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Rural Groups Push for Environmental Protections in Next Farm Bill

By  Mark Moran

Even though the current Farm Bill has been extended for a year, rural advocates are speaking up about protecting independent and family farms when the next one is finally debated.

The Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment is calling on lawmakers in Washington to roll back guaranteed loans for large meat and livestock producers, require country-of-origin labeling for beef and improve enforcement of the century-old Packers and Stockyards Act.

Mike Farley, board member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, said the new Farm Bill should be geared toward helping restore competition in the livestock markets for independent farmers while boosting environmental protections.

"We think that the parts of the Farm Bill that are supposed to improve the environment should not even be available to factory farmers, large conglomerate livestock and grain producers," Farley explained.

Right now, for example, factory farms qualify for federal subsidies to install anaerobic digesters, which extract methane from livestock manure and allow corporate farmers to sell the gas for a profit.

Critics of the idea say the digesters do nothing to remove massive amounts of manure still left behind. Large-scale farmers counter they are constantly seeking new ways to be environmentally friendly while responding to an ever-growing demand for more high-quality meat.

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Why Rob Saik is Trying to Build the World’s Most Connected Agriculture Network

Video: Why Rob Saik is Trying to Build the World’s Most Connected Agriculture Network

In a recent interview at the SeedLink Conference in Brandon, Man., Rob Saik, author, speaker, and CEO of AGvisorPRO, took a trip down memory lane, reminiscing about the beginnings of his career and what the future holds.

Graduating from the University of Alberta in 1983, Saik embarked on a journey that started in Brandon, Man. “I got a job with Elanko, got a U-Haul truck, threw everything I had into it, drove to the Victoria Inn, and lived there for three months while they tried to find an apartment for me to move into. So I started my career in Brandon,” Saik shared.

Fast forward to the present, Saik has evolved into an accomplished author and speaker, traversing the globe to engage in high-level discussions about the future of agriculture and the critical role it plays in feeding the world. Yet, despite his global presence, he finds himself back in Brandon, addressing a group of seed growers. But why? Saik emphasizes the fundamental importance of seeds, stating, “It all begins with a seed, doesn’t it?”

Reflecting on his own experiences as a farmer, Saik expresses his excitement when a planted seed germinates and evolves into a thriving crop. He underscores the significance of technology and breeding in seed development, recognizing the crucial role they play in ensuring farmers can propagate seeds, grow profitable crops, and contribute to global food security.

Saik delves into the challenges faced by the agricultural community, particularly the rapid pace of technological advancements. He believes that the key lies in connecting farmers to experts swiftly, boosting farmers’ confidence in adopting new technologies, and ensuring the timely implementation of these advancements. According to Saik, this approach is crucial for steering agriculture towards sustainability and profitability.

As Saik works on his upcoming book, tentatively titled prAGmatic, he sheds light on its central theme. “The thesis would be that I want to write a book that takes what the consumer wants, challenges what the consumer believes, and positions that against what the farmers can actually do pragmatically,” he explains. The book aims to bridge the gap between consumer expectations and the realistic capabilities of farmers, promoting sustainable intensification as the necessary path to feed the planet.

Looking ahead to 2024, Saik emphasizes the need for enhanced connectivity within the seed industry. He discusses his platform, AgvisorPro, which is designed to facilitate connections between farmers, experts, and companies in a way that transcends conventional social media platforms. Saik envisions a credible, connected agricultural network that goes beyond the noise of platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter.

In a passionate vision for the future, Saik imagines a tool for teachers that allows them to pose questions from students, answered by verified farmers and ranchers. This, he believes, would provide an authentic and valuable educational resource, connecting classrooms with individuals who truly understand the intricacies of agriculture.