Radio Script 9-10-19

Corn is racing frost to maturity in the upper Midwest. NRCS photo by Ron Nichols.

Searching for information to include in this report over the past several weeks, I keep getting an image of an Ace Reid cartoon, where a geek in a suit is standing in Jake’s ramshackle farmyard telling him, I’m from the government and I’m here to help. Even though our quote “patriotic” farmers and ranchers have born the brunt of trade disputes around the world. They’ve been assured that they’ll soon benefit from an unprecedented demand for the crops and meat that has filled grain bins, warehouses and cold storage for over a year, while competitors have filled the void left by U.S. farmers. At this stage, with the level of surplus corn and soybeans in storage, it will take a polar vortex, cold snap to hit the corn belt this fall to offer any hope that corn and soybean prices will gain even a modest level of profitability for the next couple years, even with an immediate end to the trade wars. But the government has added to the problem by granting waivers to 31 oil refiners who don’t have to blend ethanol into their fuel, thereby cutting 300 million bushels of corn from this year’s demand. Another example of government lack of support is Dairy Management Inc., a nonprofit that’s tasked with promoting milk, cheese and other dairy products. It’s a federally mandated checkoff program supposedly overseen by the USDA. In 2017, It paid 10 executives a combined $8 million, the same year that 1,600 dairy farms closed across the country.

But maybe in the future, farmers and ranchers won’t have to depend on the government. Consumers who want to know from where their food comes may encourage producers to adopt practices that will benefit their bottom lines and provide sustainability. According to data and research service Nielsen, when it comes to the environmental footprint of their food, 48% of U.S consumers already say they are willing to change their consumption habits to help to improve agricultural sustainability. Spending on sustainable-focused products hit $128.5 billion in 2018, climbing 20% from 2014. Recently, many consumer businesses have launched sustainability initiatives. For example, yogurt maker Danone  developed a “Farming for Generations” coalition, and General Mills, Anheuser-Busch, and Tyson have also launched sustainability initiatives aimed at encouraging producers to adopt more sustainable farming practices while increasing consumer education.

Beekeepers are suing the EPA over its decision to allow expanded use of the insecticide sulfoxaflor, which is harmful to pollinators. The agency says sulfoxaflor poses a lower risk to bees and other wildlife than widely used alternative pesticides.

According to a World Health Organization report, if health services will focus more on nutrition, they could save 3.7 million lives by 2025. World Health Organization Assistant Director General Naoko Yamamoto said that “nutrition should be positioned as one of the cornerstones of essential health packages.”

The thought for today is from Greek philosopher Epicurus. He wrote, “Self-sufficiency is the greatest of all wealth.”

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