A wolf in geese clothing

November is sneaking up on us…which means that it’s time to start thinking about what’s going to happen at the ballot box. And, let me tell you, as a North Dakotan, there’s a few things that have me concerned. Let me take a minute to explain to you one of my largest concerns:

The “Clean Water, Wildlife & Parks Amendment.”

Let me just say, that if it walks like a duck, and talks about ducks, doesn’t mean that it’s good for the ducks.

And it’s not good for North Dakotans, either.

gun, hunting

I love hunting. I love eating what I hunt. I will be hunting with my oldest son this year, something we are BOTH looking forward to.

Let’s start off with the obvious: this is a change to our STATE CONSTITUTION. That’s right. We’re to put a “tax” into our state constitution. A bad idea. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes any state can make is putting tax code into the constitution. Why? Because the constitution is meant to be a permanent, living, breathing document…and also not the easiest to change. We need to take any state constitutional amendment seriously. And this doesn’t belong here. Ever.

Second of all, check out the numbers:

  • $150,000,000 – the amount the fund would receive per year, right now
  • 75% – the amount that MUST be spent each year, according to the amendment
  • $2.8 million – the amount that the fund would receive each WEEK, right now
  • $4.8 BILLION – the amount the fund would receive in the next 25 years
  • $65,000,000 – the amount that ND already provides to conservation through the state legislature
  • 13 – the number of members of the advisory board who would provide funding recommendations
  • 1 – the number of farmer members on the proposed board
  • 0 – the number of spending plans proposed for this constitutionally-mandated fund

I don’t know about you, but those numbers don’t sit well with me.

How does a fund of this magnitude spend $2.8 million each week? Well, I checked out the website for the backers of the amendment…and it was pretty easy to see what the intentions for this money would be: to purchase land.

As the number of farms and ranches in North Dakota dwindles, and the age of farmers and ranchers increase, I cannot help but worry about the future of agriculture. My oldest son has already expressed a lot of interest in farming, yet if he has to compete with an entity that has an unlimited checkbook…well, how can he even begin to compete?

Waiting his turn...his dad is in the tractor, his grandpa is in the combine. Is his future in jeopardy?

Waiting his turn…his dad is in the tractor, his grandpa is in the combine. Is his future in jeopardy?

We talk about wanting to see small family farms make a comeback. We talk about wanting to see more young people involved in agriculture. Yeah…we do a lot of talking…but it’s time we put our votes where our mouth is.

Let’s address conservation funding where it should be addressed – legislatively.

This is a pile of deer carcasses that were collected from our hay yard a few years ago. Approximately 60-80 deer in this group. We had hundreds in our yard, and many died that winter. Less than a mile away was a parcel of land that was taken out of agriculture production specifically to provide habitat for wildlife. Yet it did nothing to "conserve" these animals.

This is a pile of deer carcasses that were collected from our hay yard a few years ago. Approximately 60-80 deer in this group. We had hundreds in our yard, and many died that winter. Less than a mile away was a parcel of land that was taken out of agriculture production specifically to provide habitat for wildlife. Yet it did nothing to “conserve” these animals.

I love hunting. I love fishing. I love wildlife.

But I love my farm. I love agriculture. And I love my children.

I’m pretty certain that Little Red Riding Hood’s mother wouldn’t have sent her out to the wolf, had she known what was going to happen. I have no intention of letting the wolf loose on my children’s futures, either.

I’m voting NO on the constitutional amendment.

Modern day muckraking

Pardon the pun. But really, I couldn’t resist.

For those that may not be aware of a little “episode” that occurred recently, it appears as if a group of employees from Muck boots may or may not have held a fundraiser for HSUS. The details are still up in the air, and it appears as if the story is changing regularly. But to tell you the truth, it’s not the details that I’m worried about.

What happened following the photo being spotted by an agvocate was what I would call a complete social media fall out for Muck. Some claim that the backlash was unfounded and unnecessary. Others are ready to throw out their Mucks for other brands. (I, personally, have already fallen in love with my Bogs, although my hubby owns a half-dozen Mucks.)

My Boggs keep me out of the deepest of doo-doo...Muck may need some of these.

My Bogs keep me out of the deepest of doo-doo…Muck may need some of these.

So why the mudslinging? (Seriously, this stuff just writes itself.)

For those not involved in agriculture, or those in ag that don’t understand, let me explain…HSUS has made this personal. There is no wiggle room when it comes to companies that choose to support this particular organization. (Which, by the way, recently lost favor as a charity.) And these types of social media blasts go a long way in limiting HSUS’s power and bottom line – no matter how you look at it.

Everyone I saw was pretty respectful and asked their audiences to do the same. But all of the sources that I saw requested that people reach out and ask the tough questions. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s what we need to keep doing.

If we don’t stand up, ourselves, against those that are willing to attack us on our home turf, then how can we expect others to do it for us? I can almost guarantee that Wayne Pacelle hasn’t slipped on a pair of chore boots in a long time…if ever.

Muckraking…a term used for anyone that employs investigative tactics to try to right a wrong, especially in the corporate world.

Perhaps if more companies are aware of the problems that are associated with HSUS, more will step away from this money-grabbing, farce of a charity. When donating to help animals, local is the way to go.

Sorry, Muck boots, for the puddle you found yourself in. But I’m guessing it’s a lesson learned – and a valuable one at that.

Because, trust me, HSUS isn’t going to come to your rescue. They don’t even rescue those they raise money for…and that’s a dirty shame.

Chickens on a plane

I just can’t get away from it. Really. Even in a plane.

I was fortunate enough today to have some things go wrong, and then right…and I ended up sitting in the front if a plane to Atlanta. Yes, the fortunate seats up in first class.
It’s a long story, but it involves a 1 a.m. bedtime, a 2 a.m. alarm and a 3 p.m. flight. No, I didn’t make any mistakes. Just trust me on this.

The irony in it is that I’m on my way to BlogHer Food, a conference for bloggers interested in food. And if farmers aren’t interested in food, then we’re in the wrong business!

But I digress.

I’m on a plane. In first class. They serve a meal. I choose a southwestern chicken salad. In my neck of the woods, the very word “salad” means lettuce. I was expecting spicy chicken on a bed of lettuce. I got avocados, beans and corn. Hmmm…not quite what I was thinking. I have tried to convince myself that I like avocados. I mean, they’re good for you, and everyone else seems to enjoy them. But it hasn’t worked.

So I enjoyed what I could. And saved the amazing-looking cookie for last. And I was eating one of the best cookies known to man-kind…(I was starving at this point), I noticed the ingredient list.

I just shook my head. Listed, towards the bottom of the list, were the words “cage free eggs.” Really? Is that necessary?

Let me just say that I completely respect those that raise chickens. I remember our flock when I was growing up. I would never…and I mean NEVER do that again. Methods have improved. Technology has improved. My heart is warming up to it. I still don’t want my own chickens…but I’m warming.

But whether or not my packaged cookie at 30,000 feet contains one cage-free egg? Not a concern of mine.
I personally know a few people that raise chickens…and eggs. I’d rather leave it to the experts.

When it comes to food, there are choices all around us. And I couldn’t be more grateful.

And I have to say that cookie was amazing, and the egg had little to do with it.

20140517-090744.jpg

I am attending BlogHer Food thanks to a sponsorship from Monsanto. But don’t worry, all thoughts, crazy travel incidents, snark and any other catastrophes are all mine. Unfortunately.

A new tool for bugs

I was hoping to blog all about planting last week. Really, I was. But I didn’t. Because we didn’t. And this week is looking bleak. Rain and cool temps…not a farmer’s friend this spring. But it helps us make sure we’re prepared for planting, and it helps us check out new tools for the year.

Like the 20/20 Precision Planting system we’re going to be using (which I promise to write more about later)…and a cool new website that has quickly become one of my faves: http://www.insectforecast.com/

Technology is cool, but sometimes you just simply need to know what’s happening, and what’s heading your way. And this site does just that, in a way that really does amaze me.

Soybean aphids hatching risk...information that makes my inner-Geek-heart flutter.

Soybean aphids hatching risk…information that makes my inner-Geek-heart flutter.

First of all, the research part of this site appeases my inner Geek. And as much as I dislike bugs, I like to know about them. Weird…I know. The site doesn’t just assume that I know. It shows me what I want to know, and gives me the information that I so love to learn.

Cool. So cool.

So how does this possibly help my farm? Simple. It’s another tool that alerts me to what’s going on around me. Because sometimes we get so wrapped up in our day-to-day activities that we lose track of things. For instance, did you know that it’s May already? Yeah. Me neither. Where did April go?

But eventually spring will truly get here, as well as warmer temps and outbreaks of bugs. And that’s definitely something we need to stay on top of…our crops depend on it.

Another tool for the toolbox. And a hearty THANK YOU for those that made it possible.

This site was brought to my attention by someone wanting me to review it. Which I did. And I think it’s amazing. The thoughts above are definitely my own, since no one else words things quite like I do. You know what I mean. 

 

Whatever floats your boat – #DitchTheRule

“Navigable waters.” According to the internet, the accepted definition is: “deep and wide enough for boats and ships to travel on or through: capable of being navigated.”

Apparently that’s true for everyone…but EPA.

The new proposed ruling for the expanded Clean Water Act from the EPA would become the most far-reaching regulations we’ve yet seen from this regulatory agency. It’s meant to clarify what is determined as “Waters of the US.” In essence, almost any place that water could collect could be subject to regulation and the permitting process.

The CWA was started in 1972 as a way to curb pollution into what was determined navigable water from a single source – without a federal permit.

Most people would probably be amazed at what all requires permission from someone else in order to simply do something…even on your own property. There are permits to build stuff, permits to take down stuff, permits to use water, permits to take away water – I’m sure there are probably even agencies that have permits in order for another agency to allow permits. The process is essentially the same. You apply, based on whatever rules and regulations have been drawn up. You explain why you should be allowed a permit to complete whatever action or build whatever structure you have planned. You present your application with the proper fee, determined by the regulatory board or by law, and you wait to hear back.

Here’s the catch: there is no legal right to be allowed a permit. That’s right, even if you dot your I’s and cross your T’s and pay the fees and fill out each form in triplicate and you state sound reasons as to why your permit should be granted and have science on your side, you may be turned down.  Because we all know that decisions don’t always make sense.

And you may not find out if you’ve been granted a permit or if you’ve been turned down for days, or weeks, or months – we all know how speedy the federal government works, right?

Using conservation and good stewardship is nothing new to our farm. We make decisions every day based on what we feel will be best for tomorrow.

Using conservation and good stewardship is nothing new to our farm. We make decisions every day based on what we feel will be best for tomorrow.

So let me try to wrap this up in a nut shell with a completely plausible scenario: Let’s say you’re a farmer that raises cattle, and cattle poop, and you want to use the natural fertilizer that you’ve been given. Let’s say that the field you want to fertilize has a low spot that collects water when it rains. Imagine now having to fill out paperwork and a permit in order to use that fertilizer near that low spot because it may collect water at some point in time?

So why use the fertilizer? Well, it helps your crops grow to their potential, it provides better grass for our cattle and it’s cheaper to use the product that nature is already providing. And remember, we’re talking about a spot that may/may not hold water at any point in the year. Yet the amount of water held isn’t in question. When the water is held there isn’t in question. It’s simply the ability for the ground to hold water that determines whether or not the CWA is applicable.

A single drop of water...is that all it would take?

A single drop of water…is that all it would take?

The good news? It’s not too late. The proposed rule changes are open to public comment through July 21 by visiting the website at http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/wetlands/CWAwaters.cfm, or through the FBAct Insider page at: http://capwiz.com/afb/issues/alert/?alertid=63192396.

Laws and regulations that expand government reach and hurt our local economies will continue to be passed unless we’re willing to stand up and protect our rights for future generations. We need to let the EPA know that they need to #DitchTheRule.

My four boys drink from the hydrant in our yard. And there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to ensure that our water is safe for generations to come. Our family farm has been making improvements to our methods of farming for generations, not through regulations and laws, but through using common sense and stewardship.

The CWA was set up to protect places that could float a boat. My field is not such a place. My ditch is not such a place. My yard is not such a place. Not a single one of these places could float my boat…and neither does this rule.

The anatomy of a farmer

I was told recently, point blank, that “agriculture is a man’s world.” And I will freely admit that my first reaction was not a very pleasant one. Yes, it made me angry. Very angry.

Are there certain situations that being a man is helpful? Sure. I must admit that there are many men stronger than I am, but then again, I’m also stronger than a lot of guys I know, too. It all boils down to the situation. But I also am quite certain that politics is not one of those situations. Your gender does not…and should not…EVER make an impact on your ability to be elected to serve in office.

Yet, it became painfully obvious last weekend that we have so much work to do on this front.

So let me start by explaining to you what a farmer looks like…from head to toe:

A farmer is required to be a person capable of wearing many hats – from accountant to nurse to scientist to engineer. A farmer’s head is full of so much information, and also full of contacts, for those questions that they can’t answer. A farmer knows how to make the best out of a sticky situation, and knows when to call in reinforcements. Facial hair has never been a requirement…although, I must admit, it would come in handy come winter.

Fashion has little to do with farming...warmth, on the other hand...

Fashion has little to do with farming…warmth, on the other hand…

A farmer has a mouth that can communicate the needs of the farm, to a variety of audiences. From legislators to neighbors to school kids to friends and family – a farmer knows that in order to preserve our work for future generations, we need to start engaging people more. It does not matter if those lips are covered in lip stick, lip gloss, chapstick or whiskers…the message is the same.

A farmer has broad shoulders – more in a figurative sense than anything. A farmer is able to carry the weight of the current growing season, worrying about changes in the weather, all while enjoying the miracle of each season. Whether it be watching a new calf learn to walk, watching a new crop erupt from the ground, watching baby chicks develop their first feathers, or watching a sick animal slowly recover – a farmer takes responsibility for what happens on the farm, good and bad.

A farmer has strong hands. They are able to be involved in almost every aspect of the farm. From gently handling an injured animal, to convincing a rusty bolt to budge, to writing out checks to pay for inputs to folding them in prayer at the end of the day…a farmer’s hands hold more strength than many would guess. Whether or not your nails are polished doesn’t matter.

teamwork, farmwork

Two different sets of hands working for a common goal…does it matter which were replaced with a woman’s hand?

A farmer has a caring heart. A farmer strives to do what is best for the land…and the job…that she loves. This includes protecting the land for the generations to come. A farmer also knows that they are not in this fight alone, and that there are so many involved in the process of being successful.

A farmer has a pair of feet that can walk miles in other’s shoes, and never skip a beat. A farmer can wear a pair of work boots all day, slip on a pair of dress shoes for church, a pair of tennis shoes for playing catch and a pair of flip flops for a day of fishing. The size of the heel doesn’t matter.

These feet work hard...

These feet work hard…

...and so do these.

…and so do these.

Whatever the role of the farm may be, each person has an integral part in the success of the farm. And the only thing that determines the extent of involvement is the willingness to work hard, the flexibility to adapt to unexpected events and the passion to see something through to the end…and gender does not determine any one of those things.

Agriculture a man’s world? I certainly hope not. Our industry would be missing a whole lot of talent if that were true.

What makes a farmer? It has a whole lot more to do with who is on the inside, not the outside.

The hope in technology

Technology. I used to hear that word and think of gadgets and gizmos and the latest and greatest in whatever field you’re looking at…including agriculture.

But not too terribly long after George joined our family, I started looking at technology in a different way.

My 9-pound-13-ounce George, this picture was taken at the hospital when he was born. Little did I know what the future would hold.

My 9-pound-13-ounce George, this picture was taken at the hospital when he was born. Little did I know what the future would hold.

It’s not just about finding easier ways to complete the same jobs. Nor is it about finding ways to play God. Sometimes technology is simply about saving lives and improving the quality of life for those that are here.

And that’s a hard lesson to learn.

But I have.

Trust me, I do realize that there is a difference between a new app or a device that’s used to steer a tractor and a plant that’s bred to improve its genetic makeup – but one of these causes activists to go crazy, and I’ve never seen a protest line outside of GameStop the night before a new game is released. (But then again, I don’t normally hang out there, so let me know if I’m wrong.)

An iPad in the tractor cab, connected to the planter. Yes, technology can bring great improvements to efficiency!

An iPad in the tractor cab, connected to the planter. Yes, technology can bring great improvements to efficiency!

Here’s where I get personal: Had my son been born a mere two decades ago, I am guessing that I would probably be a mother of three. Not four. That’s a sobering thought. Technology and advancements in medicine have allowed him to not only survive, but to thrive and far exceed any of the expectations that we were given. Even by Mayo’s standards, George is amazing.

George, summer 2010, before we had a plan in place. This picture sometimes makes me cringe...wishing I could go back and cheer myself on...pushing harder. But you know what they say about hindsight.

George, summer 2010, before we had a plan in place. This picture sometimes makes me cringe…wishing I could go back and cheer myself on…pushing harder. But you know what they say about hindsight.

When there are advancements in medicine that saves lives and improves the quality of life for hundreds, or thousands, or millions, we shout from the rooftops and celebrate! As we should.

Yet, those same scientists…those same doctors…those same hands…they can follow the same methods, the same protocols, the same regulations and red tape and years of hard work and trials…but if those advancements are made in our food – well, the reaction is quite different.

Are they not achieving the same goal? Does it not improve the quality of life for others if our food is more nutritionally sound? Does it not save lives if we are able to grow crops where crops always failed before? Does it not make a difference if the diseases in plants that used to destroy thousands of acres can be eliminated?

If we were to find a way to eliminate cancer, would we not celebrate? Yet if we find a way to eliminate a plant disease…we protest?

I’m not saying there isn’t a difference. And I’m not saying that we don’t need to look at technology with a cautious eye and we need to carefully and judiciously move forward. But do not tell me that using technology is not natural.

Let me tell you what is not natural…having to carefully watch what your 4-year-old eats is not natural. Explaining to the parents of his classmates about his condition is not natural. Relying on a powder to provide your basic nutritional needs is not natural.

But burying your child is also not natural.

This is the George that we know and love...he just needed a little help getting to this point. We sometimes slip, and it's  not all roses, but that smile and those eyes make it all worthwhile.

This is the George that we know and love…he just needed a little help getting to this point. We sometimes slip, and it’s not all roses, but that smile and those eyes make it all worthwhile.

I realize that my exposure to technology is vastly different from most people. And for that, I am grateful. I have traveled down a road that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But right now we’re on the other side, and it’s pretty sweet.

And I thank technology and science…and God…for that.