this one?  It astounds me how big agricultural seed and chemical companies sometimes deliberately ignore end users.  Having American elevators announce they won’t buy the beans is testament to that.

The point is our agricultural world is growing more complex, but, and this is a very important but, the apocalypse is not nigh.  30 years ago when I was driving that open cab tractor we had just as many challenges.  In fact, those challenges at a young age seemed insurmountable.  Those challenges were different than we have now, but they were still challenges just the same.  So in 2016, issues like losing glyphosate or market access for dicamba soybeans in Europe are just noise.  Ditto for the crazy neonic ban in Ontario in 2016.  As farmers there will always be problems and challenges.  However, there is always a new day.  That day might even be a little warmer.