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Editorial: Farmers deserve thanks for keeping up with the times

What did you have to eat on Tuesday?

It probably will take you a few minutes to recall everything on your plate and you’d likely miss a few things, but here’s a certainty: Farmers had something to do with it.

Now is a good time to remember and appreciate those who work so hard producing the food that feeds the world.

This past Tuesday, March 19, was National Agriculture Day. Farming’s impact extends beyond food. Agriculture also provides the fuel for our vehicles and the fiber for our clothes.

Minnesota is a leader in agricultural production, ranking in the top 10 states in cash receipts from farms and in the export of farm products, according to Bev Durgan, dean of University of Minnesota Extension.

As with many professions, farming has gotten a lot more complicated and high-tech over the years. Fortunately, there are state resources farmers can tap into to take advantage of the latest research and technology.

“Modern farming is a more complex field than ever and University of Minnesota Extension keeps farmers up-to-date with best practices that help their bottom line and their stewardship of the land and water through various field days, on farm research, meetings and electronic media,” Durgan noted. “Extension’s research-based information also reaches growers through the agricultural professionals they work with.”

Farmers often take heat for hurting the environment by using harmful pesticides, not monitoring run-off or practicing poor land management. But those critiques are based on the actions of only a fraction of those in the field and fail to look at the big picture, a picture of farmers who are working harder than ever to protect the soil.

Durgan said that Minnesota farmers rely on the partnership of agricultural professionals – consultants, seed and fertilizer dealers, pesticide applicators and local Extension educators – to help them manage all aspects of their enterprise. These agricultural professionals in turn rely on Extension’s Institute for Agricultural Professionals to learn about the newest agricultural research and innovations.

Durgan cited Extension agronomist Jeff Gunsolus who noted that herbicide issues are in the forefront on farms today. Fewer chemicals are used on the farm when agricultural professionals guide farmers to the right herbicide on the right weed at the right time. Farmers’ resources are used more efficiently, weeds develop less resistance, and environmental impacts are reduced. It is a similar situation with managing insect pests, such as the soybean aphid.

According to a 2011 survey, agricultural professionals serve an average of 60 clients each, having an impact on some 48,000 acres, Durgan said. Just one of the Institute’s educational programs impacts 4.3 million acres across the state and surrounding regions.

“The education Extension offers to agricultural professionals ensures growers that those advising them are trained on current topics and best practices,” Durgan noted. “Extension’s successful model has been emulated nationwide because it multiplies the impact of research and education, and it serves the agricultural community in the way that works best for farmers today.”

So, when you sit down for dinner tonight, remember the farmers who made it possible, along with the ag professionals, researchers and state resources that keep Minnesota’s agricultural industry among the best in the nation.

— Alexandria Echo Press