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Betting on the future of American agriculture
Does agriculture have a future? I used to get asked that question a lot. These days, however, it is one that rarely gets asked. With all the buzz about renewable fuels and biotechnology, most folks, inside and outside of agriculture, seem confident there will be a future. Even the online search engine Google is optimistic with 95,600,000 listings dealing with the “future of agriculture.”

Most of those listings deal with the environmental, economic and sociological future of agriculture. Even the website is optimistic about the future of agriculture; and if the futurists think there is a future, well, who is to argue.

There was a lot of talk about the future of agriculture at the Farm Bill listening sessions held last summer across the country. At these forums, FFA and 4-H members had the chance to speak their mind on the future of the industry in which they hope to stay. It remains to be seen if the elected officials who actually write the legislation will remember what the young people had to say.

As for me, I have always been a believer in the future of the food and fiber industry. People want to eat, producers want to produce, and middlemen want to make money, so despite tough times and poor policies, agriculture will survive. But, recently, I decided to do more than just talk about or write about the future of agriculture. I decided to “bet the farm” on it.

If you have not heard me on the radio for the past week, it is because I resigned from the big regional network for which I have worked for the past two years. Yes, I quit my job to seek my fortune in the world of agriculture. I will share with you, in a few weeks, exactly what I am going to do; but suffice it to say, it depends on there being a future in agriculture.

So what is it that made me take the big leap? What I see happening in agriculture is a renewed spirit, a spirit of confidence, excitement and enthusiasm. Part of it has to do with the new focus on renewable fuels. Both those inside and outside of agriculture have become believers in this new technology and the promise it holds for our nation. It also has to do with a new respectability that agriculture has. Instead of always being portrayed as the problem, now the media and many consumers see agriculture as the solution.

We still have our detractors and the animal and environmental activists who work hard to denigrate American farming, but their blather is being drowned out by stories that focus on the impact agriculture can make in the area of energy, commerce and life sciences. We still have our problems, such as low prices, trade barriers and food safety issues. We will have communities who support agriculture but not in their county. And we will pour far too much concrete over productive farmland far too often. Yet, I still see the glass as half full.

I hope there are enough of you out there that feel the same way to help my venture, and all of agriculture, realize that bright future.

This farm news was published in the July 19, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.