Farm Food Facts

Ep 19 Dr. John Newton, Anne Meis, Farmbelt Floods

March 29, 2019
Farm Food Facts
Ep 19 Dr. John Newton, Anne Meis, Farmbelt Floods
Chapters
Farm Food Facts
Ep 19 Dr. John Newton, Anne Meis, Farmbelt Floods
Mar 29, 2019
USFRA
This week's Thought Leader:With the devistation occuring on our farms and ranches in the midwest, we have invited Dr. John Newton of the American Farm Bureau Federation to give us the most up to date report on exactly what is going on. Stories you need to know:•Farmers are Experiencing incredibly Hard Times from Mother Nature•The Ag Industry is Seeking USDA oversight of genetically engineered Animals•Drones could help Reduce the use of Antibiotics in Livestock.•Is Hydroponics the Future of Farming?•Farmers Markets are Struggling because the Market is SaturatedFarmer of the Week:Anne Meis, who, along with her husband Jim, brother and sister-in-law, Joe and Pam Meis, and parents, Jim and Shirley Meis, own and operate a corn, soybean, alfalfa and feeder cattle operation southeast of Elgin, Neb.
Show Notes Transcript

This week's Thought Leader: With the devistation occuring on our farms and ranches in the midwest, we have invited Dr. John Newton of the American Farm Bureau Federation to give us the most up to date report on exactly what is going on. 

Stories you need to know: 
•Farmers are Experiencing incredibly Hard Times from Mother Nature 
•The Ag Industry is Seeking USDA oversight of genetically engineered Animals 
•Drones could help Reduce the use of Antibiotics in Livestock. 
•Is Hydroponics the Future of Farming?
•Farmers Markets are Struggling because the Market is Saturated 

Farmer of the Week: Anne Meis, who, along with her husband Jim, brother and sister-in-law, Joe and Pam Meis, and parents, Jim and Shirley Meis, own and operate a corn, soybean, alfalfa and feeder cattle operation southeast of Elgin, Neb.

Phil Lempert:
0:01
Farm, Food, Facts where every farmer, every acre, and every voice matters. Welcome to the Farm, Food, Facts interactive podcast presented by the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance for Friday, March 29th, 2019.:
Phil Lempert:
0:19
With the devastation occurring on our farms and ranches in the Midwest, we've invited Dr. John Newton of the American Farm Bureau Federation. Dr. Newton manages AFB's economics team in conducting analysis. And later on in the program, we'll head to Nebraska to continue the discussion with Anne Meis, who along with her husband, Jim, brother and sister-in-law, Joe and Pam Mei, and parents, Jim and Shirley Meis, own and operate a corn, soybean, alfalfa, and feeder cattle operation southeast of Elgin, Nebraska. She's a board member on the Nebraska's Soybean Board and U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, and is in right in the middle of it all. Dr. Newton, welcome back to Farm, Food, Facts.:
John Newton:
1:01
Thanks for having me on.:
Phil Lempert:
1:02
I'm sure you and your team have been quite busy these past few days with the storms and flooding in the Midwest. Can you give us a latest update?:
John Newton:
1:09
Well, I think one of the things that we've seen a lot of farmers and ranchers have come to the aid of one another to help rebuild and clean up following these devastating floods. We've seen unheard reports of a number of farmers who lost livestock or lost grain that was stored in the bins on the farm. So, there's a very large cleanup effort underway, a lot of rebuilding left to goto get the transportation infrastructure restored, restore those rail lines, restore the routes along the river to get ready for the spring planting season.:
Phil Lempert:
1:44
And do you think, and I know this is a hard question to answer, but do you think that they will be ready in time?:
John Newton:
1:52
It's tough to say. I think a lot of folks in those river bottoms have lost a lot. Many have lost everything. They've lost not only some of the commodities, their livestock, but many have lost their homes. So, there's a very long rebuilding process ahead of those families that have been impacted as a result of these floods. I think in areas outside of those river bottoms, farmers and ranchers will certainly be ready. We did see USDA put out the first acreage survey report for 2019 based on surveys from farmers, conducted over the first two weeks of March, so slightly prior to when the flooding began. And farmers intend to plant about 92 million acres of corn and about 84 million acres of soybeans n 2019. A lot of those in those Midwest states.:
Phil Lempert:
2:43
Now, can you also estimate for us a dollar amount that's been lost by the U.S. farmers and ranchers?:
John Newton:
2:49
You know, that's tough to do. In the short run, we've seen estimates come in from some states, over a billion dollars in crop and livestock losses. There are also some effects that we haven't been able to measure yet. The transportation log jam that's going to be upcoming, the inability to get rail products on rail or the inability to run processing facilities, whether it's an ethanol facility, or a soybean crushing facility, the loss of livestock. So, I think the damage, the property damage as well. We've gotten some early estimates but those numbers could rise.:
Phil Lempert:
3:30
What's the balance between supply and demand now, because of the weather conditions? You mentioned the crop survey, what they were intending to plant, but now with all this loss, are we going to be able to fill the demand?:
John Newton:
3:47
You know, I think what we're going to see is in these local areas that have been impacted, we're gonna see some supply disruptions, some demand disruptions, and that's going to impact commodity prices in a number of different directions. You think about additional processing capacity, processing costs to run the ethanol plant to transport products once they're complete, but then there may not be adequate supplies in the nearby area to run these ethanol plants that capacity. So, there's a lot of different costs to think about going forward. But I do think, areas outside of that, we're not going to see as much of a supply/demand hiccup. We've got abundant supplies of products around the country - whether it be crops or animal products, dairy products, livestock products - that I don't believe consumers at the national level are going to see much of an impact.:
Phil Lempert:
4:39
That's great. So, what happens next, John? What are you hearing from farmers and ranchers about new plantings, new herds? Are they going to be able to afford it? And how long do you think that it's going to take them to get back to normal?:
John Newton:
4:54
I think farmers are always tested with an adverse situation, whether it's growers in the southeast that experienced two devastating hurricanes in two consecutive years, growers in Texas that had drought conditions early last year, or excessive rainfall across much of the country late last year, that delayed harvest around the country. Growers adapt, and we always rebuild. What we're seeing now in the Midwest, folks come together to help rebuild communities. We're seeing products from outside of these disaster-impacted regions come into the area to help farmers that are trying to rebuild, whether it's bringing livestock feed in from outside the area or supplies needed to rebuild. So, we will rebuild. I think it's going to take some time for many folks to get back on their feet, but that's what farmers do each and every day is recover from some of these adverse events that occur when - unfortunately Mother Nature's our business partners. So, we're always dealing with adverse weather conditions in some parts of the country that impact our businesses.:
Phil Lempert:
6:04
Well, John, thanks so much for your insights and the updates and for joining us on Farm, Food, Facts.:
John Newton:
6:10
Thank you. Thanks for having me.:
Phil Lempert:
6:11
And now for the news, you need to know.:
Phil Lempert:
6:16
Farmers are experiencing incredibly hard times because of Mother Nature. The recent Farm Belt floods are another tough blow to ag. Farmers and ranchers have been hit hard by the major flooding happening in parts of the Midwest following the bomb cyclone winter storm last week that brought heavy rains, wind and snow. Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin have declared emergencies, and flooding claimed the lives of at least two Nebraska residents, including one farmer who was swept away while attempting to use his tractor to help stranded motorists. The snowfall and destructive floodwaters have also caused extensive livestock fatalities, with calving season now underway. The damage will surely devastate cattle, hog, grain, and other commodity markets. The profuse flooding followed days of record-setting snow and rain that swept through the west and Midwest. The torrential deluge pushed some waterways, including the Missouri River, to record levels in Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota. This flooding is the worst in nearly a decade in many places. What grocers need to know is that these are the stories of what leadership looks like day-in and day-out, to protect the soil despite the cost to ensure that animals are sheltered and cared for. These farmers persevere and get the job done, despite what Mother Nature throws their way. These are the stories that can't be quantified in supply chain reporting metrics or sustainability context. And if we do recognize that there are impacts related to climate change, then supply chain leaders must not only help in the supply chain sourcing, but beware of the day-to-day realities of climate risks and shocks because our farmers are living it every day.:
Phil Lempert:
8:04
And next in livestock related news: The agindustry is seeking USDA oversight of genetically engineered animals. Livestock groups are calling for the moving of the regulation of genetically engineered animals from the FDA to the USDA. This could potentially set up another face off. Presently, the FDA has control over reviewing the safety of GE animals, while USDA handles GE plants. However, animal ag groups say that the FDA's framework falls short in clarity and the process is quite slow-going. They point out that the agency has only cleared one genetically engineered animal, AquaAdvantage salmon, and that took more than 20 years to approve. The pork industry is taking the lead, partly because gene-edited hogs that are resistant to certain diseases are expected to become commercially available within the next few years. Farmers and scientists are very excited about the possibility of resistance to porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, a disease that costs the industry hundreds of millions of dollars every year. Those who support the move say that it's an urgent issue because some other countries have already signed off on GE animals, putting U.S. producers at a competitive disadvantage. Advocates were encouraged by the joint USDA-FDA agreement for handling the regulation of cell based meat, and they say that the shared arrangement could provide a guide for how the biotech animals debate might play out. In its review of biotech plants, the USDA set a goal of streamlining regulations in order to assist products and getting to market quicker. Animal ag groups are hopeful that the department would take the same approach for genetically engineered animals. What grocers need to know is that, while the scientists are pushing for a more rapid process, it will be an important lesson for all to watch just how consumers and retailers accept or not the Aqua Bounty salmon as it hits store shelves and how the company delivers its messaging on the process.:
Anne Meis:
10:09
And now, here's a way we could potentially better protect their livestock. Researchers from Texas A&M University may have discovered a way to reduce antibiotic use in livestock by using drone technology. The researchers have been monitoring livestock in a feed lot with drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras, in an attempt to identify feverish animals. If the drones can successfully isolate which cattle needs treatment, then ranchers could treat only the ones in need of medication rather than depending on the practice of injecting the entire herd with the antibiotics. Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp says demand for antibiotic-free meat and ingenuity from Texas A&M agrilife research scientists have led to some very exciting technology and a new segment of precision agriculture. What grocers need to know is that drones have been proven to monitor crops to help reduce water, fertilizer and pesticides, and now they're being used with livestock as a natural extension of precision agriculture, which could save thousands of animals and millions of dollars.:
Phil Lempert:
11:19
Ag technology continues to evolve in many different ways and the ways we farm are changing as well. Are hydroponics the future of farming? Cities play an often overlooked role in the production and consumption of food. According to the World Economic Forum, their report states that 80 percent of all food is expected to be consumed in cities by 2050. They have to be central to this story. Today, they often act as black holes, sucking in resources, but wasting many of them, the final stop in the take-make-waste approach. Vertical farming, and hydroponics in particular, could help urban farmers grow food in densely populated towns and cities where land is scarce. Through careful manipulation and management of the growing environment, including the amount of water, the Ph levels, and the combination of specific nutrients, hydroponics could grow plants even faster than other traditional farming methods that have to rely on sunlight. What grocers need to know is that retailers are scurrying to find nearby hydroponic and vertical farms to receive fresher produce that does not have to be shipped cross-country. It reduces costs, as well as contamination that could lead to foodborne outbreaks.:
Phil Lempert:
12:32
And for our final news story, farmer's markets are struggling because the market is saturated. The number of U.S. farmers markets increased from 2000 back in 1994 to more than 8,600 in 2019. Aationwide, there are too few farmers to fill these market stalls and too few customers filling their canvas bags with fresh produce from each market. When the Nipomo Certified Farmers' Market started back in 2005, shoppers were quite eager to purchase fresh fruits and veggies, as well as pastured meats and eggs directly from farmers in central California. However, the market was small; an average of 16 vendors set up tables every Sunday, making it much more difficult for farmers to sell enough produce to make attending it worthwhile. Hosting the market on Sundays also proved harmful, as several of the farmers participate in six or more additional markets every week and just wanted Sundays to rest. In 2018, with farmer market attendance low and only five vendors signed on to sell produce, the organizers of the Nipomo Certified Farmers' Market decided to shut down the event at the end of last season. Reports of farmer's markets closing have affected communities from Norco, California to Reno, Nevada to Allouez, Wisconsin. There were too few farmers to populate the market stalls and too few customers filling their bags with fresh produce.:
Phil Lempert:
13:57
And now we head to Nebraska to Anne Meis. Anne, welcome to Farm, Food, Facts.:
Anne Meis:
14:03
Thanks for having me, Phil. I'm happy to be here.:
Phil Lempert:
14:06
Let's get right to it. The Farm Belt floods have been devastating to our farmers and ranchers in at least four states. And the spring flood outlook doesn't look much better. Now the great news is that your farm, your family farm, is not been affected, but can you tell us what's going on with your friends and neighbors?:
Anne Meis:
14:24
Absolutely, yes. The devastation to homes and some of the downtown businesses in rural America around me are probably first and foremost. And neighbors are pitching in, helping each other, and people need a place to live. Livestock losses are real. We've had, especially cattlemen in my area, have had some losses, but I have a neighbor who lost 40 calves; that's 30% of his herd, so that's significant. Another neighbor of mine can't get to his hay to feed his own cattle because the roads to his field have washed out. So, these are real personal stories that are happening. And it's devastated our area. But, we're all looking for ways to keep moving. Transportation has been a big issue. We are a rural area, so roads being washed out, bridges being taken out, have really affected our transportation. So, that's so important to farmers to get our crops to market or get our livestock to market. So, we're all getting pretty creative on finding ways to get from Point A to Point B, or to get our corn or soybeans to market or our cattle. So, it's probably livestock damage in my area has probably been most devastating. That means that farmers, that if they've lost cattle or they've lost calves, they have to find another way to replace that income. It's really an uplifting, the hay and the livestock feed being donated, there are certain locations, and driving today I saw five hay trucks on the road because we care about our lifestyle, they have to be fed every day.:
Phil Lempert:
16:25
So, Anne, I want to talk about that rebuilding for a moment. When you look at livestock damage, something that I'm not sure that retailers, and certainly in the case of consumers, don't realize that when you lose a third of your herd, you don't immediately replaced that with a third. It takes years, doesn't it?:
Anne Meis:
16:43
Yes, it takes years. And so, that year you're without, unless you can- because there's damage all the way through the supply chain. So, like any small business - I consider a farmers small business - you have to prepare for years where you've got losses like this because we're always dealing with Mother Nature or different outside forces, whether it be markets or Mother Nature. It's something that has to be built into your operation. So, it takes a while to rebuild. If farmers out in western Nebraska, that blizzard- we had the floods in my area, they had the blizzard. It takes years to replace cow herds with genetics that are good for calving and holding calves. So, working on it is going to be a long drawn out process.:
Phil Lempert:
17:35
So, what would you like grocery retailers and the media to know about what's going on with this situation?:
Anne Meis:
17:44
Well, it's amazing how plentiful and efficient our food supply to them truly is. And we all need appreciate that. You know, Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa were probably affected the most. And we really are the bread basket, called the breadbasket of the world for a reason because we are. But food, and the whole process of bringing it to you as a customer and to retailers, is fairly long and complex. So, the good part: I don't think it will greatly impact the average consumer because it is such a huge supply system and so complex. But as far as media, let's hope that this national coverage that has happened really helps everyone remember where their food comes from. That we are real people out here. We are real farmers and we're growing the crops that are going to feed the livestock or even come to your table and we're raising real food out here. That hamburger that ends up on your plate comes from somebody like myself and my husband who are out there every day feeding and caring for that in the blizzard and in the flood. And we care for our animals before ourselves a lot of time.:
Phil Lempert:
18:57
And what's next for these affected farms and ranches. How will farmer resilience help in this time of crisis?:
Anne Meis:
19:04
Farmers are resilient, that's for sure. So, we all put our boots on and get back to work. Soil moved under these flood waters, so fields need dirt work. We need to prepare for planting that's coming up in the very near future, in the next couple of weeks. Fences need to be fixed. Every day you get up and you and you keep working at it and figure ways to replace lost livestock and you get the fields ready for the next crop.:
Phil Lempert:
19:32
Congratulations for being honored as the Ag-ceptional Woman of the Year back in 2016. Now, you put a lot of effort personally into sharing your insights with the next generation, getting them excited about farming, about ranching. If you would look into your crystal ball, what's the future of farming look like?:
Anne Meis:
19:55
Well, I'm an eternal optimist. I hope that there's a continuation of the family farm and that knowledge is passed on from one generation to the next generation and we excite young people to come into the field, you know, the agricultural business. And that this whole providing food for others is valued by all. I hope the family farmer continues to be valued as the true steward of the land, water, air and soil, and that we embrace the modern advances that science and technology gives us to grow healthy food. My real vision, and I hope that what 2050 looks like for society, is that we began to value farmers and ranchers as the true caretakers of our natural resources while we continued to provide food, fiber for the whole world.:
Phil Lempert:
20:48
I don't want to wait until 2050. I'm not even sure I want to wait until 2020 for that to happen. Anne, thank you so much for sharing your insights with us on Farm, Food, Facts.:
Speaker 5:
21:02
And thank you for joining us on Farm, Food, Facts. For more information on all things, food and agriculture, and to listen to our archives, please visit fooddialogues.com under the Programs and Media. Tab and visit us on Facebook at U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance or on Twitter at USFRA.:
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