Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why should I care???

Agriculture is a diverse industry. In Michigan, it's a VERY diverse industry. Despite what Washington attempts to claim, we are second only to California in crop diversity. We are in the top ten states of the top 25 commodities. We are a very big deal in ag. Though my job, I am fortunate enough to see this diversity through my job. I see farms on a weekly basis that raise everything from apples to zucchini, from corn to cucumbers, and it's amazing how all these crops and industries inter-relate with each other. Agribusiness depends on all facets of the industry to survive. The co-op I work for sells to all farmers, from large animal operations to small vegetable farms. The same goes for equipment dealers, parts stores, and insurance agents. These local business are part of the rural American fabric, and they are essential for rural America to survive. And for them to survive, all parts of ag need to thrive. So here's where the plot thickens...

When dairy prices crashed a few months ago, I'll admit it, I had a small chuckle about it. I had watched dairy farms (not all, just some to be clear) spend money like water. Some paid unbelievable prices for land, tractors, anything. It was like the money would never end. Then the wheels came off. People didn't get paid; new tractors stopped showing up, the new pickups came to an end. Reality. A few months later, the apple industry experienced the same fate. The value of our crop dropped by 50-60% in a matter of weeks. All of a sudden, I'm the guy who can't pay, who isn't buying a new tractor.

So by now your asking, "what does this have to do with anything?". Simple. We all need each other. My orchard spends 4-5 thousand dollars a year on parts at the Case dealer. A 1500 cow dairy spends that every month. I might buy a new tractor for 40 thousand dollars every 3 or 4 years. The dairy spends that each year on tires. But here's the kicker. I spent more money on fungicide sprays at the chemical dealer for 150 acres of apples than they spent on all the inputs for 1500 acres of corn. Now the shoe is on the other foot. I need them and they need me.

So here's the point; when an animal care issue comes up, we need to all become involved. Just because I don't raise cattle doesn't mean I don't need them around. When a food safety issue comes up, I need crop farmers to help defend me, because I need them and they need me. When I hear farmers, young farmers especially, tell me that they don't care about other commodities, it bothers me. I'm still not sure how someone could embrace the concept of a blackberry and a twitter account, but not understand why all sectors of ag are important.

The world is flat folks, and people are moving your cheese on a daily basis.

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