A report from Cedric Porter.
Visiting farms is one of the many privileges of being an agricultural journalist. Those trips are most valuable when you are outside your home country seeing how farmers in other parts of the world farm.
I recently was very fortunate to be on a press trip of European journalists to Nebraska, which was facilitated by the IFAJ and hosted by the US Sustainability Alliance (USSA). We visited farms, ranches and processing plants in a state that is only a little smaller than the UK but with only two million people.
Food and agriculture are the bedrock of the state’s economy, with 92% of its land area devoted to farming. A large grower of corn (maize) and soya, the state’s agricultural richness is based on its native grassland, which captures rainfall and feeds the Ogallala Aquifer, the main water source for its mid-west corn belt. Without the state’s sensitively grazed livestock land, there would be no crop land.
“People did try and farm the grassland for crops, but it wasn’t suitable as it is sandy ground and they left,” said Homer Buell, the sixth-generation owner of the 6,000 hectare Shovel Dot ranch.
“The only ones remaining, like my family, knew the value of the land was in the cattle it produced and in making sure that the grassland was not over-farmed.”
What came through loud and clear on the trip was the pride in the multi-generational nature of farming and a respect for the soil, born from the dust bowl storms 90 years ago. There are systems used that are shunned in Europe, including the widespread use of GMOs and hormone growth promotors in livestock, but there was also a recognition that if a market, like Europe, does not want such technology that provides a sales opportunities.
The only way to understand and challenge the way farmers farm across the world is to enter into a dialogue with them. Being an agricultural journalist allows you to do that. The IFAJ’s annual congresses, press trips and links to key organisations and companies help make those invaluable conservations possible.
In addition to getting to know US agriculture better, the trip also brought together a group of journalists from Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, the Czechia and the UK. The conversations and friendships that built over the six day trip added another great dimension plus new names in our contacts books and phones.
So, thanks to the USSA, a group of 24 US farming organisations that promotes the sustainability of the country’s farms across the world, for its hospitality and openness. Also to PR company gtandi for organising the trip and to the IFAJ for the opportunity to join it. If you ever get a similar opportunity then jump at it.
For more on the US Sustainability Alliance see: https://thesustainabilityalliance.us/