Spring of discontent may plant seeds of hope

Dave Bergmeier

One flip of the evening news, turn the knob on a radio station or look above the fold of a general circulation newspaper or magazine and it is clear: 2020 is challenging our nation’s conscience. Even those who are involved in production agriculture.

Farmers and ranchers are discussing how to shape their future. High Plains Journal has covered challenging topics and, as urban and rural residents are eying cultural issues, our task is to look at the tidal wave of news that dominates our headlines too.

In this week’s edition of the Journal, our staff has reported on topics from a court ruling that challenges the safety of dicamba usage, a common herbicide used to control pigweed for spring-planted crops. This week’s edition also has stories on how to look for signals in the cattle market, plus steps the Department of Justice is looking into the concentration of the packing plant industry and the costs of what it might take to construct a small to medium sized packing plant. And, our editors wrote about a federal indictment for antitrust allegations against four senior executives in the nation’s poultry industry.

There are many opinions about how we got to where we are today. As supporters of the process we must follow the facts, regardless of how uneasy it may make any of us feel. If we are going to find the answers to these complicated topics it has to be done with hard work. We won’t pretend to know the answers, yet know that all the above-mentioned topics will have to be taken into context of how it plays out in the long term.

The seeds of change are planted at times when we least suspect. Mostly, we are at this pivotal moment in our nation, and our industry, because of general assumptions that have rightfully or wrongfully been disseminated in our free market system. Have regulators looked the other way when they should have been paying closer attention? It is never simple to answer such a question, yet we know that complacency or a laissez faire attitude has put us where we are today.

Agriculture has shown an ability to pull together when something challenges the lives of everyday producers. The much maligned Waters of the United States rule was halted because producers were unified in saying that it was not in their best interest to cede their property rights for a plan that was not fully vetted. Dicamba has been a long accepted weed control application, yet off-target movement can fracture neighbors’ relationships. The livestock industry has been hit hard in the past year and price drops the individual rancher or feeder receives has taken the brunt of it while the consumer has not benefitted. Historically prices strike a balance between producers and the consumers.

Finding a solution is paramount for producers and consumers so that all sides share in the risks and rewards. In the end, that is what the free market system is supposed to do. Much work lies ahead.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].