Monday, December 29, 2014

Goodbye 2014... Hello 2015

     Another year has come and gone just like that. As I get older I feel like the time only goes faster, which makes a person realize we have to cherish every moment we have in our lifetime. To be quite honest, it feels like it was just yesterday that we were talking about what could happen in 2014, but now we find ourselves talking about what did happen in 2014 and what is ahead in the new year. There is no doubt that 2014 had its fair share of ups and downs. I usually try to look at all the ups as blessings and the downs as growing opportunities!

     Looking back at the year, I think we can all agree that the agriculture industry also had its fair share of ups and downs as well. There were many news makers this last year that had an impact on our industry. Some of the most notable things that took place this last year was congress finally passing a new farm bill that some thought would never happen. This new piece of legislation, while not perfect but not terrible either, allows farmers and ranchers to have some peace of mind knowing that there is a safety-net program in place for the times of need. In March, the 2012 census was released and showed that more young people were entering the profession of farming and ranching, which was welcome news as the census also showed that the number of American farms was decreasing. In December, China approved Syngenta's Viptera corn that wasn't approved before and caused China to reject several cargos of corn and DDGs that were contaminated with the Viptera trait. Most recently the U.S. and Cuba have agreed to normalize trade relations that will hopefully be a boost for American agriculture exports.

     Although there were many good things that took place this last year, there was also a fair share of challenges as well. Probably one of the biggest challenges that corn, soybean, and wheat farmers faced was the decrease in commodity prices. Not long ago many were looking at corn above five dollars and soybeans above thirteen dollars. However, better growing conditions in 2014 caused prices to tumble to lows that haven't been seen for awhile. The EPA also gave the industry many frustrations. The agency first proposed to cut the Renewable Fuel Standard, which frustrated many in the industry, but then later delayed the proposal until 2015. Another frustration the agency gave the industry was the changing of the Clean Water Act (WOTUS) that would allow the agency to regulate waters that aren't typically called "navigable". The change could cause major head aches for farmers and ranchers as they would possibly have to apply for permits to perform everyday farming practices.

     Locally, we faced many ups and downs as well. I think the weather was the hot topic in the coffee shops as it seemed like the weather was brutal this past growing season. Starting in the spring, we dealt with cooler temperatures and then dealt with a late frost that caused damage to the corn and soybean crop. We were fortunate and didn't lose any of our crops but others were not so fortunate and ended up replanting. As we moved into summer Mother Nature dealt us some more brutal weather that included strong winds, hail, tornadoes, and heavy rains. In July, we got hit by a brutal hail storm that wiped out several thousand of acres of corn and soybeans. Many older farmers said they had never seen anything like it in their lifetime and I hope I don't see it again in my lifetime either. Thankfully the fields that didn't get hit by severe weather received a fair amount of precipitation, which helped on the yield side come fall. The last couple of years we got use to looking at brown fields in the middle of July but this year we were fortunate to see green fields of corn and soybeans. Many were expecting us to have a wet fall due to some weather models but thankfully we had a dry one with very little rain that allowed us to stay busy in the fields. The only challenge we ran into was finding fields where the corn moisture was dry enough. While we faced some devastating challenges in the growing season, we were blessed with good yields on the fields that didn't get hit by the severe storms.

    As we close out 2014, we can learn from the challenges we faced and appreciate all the good that took place. I am sure 2015 will have its fair share of ups and downs and challenge our way of thinking at times as well as test our patience. One thing always remains the same from year to year though, and that is the passion that the American farmer and rancher has for what they do. We take pride in growing and raising food that is safe and nutritious. We also take pride in making sure we leave the land better than it is now for future generations and also take pride in keeping rural America alive and well. Goodbye 2014 and hello 2015.... lets make this another year to remember!


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Fix My Eyes On You

Over the last couple of months I have been listening to a song called "Fix My Eyes" by a contemporary christian band called For King and Country. I must admit that I don't always pay attention to the lyrics in a song, which can be both good and bad at times. However, the lyrics to this song really stood out to me, especially the chorus. It made me take a step back and think about the things that were happening in my life, our country, and world..... and with that you are probably wondering what this chorus is, so I wrote it below.

"I'd Love like I'm not scared
Give when it's not fair
Live life for another
Take time for a brother
Fight for the weak ones
Speak out for freedom
Find faith in the battle
Stand tall but above it all
Fix my eyes on you"

Now I challenge you to put yourself in these lyrics. Have you found yourself not loving because you were scared.... maybe scared of being vulnerable... or have found yourself not willing to give because you didn't think it was fair.... or maybe not living life for another because you were more worried about how people would look at you.... or not taking time out of your day just to say hi or smile at someone who could of been having a bad day.... or not standing up for the weak ones that maybe can't stand up for themselves because we were afraid of how society would view us. If your like me, we all have probably fallen short in one or more of those areas. 

But then the chorus goes on to say "Speak out for freedom, find faith in the battle, stand tall but above it all, fix my eyes on you". That speaks volumes to me and I hope to you as well. We must make sure we aren't just "mediocre" christians but instead standing above all the jealousness, pettiness, greediness, hatefulness that the world deals us and instead fix our eyes on him, our Lord and Savior. By fixing our eyes on our Lord, he will guide us through the challenges life gives us and will comfort us during the times of struggle. We need to make sure we aren't fixing our eyes on ourself and focusing on what we want, what we think, or how others will look at us. When we fix our eyes on ourself, we end up missing out on what God is guiding us to or what God has planned for us. So often we are given opportunities everyday but don't often see them because we focus our eyes on what we want or how we think it should be. Fixing our eyes on ourself will make us miss out on opportunities that could change our lives or the lives of others. 

Right now there are people all around the world who are dealing with some of the toughest challenges in life. They may be dealing with an illness, death, relationship breakup, loss of a friendship, financial troubles, addictions, divorce, or just feeling like they aren't valued. However, I hope and pray that they fix their eyes on the Lord and not themselves so that they don't miss out on what God has in store for them. 

So just remember to love like your not scared, give when it's not fair, live life for another, take time for a brother, fight for the weak ones, speak out for freedom, find faith in the battle, stand tall but above it all, and fix YOUR eyes on the Lord! 

"I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Phillipians 4:13

For those who want to listen to the song "Fix My Eyes", click here

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Future is Ahead and God's the Driver

Do you ever wonder where your life will be at in 20 years? Most likely you do, and I am sure you probably are wondering where your life will be at in one year or maybe even tomorrow! The future is something we have all thought about since we were little. We have wondered what career we would have, who we would marry, where we would be living, and so on. Thinking about the future can be both fun and frightening. The reason it can be fun is because we think about the things we want and the things we want to do while at the same time it can be frightening from the fact that we may not always succeed, or get what we want.

I have always found myself in this predicament when thinking about the future. I look at all the could be situations but then remind myself of the could not situations as well. Sometimes I get frustrated from the fact that I can't predict the future nor the outcome. Yet, then I remind myself that God has a plan for me. That plan may not necessarily be something that I thought of or wanted, but could end up being something greater than I ever thought.

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God." - Romans 8: 18-21

As Christians, we need to put our worries in God's hand and remind ourselves that the ultimate plan is for us to end up in his Kingdom. When I look at my future, it is full of different dreams and passions, but in the end I see myself spending eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven. God doesn't care what job I have or how much I get paid, but he does care about my journey through faith. He cares about the struggles I go through as well as the times of joy and excitement.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you." - Jeremiah 29:11-13

So the next time you worry about the future, whether that is tomorrow or ten years, remember that God is the driver of your future and to give up your worries to him through prayer. He cares about you and loves you and wants you to spend eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mission Accomplished - or is it?

Can you believe it!? A LONG overdue Farm Bill has been approved in the House of Representatives and now moves on for approval from the Senate and then eventually onto the President’s desk for his signature. The Farm Bill has been on the minds of many farmers and ranchers for the last couple of years, and any time it seemed like progress could be made, it got derailed by partisanship.
Now with a new Farm Bill, farmers and ranchers will have certainty of what programs they can expect from the government over next five years. Many farm organizations supported the bill with a few groups in opposition. Many of the groups that supported the bill supported the reforms to safety net programs as well as the investment in Ag research and renewable energy. Those that opposed the bill were unhappy that the COOL measure (Country of Origin Labeling) was still part of the new Farm Bill. They cite that the COOL measure is not compliant with the World Trade Organization’s rules and regulations. Because of that it could cause conflict with some of our trading partners, such as Canada and Mexico.
Although the passage of the Farm Bill in the House has led to the feeling of accomplishment by some, it makes me wonder what future Farm Bills will be like. It took nearly three years for Congress to finally reach an agreement on the new Farm Bill. That was three years of partisanship between two parties who couldn’t seem to find common ground. Instead of doing what was right for America’s hardworking farmers and ranchers as well as ALL Americans, congress put its party and ideology first. So far partisanship in Washington has only grown worse and makes me ask what it will be like when the new Farm Bill expires. If it took nearly three years to pass this bill, will it take even longer for the next one? Will congress kick the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers around like a soccer ball until something disastrous happens and forces them to do something? Will urban congressional delegates become even more out of touch with America’s agriculture industry? These are questions I keep asking myself and I think others need to consider as well. 
While we can consider the new Farm Bill an accomplishment, we still have not accomplished showing those in Washington how important working together is and the impact their policies can have on the livelihoods of our farmers and ranchers. All of us involved in producing a safe and abundant supply of food need to continue to educate those who represent us in Washington as well as the general public. We also have to stand up for what we believe in and not let those who do not understand what we do determine our future. America’s agriculturalists are some of the hardest working people in our country who love what they do, which is growing food for the nation and world. So let’s consider the passage of the new Farm Bill an accomplishment but realize we as an industry still have a lot to accomplish in the years ahead!