Seeking New Ways To Influence Farm Profits
Jerry Nordick, President, Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers
Prairie Grains is the
|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
reliance on the marketplace, less government support.
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 weve 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 dont 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 agricultures small slice of the budget pie, without even looking at farm income alternatives if the farm program is nullified.
Nearing the MAWGs 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.