July 27, 2011

Getting the Facts Right


If you are one of the millions who reads TIME magazine, you have probably read the article called “Want to Make More than a Banker? Become a Farmer!” The article was published in the first part of July and features farmers from Central Nebraska. At first I thought it was great to see agriculture being spot lighted in such a popular national magazine, especially Nebraska agriculture. However after reading it, I was left feeling puzzled and frustrated. While there was accurate information in the article, I thought that the journalist left out some important information that reflects Nebraska’s agriculture industry: that the majority of farms are family owned. Nowhere in the article did I see the two words, “family farm” together. Still, I can’t say the entire article was bad either because there was some accurate information mentioned in it, such as farming being more efficient with new technology and the value of the farm increasing.

However, I do want to mention a few things that I feel the article is wrong about. The first thing is that the article says a person should become a farmer because food prices are high. To me, this portrays the farmer as the one benefiting from high food prices when that is not the case at all. The farmer only receives a small fraction of a dollar from the food that is put on grocery shelves. The reason why food prices are so high is because of the energy that is being used to ship the food to its final destination. The only thing that farmers are currently benefiting from is high grain prices, which is caused by many other factors that farmers cannot control. Yet, farming is capital intensive and the cost of production is increasing, making tight profit margins for many farmers.

The second thing I want to point out that the article mentioned was that the agriculture industry has “lax” regulations. As far as I know, this industry has some of the strictest regulations in the U.S. Although there may not be much for child labor laws, many of the children working in agriculture come from a family farm operation. Over the past several years, regulations have increased putting more of a burden on the family farm operation. If regulations were “lax”, farmers and ranchers wouldn’t have to report monthly, or even sometimes daily, to local regulators. It seems like every day there is a new regulation floating out there that will have some type of impact on farmers. But the regulations are in place for a reason and are good in providing a safe food supply.

Finally, the article never mentioned how farming can at times be stressful and involve a lot of hard work. Farming is definitely not an 8-5 job with the weekends off. It is a 24/7 job that doesn’t always allow families to take vacations or even get off the farm much. Farming is a commitment, and sometimes the farm comes before other things. Like someone once said, “Farming is not just a job; it is a way of life”. If farming was easy, everyone would be doing it. However, that’s not the case and the ones that are still in the farming business are doing it because they have a passion for it. If farmers didn’t have a passion for agriculture, they probably wouldn’t be in the business of growing food for a growing population. Luckily, the farmers that are still working the fields and raising the livestock still have that passion, which allows us to eat three times a day – or more!.

As I mentioned earlier, the entire TIME magazine article wasn’t completely wrong, but I felt there were certain parts that needed to be cleared up. It seems like there is already plenty of false information floating around out there about agriculture, and it seems like it is time to start getting the facts right. I hope this won’t be the last time we see agriculture featured in TIME magazine, but I do hope that the next time it is featured, ALL of the facts are right and the American farmer is portrayed correctly.


  1. Great job, Lance. You are right on so many points! As far as regulation goes, I can tell you as someone who recruits managers for agribusiness that the biggest void in our industry now is experienced regulatory people. Companies need more and more every quarter. As far as the article encouraging people to reconsider becoming a banker in favor of farming, I think that's a tad irresponsible. Most of the bankers I know couldn't handle the workload of one day on a farm. :)

  2. Thanks for the comment Ag Recruiter! I too thought it was not right for the magazine to portray farming as an easy job where farmers make lots of money. It was also frustrating that the article never mentioned family farms. However, I do hope we see agriculture featured in a popular magazine again (only if the facts are correct though)!