Issue 4
December 1995

Seeking New Ways To Influence Farm Profits

Jerry Nordick, President, Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers






Prairie Grains is the
official publication of
the Minnesota
Association of
Wheat Growers,
North Dakota Grain
Growers Association,
South Dakota Wheat,
Inc., and the
Minnesota Barley
Growers Association.

It is difficult to dispute the fact that agriculture is facing a mixed bag of positive and negative changes; Some of these changes will be spurred by government policy reforms while others will occur inevitably. What are some of these changes or trends?

• More reliance on the marketplace, less government support.
• More emphasis on value-added and non-food uses of grain.
• Explosion of information and communication technology.
• More trade, market, and cooperative alliances.
• Fewer farmers and larger farms.
• More reliance on farm diversification and off-farm income.

The Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers (MAWG) believes that we should look to minimize negative trends and capitalize the most promising opportunities that change has to offer production agriculture. To do so, we as an association of wheat growers need to challenge conventional thinking, and view change as an opportunity.

Before we look to our future, we need to look at where we’ve been, appropriate particularly as the MAWG approaches its 20th anniversary. Why in 1976 did Minnesota farmers form the MAWG? Primarily, to improve the profitability of wheat farming by working as a group to influence government programs.

The MAWG was successful in many areas, and quickly established a national presence. Many don’t realize that the MAWG was a leader in the successful effort to establish barley deficiency payments. MAWG lobbying efforts also lead to increased loan rates, target prices, more profitable "PIK and Roll," regulatory relief, farmer-owned reserve and paid land diversions, to name a few successes.

However, things began to change in 1986 when farm program spending hit a record $26 billion, and the 1985 and 1990 farm bills began to reduce the direct benefits of farm programs.

Throughout the last ten years of farm program downsizing, MAWG has fought hard to get the most out of dwindling farm programs and maintain as much of the direct benefits for our members as possible.

But the writing is on the wall: we know that there will likely be fewer farm program benefits written into the 1995 Farm Bill, and a stage may be set for further reforms down the legislative road.

Thus, the MAWG would not be serving its members if it put all of its energy into preserving agriculture’s small slice of the budget pie, without even looking at farm income alternatives if the farm program is nullified.

Nearing the MAWG’s 20th anniversary, one goal still stands out: To influence wheat farm profitability, as a group on the state and national level. But the means of doing so seem to be evolving away from the political arena and closer to the marketplace. We need to acknowledge this trend.

Farmers are already exerting a stronger grip on their destiny through the marketplace, joining together in value-added co-ops, large and small, to purchase directly from suppliers and sell directly to customers.

Recognizing the trends facing production agriculture, the MAWG is redefining its vision for the future, and has taken an active role in identifying new profit opportunities for wheat growers.

Change does involve risk, but no more risk, arguably, than relying on government farm programs and conventional farm marketing channels for profitability.

Copyright Prairie
Grains Magazine
December 1995