From the editor: The only certainty
Despite the challenges of recent months, uncertainty has pushed those in the industry to adapt.
By Alex Barnard
The end of 2020 is almost upon us, and most people are more than ready to say good riddance to this year. It’s been a challenging 12 months, with the COVID-19 pandemic creating or compounding issues. Livestock surpluses and mortalities, changing demand, fewer in-person events and trade disputes: agriculture has had its fair share of pandemic problems, in addition to the usual suspects of inconsistent market values, rising production costs and thin profit margins. Recent government funding is welcome, but long-term policy in support of agriculture would be better.
It would be easy to focus on the negatives – there are many – but let’s talk about uncertainty.
American mathematician John Allen Paulos once said, “Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.”
The agriculture sector is familiar with uncertainty – because it has to be. Unknowns – like weather, market demand and crop and livestock futures – that can ruin a season are a fact of life in ag. Part of being a producer is proactively taking steps to manage risk and make the best decisions possible with the information available.
To look at it differently, uncertainty also contains the possibility of finding something new, and maybe better.
Uncertainty pushes you to adapt. While tradition can be stagnant, agriculture does a good job of combining the old and the new –keeping the best of the tried-and-true methods, improving on outdated practices and innovating to meet new demands and challenges. Livestock producers are making great strides in adopting environmental and sustainable practices. Agricultural practices and technology have changed significantly over the past century, driven by producers working for higher yields, better methods and greater efficiency. Now, fewer farmers feed more people than ever before.
Our cover story, which can be found on page 14, features new research on the benefits of reusing poultry litter for new flocks. Contrary to their initial belief, researchers discovered the bacteria found in used litter helped decrease broiler chick mortality rates. And on page 8, read about the benefits of a New York dairy farm’s 30-year philosophy of looking out for the environment and their neighbors.
Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. When industries and cities across the country were shut down by the pandemic, the agriculture industry kept working to maintain the food supply chain. And, according to a recent American Farm Bureau survey, 88 percent of Americans trust farmers. Agriculture has put in the work and occupies a unique place in public opinion. When the world is most insecure, agriculture provides security to the world.
No one knows what 2021 will bring, so let’s choose to believe better days are ahead.