Sunday, March 27, 2011

Eisenhower Fellowships – Day 180

It has been six months (give or take a day or two) since learning I was an Eisenhower Fellow (EF). There have been interesting conversations with alumni, staff, and current Fellows either in person, by phone, or email. The latest has probably been the most meaningful by far.
All of the 2011 Fellows, both international and U.S., were assigned to take two leadership assessment tests. We were sent an email containing the link to the websites so we could finish our assignment. There was a due date of March 23. A follow-up email was sent reminding us to finish it if we already hadn’t. Keep in mind, it was a mass email for all of the 2011 Fellows.
A second follow-up email was sent to remind us again, but this time there was something different. After the mandatory business paragraph emphasizing why the assessment needed to be done on time, the second paragraph really caught my eye and hit home.
The devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan had just happened, leaving a country and its people in turmoil. Every morning there had been coverage of the disaster between protests in the Middle East. I was emotionally detached and just vaguely listening because it is the news, background noise to start my day. But the second paragraph in the email changed all of that.
The EF staffer let all of the 2011 Fellows know that Shunsuke Niwa would not be attending the opening EF session in Philadelphia in April due to the crisis in Japan. Shunsuke will be participating in the Northeast Asia Regional Program this September-November, but will not be traveling to the U.S. I and the other 2011 Fellows would not be meeting Shunsuke.
The first reply that came through that I was able to see was from Erfa Iqbal of Pakistan. Erfa is a staff officer to the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Her email, kind words and graciousness motivated me to write my own words to Shunsuke. However, Shunsuke’s reply definitely changed how I watched and processed the news in the morning.
Shunsuke’s (Shun as signed at the end of the email) reply was this: I am Shunsuke Niwa, writing from Tokyo, Japan. Though I was supposed to participate in MNP 2011 Program with you all, the unprecedented natural disaster that hurt Japan recently prevented me from visiting the U.S. this spring.

I would like to express my deep appreciation to you all for supports, thoughts and concern you and your countries have given to Japan since the worst earthquake and ensuing tsunami we have ever experienced occurred on March 11. The death toll is about to reach ten thousand, and we will need to tackle various issues in the coming years. I am currently responsible for the management of Tokaido Shinkansen (bullet train), the main transportation artery in Central Japan Area, and will do my best to help Japan's resiliance through maintain the operations of this high-speed railway system. I believe I will be able to learn lots of lessons through this experience and will share it with many people in the world through EF's great network. I really look forward to meeting you all in person some day.
Normally I would not post things like that, but Shun’s response really put things into perspective. If you haven’t been keeping up with the news there were four missing bullet trains with an unaccounted number of people on board…and Shun is responsible for their management. What responsibility Shun has during this crisis.
I cannot fathom the turmoil and grief that must be taking place in Japan. Couple that with the nuclear reactor, there is definitely a crisis that needs to be dealt with and will take considerable time to make right.  
Then another email was sent to Shun from Rajsekhar Budithi of India. Rajsekhar is the CEO for the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty. He shared the guts of an email that had been circulating in India:
- 10 things to learn from Japan -                     

Not a single visual of chest-beating or wild grief. Sorrow itself has been elevated.

Disciplined queues for water and groceries. Not a rough word or a crude gesture.

The incredible architects, for instance. Buildings swayed but didn’t fall.

People bought only what they needed for the present, so everybody could get something.

No looting in shops. No honking and no overtaking on the roads. Just understanding.

Fifty workers stayed back to pump sea water in the N-reactors. How will they ever be repaid?

Restaurants cut prices. An unguarded ATM is left alone. The strong cared for the weak.

The old and the children, everyone knew exactly what to do. And they did just that.

They showed magnificent restraint in the bulletins. No silly reporters. Only calm reportage.

When the power went off in a store, people put things back on the shelves and left quietly
The world could learn a lot from Japan
Yes, the world could learn a lot from Japan and I am positive I could have learned a lot from Shun in Philadelphia, but will miss out on that opportunity due to disaster. However, I have already learned much from this ordeal: This is exactly what the Eisenhower Fellowships was meant to be, a worldwide network of friends that have the best interest of all people at heart.
I may be a hayseed in a very rural part of Idaho, but I have never been closer to world events than now. Even though I have not met Shun, I hope my heartfelt words make a difference and give strength during this time of need. I know that the kind words to Shun from my class of Fellows have made a huge impact on me.
The interchange of emails and the professionalism and graciousness of Shun is definitely a testament to the quality of people that become Eisenhower Fellows that I hope to live up to. These are everyday people that want more and give more and take responsibility highly. I am proud to have been chosen as an Eisenhower Fellow and hope that one day I will be able to meet Shun face to face.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Philadelphia Freedom

The last week has seen me thinking about my trip to Philadelphia, PA for the 2011 Eisenhower Fellowships’ Opening Seminar. 20 International and 10 U.S. Fellows will be converging there to meet and converse for the first time of what I hope is many. Philadelphia is also the where the EF headquarters is located.
If you know me or follow my blog you will find that I tend to think about weird stuff, stuff that doesn’t matter sometimes but occupies the far reaches of my brain. I have always asked “What if?” and “Why?” which led me to be less than proficient in math above algebra. The answer to those questions from my math teacher was “Because!” That doesn’t work for me, I need to know.
I am an optimistic and inquisitive person who likes to understand fully the workings of something. If I don’t receive what I believe is the proper answer I will try asking the question differently until I am satisfied (or the person calls the police.) I want to know and to wrap my hands around the subject. So be careful about piquing my interest, you might get more than you asked for.
Anyway, I have been giving plenty of thought about my EF adventure in April and trying to grasp the whole Eisenhower thing. The EF Mission Statement is: Eisenhower Fellowships engages emerging leaders from around the world to enhance their professional capabilities, broaden their contacts, deepen their perspectives, and unite them in a diverse, global community - a network where dialogue, understanding, and collaboration lead to a more prosperous, just, and peaceful world.”
I have also done background checks on the people that will be presenting at the seminar and reading the bio’s for all of the 2011 Fellows. It is a very diverse and successful group of people. But why have headquarters in Philadelphia of all the places in the U.S.? Why not Washington, D.C., New York City, or Los Angeles? Why bring International and U.S. Fellows there?
I believe the answer is FREEDOM! Philadelphia is the world’s cradle for Democracy and Freedom. It is a city that birthed hope for not just the citizens of the U.S. and New World, but for all people in every country. Freedom that was conceived out of conflict, achieved through Revolution, and defended proudly for over 200 years with blood, sweat, and tears. FREEDOM!
Freedom consists of two words: 1) Free [adj.] Enjoying personal rights or liberty, as a person who is not in slavery: a land of free people;   2) Dom [suffix] – State, condition, or quality of being; the ‘place’ where people are free. Put those two words together and the definition of Freedom [noun] is: “The condition of being free; the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints." What a simple but powerful word FREEDOM is.
30 people who are strangers to each other are converging to the birthplace of Freedom where 55 men literally put their lives on the line for that dream. 55 men and a little hall that has given hope, opportunity, and success to billions of people worldwide. The birthplace of three simple documents that has withstood the test of time, but are constantly under attack: The Declaration of Independence, The U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
Thank God for my ability to express my First Amendment Right by writing this blog. How many places in the world will not let you do that? How many countries try to keep people from being free or speaking out? I also love to express my Second Amendment Right by hunting and target practicing any time I want. What forethought went into making the Freedom of Speech and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms the first two amendments, amendments that have ensured every U.S. citizen Freedom for over 200 years. Smart, smart men were the 55 signers. Sorry for rambling, back to the task at hand.
Combine Philadelphia and its history with the personality, vision, and example of General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The strong personalities that he had to deal with during WWII like Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Generals Omar Bradley, George Patton, Douglas MacArthur, Charles De Gaulle and Bernard Montgomery.
As President he had to deal with people in both Republican and Democratic parties, Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, and Mao Tse-tung. Communism was spreading and Eastern Europe countries were falling like dominos, the Korean War, the space race, the division of Germany, and the Berlin Blockade.  He could have used nuclear weapons or gone to war more often, but he tried to find lasting solutions to the  problems of the day.
This is why Philadelphia is the home city for Eisenhower Fellows. A strong will and vision is why! Freedom is why! Just like the gathering of 55 men in 1776 to light the eternal flame of Freedom to solve problems, 30 Fellows will learn better leadership skills to uphold that tradition. 30 Fellows will come together as strangers but leave as friends with a mission to help formulate solutions to problems in the world of today and the future.
The Liberty Bell, which is the symbol of Freedom, is cracked and flawed; it isn’t perfect but it has withstood the test of time. Nothing is perfect, not the U.S. Constitution (it needed the Bill of Rights and the chance for amendments) nor Freedom. There are those that are free that wish to take freedom from others. How do we solve that problem?
How do we solve problems like delivering enough food by 2050 to feed 9.5 billion people? What solutions will be found to ease the effects of drought and famine? What opportunities lie ahead for achieving peace among people and countries? What will I be able to learn and contribute to any of these causes? Will I be strong enough or smart enough to help formulate if not solutions, at least conversation and direction that might lead to solutions? We shall see.
It is both scary and exciting to do something you don’t know or understand, to meet new people with different backgrounds and ideas. Just like the 55 signers of the Declaration of Independence, I am certain they were scared, but they created a network to solve problems. And the 30 2011 Fellows, we will be doing the same thing by following the mission of the Fellowship, we will create “a network where dialogue, understanding, and collaboration lead to a more prosperous, just, and peaceful world.” Hopefully like the 55 signers.

Monday, March 21, 2011


I LOVE my shop. It was built in 1982 and I remember its construction. After the concrete was poured, the frame went up, and the insulation and tin put on it was a place to roller skate. That was something that my sister and I did when we went to town and my folks went shopping, we skated. Since we did that we had our own skates as well.
Ahh, the stories that old shop could tell. It housed parties from high school, college and after Rhonda and I was married. It was host for our boy’s birthday parties where all the kids and parents would have an ample supply of silly string and shoot each other. We didn’t care if pop was spilled, food dropped, or the bad guys were in the line of fire, it was easy to clean.
As a kid growing up I would spend time in the shop learning to weld, turn a wrench, and change oil. When I was younger our tools consisted of a rock and a railroad spike and one was usually missing. The thousands of shots made, tough games played against a friend who was in college while I was in high school, and passing on my knowledge to my brother and boys.
My shop saw celebrations like the end of harvest, 4th of July dinners and conversations with friends, and the satisfaction of building something out of pieces of metal or wood. The aroma of a celebratory cigar and ice cold beer still lingers after my hard work paid off appealing the Natural Resources Conservation Services’ (NRCS) decision regarding the Conservation Security Program (CSP.)
The simple things like sitting down with my dad while taking break and talking about anything under the sun. Starting the fire in the wood stove first thing in the morning before feeding cows and having coffee with my folks was not routine, it was fun. And preparing a warm place for a calf born on the coldest day of the year and watching it thrive from your hard work and dedication.
The shop would be bigger if the tears that were shed in there made it grow. Clearing my mind with busy work after my dad passed away and talking with my Uncle and listening to his stories about my dad. Stories that I didn’t really believe but he confirmed. The scraped knuckles, smashed fingers, and accidental burnings produced swearing that would make a sailor blush with shame.
Easter egg hunts would take place in the shop if the weather was too cold or wet. My shop saw three boys (my brother and sons) learn how to ride a bicycle, shoot free throws, and run a plasma torch. My wife learned how to change oil in her vehicle and check her brakes as well.
My shop is a microcosm of me. It has some throw back flavor of my dad, but the rest is mine. It definitely is not politically correct, but will be made appropriate when different visitors come a calling. The visitors it has hosted have been cub scouts, college students, Congressmen, Legislators, agency folk from D.C., Congressional staff, reporters, organizations, business leaders, and neighbors. All have been friends.
My shop is famous in the ag circles of Idaho. The fridge is always stocked with pop, beer and water, but the reason for its notoriety is the posters. Posters of swimsuit models, jokes, and calendars, most of which would be deemed politically incorrect adorn the walls and are “insulation” according to my dad. Antlers of elk and deer provide a dual purpose of decoration and hanging place.
The shop has hosted many different meetings, meetings of the mundane and normal farming nature to high powered meetings with people from around the country and world. Some meetings were held to help area farmers be more successful and to answer their questions regarding farm issues. My shop also hosts a precision ag field day where the food is good and farmers can obtain recertification credits for applicators licenses.
4-H meetings were held in my shop until we found an alternative place.  And Halloween time provided special moments in the shop. We like to raise pumpkins in our garden, and usually have more than we can use, so we invite friends over so their kids can carve them. Hole saws, electric jig saws, drill bits, and other shop tools make quick work out of carving pumpkins.
Dreams were born in my shop and some of those dreams have been reached while others are being worked towards. Planning for the farm has taken place there from day to day operations to 15 years down the road. I do some of my best thinking in my shop (outside of a tractor of course.)
Like I stated, it is a microcosm of me. From the fun loving, juvenile side of my personality (did I mention posters?) to the serious, business side of me with the right tools for the job. There is history there in the form of manuals, calendars, and tools from my grandfather’s time and a basketball hoop to shoot around on. Also, the gun safe holds treasures that are near and dear to me.
Why talk about my shop, because it is my place of work, my office, my space, my security blanket. Problems have been solved there because it is comfortable and non-biased. Guys love shops and the toys and tools that go in them. Talk can flow freely in a shop because to most people it is where leisure time is spent.
While pondering my Eisenhower Fellowship (EF) and the meeting coming up in April, I wonder if I am like a fish out of water? As I look around my yard I see equipment, fuel tanks, a fort, cows and tractors. That is also how I think of myself, a person of the earth who loves big toys, animals, kids, and my family’s heritage. I am not a champagne or wine person; give me an ice cold beer any day, especially after a hard day’s work.
I am comfortable in my shop with jeans on, an old T-shirt, and boots, not a suit and tie. However, that is the world I am heading into, a world of politics and position.  It would be nice to have the 30 International and U.S. Fellows come to my shop to do seminars. I believe it would be more relaxing and everyone would be on an equal footing. Come as you are and dress appropriately so you don’t get mud or manure stains on expensive clothes.
The EF slogan is: “Leaders bettering the world around them.” I believe if Fellows would come to my shop they would become better people by getting out of their comfort zone. I think if everybody had a shop there would be fewer problems in the world. As a matter of fact, maybe Congress should meet in my shop to get back to basics and get a clearer perspective of how things should be, not ideal or frivolous but down to earth.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Eisenhower Fellowship: Day 174

It has been 174 days since I learned on September 28th, 2011 (Rhonda's Birthday) that I was an Eisenhower Fellow. Now that my schedule has calmed down a little I need to give an update on the latest happenings regarding my Eisenhower Fellowship. It is still amazing the opportunity I have and the people I have been dealing with or will meet.

I have been working on finding agriculture contacts in Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay for precision ag, remote sensing, and UAVs. The later has proved to be the hardest to find. When you are on the “bleeding edge” of something there are not many of you to converse with. However, there are other things to learn, see, and do.

In April I will be traveling to Philadelphia, PA for the Opening Seminar for the 2011 Eisenhower Fellows. There will be 20 international Fellows and 10 from the United States.  The list of International Fellows and the USA Fellows can be found by clicking the names. In order to understand what I am doing please click the above links and go through each person's bio. What an opportunity to listen and learn from these people from all over the globe. I can’t wait for the conversations to begin.

The session opens on April 6th with EF President John Wolf (Click for Bio). Mr. Wolf served with the Department of State. The following session is “To get to know one another, identify key topics/issues/challenges of fellowship” facilitated by Bob Halperin, 2002 USA Fellow and Executive Director at the MIT Center for Collaborative Intelligence. After that we have dinner at the home of Tom Ferguson, Director of Development at EF.

On April 7th I will learn the results of two different leadership assessment tests that I took a few days ago. The main session for this day (9-3:30) is titled “Conceptualizing and Leading Change and related leadership issues,” facilitated by Dr. Cheng Zhu (Go to Pg 15 of the .pdf) from the Center for Creative Leadership. Each person’s leadership style will be talked about and analyzed.

USA Fellows will have lunch at the EF House and receive orientation. Group photos will be taken at the Rittenhouse Hotel. From 5:15-6:15 we have a seminar with Ambassador John Negroponte, Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and to Iraq. A reception for Fellows, trustees, sponsors, and EF staff and then dinner caps off the day.

After looking at the agenda for the umpteenth time, I am both excited and nervous. I am definitely getting out of my comfort zone and heading into a larger world of top corporate executives and international business leaders. I visualize myself as a farmer who manages his wife and kids, which is completely different than having a corner office and hundreds of employees. My power lunch consists of a hamburger and fries at the local greasy spoon.

With that said this is why applied. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and learn more. I pull my pants up one leg at a time just like everyone else. After reading the bios of the USA Fellows, there is common ground. They volunteer just like I do, and sports is a common theme. The beauty of this gathering will be the different perspectives each individual brings to each session. I can’t say “what an opportunity” too much.

I have had two different experiences similar to this. The first was going through Monsanto’s Wheat Industry Leaders of Tomorrow (WILOT) program. There were 11 in that class from different parts of the U.S. with each bringing a different perspective. We stay in touch and see each other once a year. The other was the Leadership Idaho Agriculture (LIA) program. There were 31 people in that class from all over Idaho from farmers to ag related companies to government. The common theme is you arrive as strangers and leave as friends.

I will be mingling with a Member of Parliament in Sri Lanka, the Head of Technological Research and Development Branch of the Israel Defense Forces, Chief Political Writer for ABC Television Australia, and Additional Principal Staff Officer to the Prime Minister of the Federal Government of Pakistan. There will also be one more farmer there with me from Massachusetts.

It is about personal growth as a leader and networking. I use my network to find out about different subjects from different parts of Idaho or the U.S. Now the world will open up. And I have had the opportunity to get a glimpse of that world view.

2006 Fellow, Bill Warren, lives two hours away from me. He recently hosted a Nuffield Scholar from Australia. In trying to find contacts to Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay Bill put me in touch with the visiting Scholar Helen. To sum up the conversation, agriculture in Australia has the same pressures put on it as we do in the U.S.

I am excited as all get out for this opportunity to listen and to learn from the perspectives of people, not media. Without the EF organization, I could not afford to partake in an adventure like this and to grow as a person and hopefully as an effective leader.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dust in the Wind

Yesterday I woke up at 4am to make a meeting in Spokane, Washington (3 hours away) with the Environmental Protection Agency. I live in District 10 which is headquartered in the Pacific Northwest's farming community of Seattle (I am starting with sarcasm early today). As a stakeholder and farmer these are things that need to be done that take time away from my family and real job of farming.

The meeting is part of a mandatory 5 year review and deemed a listening session to take comments back to the EPA director in Washington, D.C. regarding agriculture dust. I did not stutter my writing...agriculture dust.

I want those in agriculture to know that they were well represented at the meeting by farmers, ranchers, organizations, and researchers. There were folks on the phone as well that had gathered in Boise to take notes and provide comments. How effective we will be is up to the whim of the EPA Director.

The gist of dust regulation is to examine the existing 24 hour standards for PM 10, or "coarse" particle pollution. PM 10 is for particles 10 micronmeters in diameter and smaller that had been set at 150 micrograms per cubic meter of air since 1987. The EPA is also looking at standards for PM 2.5 which is fine particles. All of this is under the clean air act and I am sure you understood completely what you just read.

The background information was presented to us by the EPA person brought in for this meeting from back east. He went through his PowerPoint presentation and explained the different formulas and procedures that are used for calculating days that violate the standards. (Now I am keeping things simple and not naming names because we have to work the problem at this point.)

Unless you are a scientist that studies air and calculates whether the EPA's standards are being met, you will have a glassy look in your eyes like the majority of people representing ag had. The "alternative standards" that EPA is looking at is called "the 98th percentile form."

Their fact sheet defines that as: "Using that form, an area would meet the standard if the 98th percentile of 24-hour PM 10 concentrations in a year, averaged over three years, was at, or below, the level of the standard. EPA staff also have concluded that the science could support revising the standard, in a range of 65 to 85, but only if the form of the standard is also changed." Now I am sure that this cleared things up for you. Don't feel bad, it took several times for everyone to understand it too.

The skinny of things is that EPA needs to review air standards every 5 years. There is a cutoff date for scientific studies to be used for review purposes. However, the one thing that was very clear to me, like a summer day in north Idaho, was the science is not conclusive.

Everyone there heard dozens of times from the EPA person heading the meeting and their expert standing by on conference call use the terms "What if," "Not conclusive," and "Uncertain." And we are talking about the science they are using to do the regulations and proposed revisions.

The science, along with the 98th percentile garnered chuckles from the crowd and eye rolling to be envied by a hot tempered mother cow that just gave birth. What I took from the dialogue exchanged was EPA wants to cut the standards in half, add a complicated formula, and more cities would have fewer days of violations.

My math skills are not the greatest, but I did learn in Kindergarten that if you make half the money you did before, things would be tougher to do than easier. EPA math, I gathered from that meeting, states otherwise. Are you getting a warm and fuzzy feeling yet?

The head EPA person also stated that we have to go through this regulatory process. There are procedures in place to ensure that things are done by the book regarding air standards. But what about the EPA? Are they supposed to follow proper protocol?

Is the EPA following the highest law of the land, the Constitution? Have their rules been proposed, debated, and passed by Congress or is it the whim of one person? I also heard the term executive order! That is a lot of control over tens of millions of people to be based upon inconclusive science by one person.

The ag people around the table asked unanimously to keep the standards where they are. When common senses was brought up by the EPA person, I asked him to add economic impacts as consideration for clean air instead of health as the only factor.

And if health is the only factor, what about the kids and people that would be malnourished or die in just our country alone if agriculture was not able to create some dust. What about suicide rates climbing even higher in rural areas when a farmer is told to close the doors after 100+ years of operation and can't handle it? Is that a health concern?

Common sense tells me that farming is an industry like no other, dirt is involved. It takes dirt to grow food to eat or feed animals that also live on dirt. In Idaho, the highest percentage of road miles are gravel which creates dust. Will the federal government sue my local highway district because there is not enough money to pave all of those road miles they are in charge of to limit dust? I think less regulation would be the common sense approach.

I am proud to say that I and others like me represented not only agriculture at the table, but the rest of the population and America. We asked tough questions and were direct in saying leave the standards where they are. How is that for common sense?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rising Food Costs

While at the Commodity Classic an article came out in the Tampa Tribune about the rising costs of food prices on March 5th. The article was in the business section and had two great pictures. The first was a farmer from Montana talking to a John Deere representative with a combine in the background. The second picture was USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. The sub headline was "Average food bill could increase by $20 a month."

Into the article starting at the fourth paragraph it stated "Companies like Sara Lee and McDonald's have warned they could raise prices this year due to higher commodity costs. And some economists are warning that higher prices could add more than $20 to the average monthly food bill for a family of four."

The next paragraph reads "At the farm level, prices have nearly doubled in recent years according to USDA figures." Has the mental picture been painted yet? All of the statements are pointing to the rich farmer raking in the dough.

The article goes on highlighting the different commodities and their increase in prices like soybeans rising from $6.43 in 2006 to $11.70 at the end of last year (an increase of 45%). Wheat prices increased from $4.26 to $5.70 (25% increase) since 2006, and corn prices went up from $2 to $5.66 since 2005 (a 65% increase).

Now to the headline: "Energy costs cited as food prices rise." Energy costs? Who would have thought that. The first paragraph reads "An Iowa farmer for 44 years, Daryl Haack offers one way to help explain why food prices are rising so much lately: Look at your local gas prices."

The second paragraph reads: "There's only about six cents worth of corn in that $3.50 box of cereal," Haack said. "But there's energy and fuel used before and during every step on the way from my farm to that grocery shelf."

Despite the headline citing energy costs as being the culprit for higher food costs, the Tampa Bay Tribune took the article to the farm. They wanted to show that farmers are the ones that are making all of the money instead of the actual cause.

I don't raise corn or soybeans due to my climate and hills that make me rely on a leveling combine. I would get the combine stuck or slide into the Clearwater River 1,500 feet below trying to get them harvested. But I do raise wheat.

According to the Wheat Foods Council a bushel of wheat (60 pounds) can make 90 one pound loaves of whole wheat bread. WOW! But using the wheat prices previously stated in 2006 a loaf had $.05 worth of wheat and in December 2009 the same loaf had $.06 worth of wheat. The difference of a penney!

The Wheat Foods Council also shows that one bushel of wheat makes approximately 42 pounds of flour. In 2006 that flour would have had $.10 worth of wheat and last year $.14 worth. I don't see anywhere a doubling of prices, do you?

These are the kinds of tactics that agriculture runs into every day. The media and activists use all kinds of mistruths to make their point instead of looking at the real issues. Why do they want to keep attacking small family businesses?

That's right, small family businesses. That's what each farmer is. Searching the internet for small business definitions I tried the SBA website and gave up after five minutes of looking (that’s government efficiency for you.)

However I did find two alternative definitions on Wikipedia. The first stated that a small business employs less than 100 people. The second definition stated “For SEC purposes, small businesses are defined as domestic companies with revenues of under $25 million, and not investment companies. Subsidiaries of larger companies do not qualify as small businesses.” That one is directly from the SEC.

I don’t know about you, but I am definitely a small business. I work on my farm with my wife and a hired man. At times I might have an extra person helping along with the boys. And I am definitely not even close to $25 million in revenues. And guess what, 90% of the farmers in the United States would be in that category.

If the media and activists are upset about “Big Businesses” and “Big Oil” why are they picking on small businesses and family farms? Are you ready for my conspiracy theory? It is for control of land and water!

The control of land and water has been battled over since the Garden of Eden. Wild animals fight over it, individuals have fought over it, and countries have fought over it. And there are people that are upset because a minority of the population loves and cares for it every day.

The article did write “Farmers, meanwhile, say they’re not rolling in profits, as costs for their fuel and supplies are surging just as quickly.”

“Whoever thought Egypt would blow up like it has,” said Erik Younggren, a fourth-generation wheat farmer in Northwest Minnesota, and vice president of the National Association of Wheat Growers who came to Tampa for the trade show. He has to buy fuel up front, he said, before knowing what price he’ll get for wheat in a year during harvest time. “I get up every day and check the news in Libya now.”

I know Erik and he did not come down for the trade show. He came down for the NAWG annual meeting and the tradeshow is visited during a break in meetings. Even in quoting a person, the media has an agenda. Not once did the Tampa Tribune cite the crisis in the Middle East or energy as the cause for food prices to rise, that was farmers. You mean to tell me that hicks understand more about what is happening in our country than our sophisticated city cousins?

Farmers pay the transportation costs both ways. I also have to pay for my wheat to get it out of the field and all the way to Portland, Oregon where it is then shipped around the world. One might wonder how much energy is used after the wheat leaves the field? But no, those with agendas don’t want to get at the heart of the problem, it might lead to the public demanding drilling for oil or calling for nuclear and hydro energy sources to help solve the problem in the United States. And for them that would be unpopular.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Commodity Classic

This last week I was at the Commodity Classic (CC) in Tampa, Florida. No, I did not see the NFL negotiations taking place, but I did witness some great things. The CC is the host for the annual meetings of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), the American Soybean Association (ASA), and the National Sorghum Producers (NSP).

As the newest executive board member of the Idaho Grain Producers Association (IGPA) I attended committee meetings and the annual meeting of NAWG. This is where the member states make policy and set budgets for the coming year. I also witnessed former IGPA president Wayne Hurst take over as the NAWG President. I wish him the greatest success.

While there I also presented at the PrecisionAg Works booth. This is the second year I have done that and enjoy telling growers and anybody that will listen about the benefits that precision ag brings to farms and the environment. It is always great seeing the folks that promote precision ag like Paul Schrimpf (Meister Media), Bob Wanzel, Kim McCloskey, Elliot Knowels, and Dan Bellinger. These are great people that do a wonderful job for agriculture.

Seeing people that you know everyday at the conference is a great experience. A person might not see them very often, but it is always a pleasure when you do. One such person is Doug Jones who is the executive director of Growers for Biotechnology and a former Idaho Legislator and House Agriculture chairman. Doug and I serve on the Idaho Technology Council's Governmental Affairs committee.

It is also great to reconnect with people from previous functions like Marcia Taylor of DTN/Progressive Farmer. Marcia was on the review committee during my Eisenhower Fellowship interview and was a moderator for a breakout session at the CC dealing with Succession Planning. I also reconnected with Pam Fretwell of the Farm Journal Agriculture Foundation whom I met at the 2009 InfoAg convention in Springfield, Illinois.

This year provided a neat experience of connecting with Facebook friends. These are people that have much in common that I have not met. Stacy and Troy Hadrick are a great spokescouple for agriculture and were the highlight of a breakout session titled "Discovering Your Influential Power." I was able to get a picture of them with Flat Andy and you can connect with them at their website Advocates for Agriculture.

However it is the new people that you meet that really makes the CC a great event. I am thankful to Marcia Taylor for introducing me to Dan Miller (Senior editor) and Jack Odle (Publisher) of DTN/Progressive Farmer. I was introduced to Jay Vroom (President and CEO) of CropLife America by Elliot Knowels and had a great conversation. And by a chance meeting I chatted with Greg Vincent, editor of AgWeb.

Outside of connecting with people was Friday's General Session. This is an event that is attended by a few thousand farmers and agriculturalists. It started off by moderator and comedian Mark Mayfield interviewed each association's president about various issues. Then the highlight...U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee Chairmain Frank Lucas (OK) and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack each spoke. What a great opportunity to listen and learn from the top people in agriculture about issues not only about agriculture, but America as well.

Finally, my most cherished moment was what took place after a breakout session highlighting the "Future of Wheat" sponsored by Bayer Crop Science. Former USDA Secretary Clayton Yeutter spoke about the future of wheat and what the climate for agriculture will be like. I took his picture and posted it on Facebook and received a few comments, one being from his assistant, Jim Moseley. The Honorable Jim Moseley was the chairman of the committee for my interview with the Eisenhower Fellowship. To have a mentor like Jim is just awesome.

Where is all of this leading? The CC brings out the top people in agriculture and provides a great opportunity to meet and learn from them. These people are working hard to promote agriculture and to provide a better climate for the industry; from associations to media to companies.

The ability to listen and learn about almost any topic you are interested in cannot be underestimated and are hosted by these top people those of us in ag see each month or daily in magazines, websites, or alerts. Not only that, but to mingle and talk to them is very easy.

To me CC stands for Commodity Connections instead of Classic. I might have more contact with some than others throughout the year and some connections are just brief, but to have the ability to contact someone that is an expert in a certain area is invaluable. This is what makes agriculture such a great industry, we understand that we are all in it together and work hard for everyone to be successful, especially the farmer on the ground.

The information that is available is second to none and the ability to sit in on your commodity organizations committees or annual meeting is a great learning experience. Also, the importance of the organizations fun night centered around the PAC (Political Action Committee) is very important.

All in all, it was a great time and "Vacation." As far as "vacations" go, I pretty much just see four walls but in different rooms and buildings. Now back to the reality of farm life and snow.