My Op-Ed Columns - Farming

Journalists not the enemy

At our recent annual meeting of the American Agricultural Editors’ Association, I met with a group of editor peers at competing national and regional magazines/websites to discuss the issue of fake news.

We came to a unanimous conclusion that our industry needs to voice united support for our craft and for a free press—as professionally trained journalists. Since this decision, hundreds of competitive news organizations came together today (August 16) to write editorials that highlight the dang

Grow organic?

I know organic can be a contentious topic, as conventional and organic farmers have long clashed over food safety and quality, spray drift, product value and much more—and I get negative email and letters whenever I broach the subject.

But hear me out, as farmers have forever said they would grow what the market wants. In these tougher economic times, diversification into higher returns can be a sound business strategy.

Organic food and feed is still a fast-growing segment in the U.S.


Conservation programs need greater focus

It’s true that government conservation programs have helped improve soil erosion and water quality through better practices implemented on farms. But at the current improvement pace, these voluntary programs with budget constraints will not reach huge water quality goals in many watershed and nutrient reduction programs underway in numerous states.

University of Illinois researcher Laura Gentry says the nutrient reduction strategy will only achieve 6 to 8% of water quality goals. Long-time cons
Iowa family portrait

Lessons from Dad

The best lesson my dad drilled into me was the value of thinking for myself and not simply following a group. Yes, I failed at times and I’ll never forget the “extra” farm work consequences I earned for missing curfew by following the thoughts of a cast of characters.

Fortunately, my group think misadventures gave me a larger perspective and helped me better relate to different groups. I had friends from all socio-economic classes that inhabited small town America back then. Such lessons carry

Soil life matters

This is about paying attention.

To your soils. And your landowners’ soils.

Perhaps a harsh headline to some. While soil life is not viewed by many people as even closely relatable to human lives, I use the analogy to grab attention, and make a point.

Civilizations have been lost due to soil degradation.

If you don’t believe me, read “Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations” by David Montgomery.

I’ve been accused before of being anti-tillage. I’m not. I’m pro science, and pro ROI.

I’d love it if
©Kurt Lawton/Stellar Content LLC
corn farm rows in field

Why promote 500-bushel corn?

It’s high time for high yield contest managers to think different – to recognize farmers that go beyond the weigh wagon – and reward yield along with environmental achievements such as reduced nitrogen use and increased soil health.

Why is it best to recognize the highest yield produced in a given portion of a field, especially when farmers can apply as much nitrogen, as much water (in irrigated fields) and as much other inputs as they want?

Given the pressure on farmers to help protect waters