This past weekend, I had the privilege of traveling to our nation’s capital – Washington, D.C. Being out east, I had the chance to reconnect with some old friends and meet new ones. A trip like this always offers the opportunity to talk to big city folks about production agriculture in North Dakota. In a previous column, I talked about how to educate non-farmers on certain things. It is a constant campaign to spread the good news of our family farming way of life.
First, I want to explain what brought me to D.C. A close friend of mine is a career army officer and on Friday, he was promoted to Colonel. He is an infantry officer, and his 22-year career has taken him all over the world at the tip of the spear in defense of our country. He is currently stationed at the Pentagon, and the ceremony was attended by his family; one-, two-, and three-star generals; staff members from the Office of the Secretary of Defense; State Department officials; a few Marines; executives from the energy and healthcare industries; and this one guy who writes articles about farming in North Dakota.
I’m extremely proud of my friend’s lifetime of service as a leader of character. I was honored that he invited me, and it was an honor to be in the presence of so many career service members. During the speeches at the ceremony, there were a few insider remarks referencing how things are very busy at the Pentagon right now with what is currently going on between Russia and Ukraine. There are operations planners working around the clock, and the future is uncertain. It serves as a reminder for all of us, that while we often complain about government and its leadership, there are very dedicated professionals who commit a lot of time away from family to plan and execute dangerous operations all over the world. They tirelessly defend our country and work to create stability in the world to further our free way of life.
In meeting up with friends prior to the ceremony and at the party after the promotion, I got to talk with good people about what it’s like to be in the farming industry in North Dakota. The reactions are often mixed. People try to relate their own perception of farming or tell me about what they recently heard about a farm near them. People wonder how the pandemic has impacted farming. I explain that COVID has had relatively little impact on the industry because the world needs farmers to feed the population. Canadian and U.S. farmers with owned land on each side of the border are deemed essential and are still able to crossover between countries as needed.
One person said to me that they noticed that many people have starting to raise chickens on their own due to the pandemic. That’s great, but when explaining what production agriculture looks like here, I am always prepared to really hit home that these are high-acreage family farms. Not people just gardening vegetables and raising a few chickens. People should put some thought into where the global population gets its food. It takes massive amounts of grain to feed the world. Millions and millions of bushels of grain.
Of course, the opportunity to visit with folks from the big city does result in enlightening me to agriculture issues in other parts of the country. A friend told me about the how the New York Farm Bureau has recently been very critical of new labor laws implemented by the state government. These new laws will lower overtime thresholds and make things extremely difficult for farmers in New York. This will have profound impacts on what is grown. Just like market and input cost factors impact what crops are grown here in North Dakota, these New York laws will force farmers to make decisions to plant crops that are less labor intensive. High labor products such as fruits and vegetables may go by the wayside in favor of crops that do not require a lot of production manpower.
At the end of the day, we want people to understand and appreciate what our family farms do for the world. Demanding work and long hours often go unnoticed. The same is true for our service men and women in uniform. Hard work, long hours, and sacrificing valuable family time are all things we have in common and can appreciate and never forget.
Congratulations on your promotion Colonel Lou Kangas! Thank you for your service.