MU Extension tells of farming in year 2030

Duane Dailey

Tell what farming will be like in 2030. What big changes are coming down the pike? In brief, regional MU Extension specialists tried that last week during a training session in Columbia.

Specialists were asked to tell how they will need to help farmers in 12 years. Not only that, they were to plan how to double farm production dollars in the state by 2030.

Impossible, I’d say. I’ve worked a good many years reporting what agricultural economists forecast for agriculture next year and for 10 years. Those outlooks are as accurate as the 10 o’clock forecast of weather for tomorrow. Sometimes they are close to right.

I believe in forecasting. Although they may not pinpoint correct details, their trends help. Economic models show current stocks, whether it is beans in a bin or beef in cold storage.

Supply influences price, also. Number of consumers influence demand. Farmers must know these trends to make plans.

In the challenge, that 2030 deadline seems far off. But, it’s just over a decade away. We should be thinking of all the things that changed and new changes coming. 

I can’t report what groups came up with. Those must still be collected.

This was not one huge collective decision. Lots of small groups around tables worked on farming they know. Grazing dairies differ from Missouri cow-calf farms. Both differ from pork or poultry production. 

Pig farming became more concentrated in vertical integration. That takes working with far fewer swine nutritionists than back when most farms had a few sows and raised pigs in barn lots. 

Dairy grazing differs from confinement dairy operations. Dairy became unified under farmer-owned cooperatives. There are thousands and thousands of independent beef herd owners. But, consolidation grows. Small herds dominate, but I’m surprised at how many 500-cow herds developed recently.

Show-Me-Select heifer herds grew more plentiful and far different than beef herds just 10 years ago. 

SMS heifer breeding shows the potential MU Extension has. Research from MU Thompson Farm becomes available, ready to use. It requires more powerful teaching to get adoption by more herds. It can be done and double income.

The same goes for MU research on management-intensive grazing. Grazing schools make huge impact on bovine herds, whether dairy or beef. In MIG farmers divide big pastures into small grazing paddocks. Adding electric fences gives immediate one-third boost in growth per acre.

With high land prices, production per acre becomes vital.

At the meeting, I moved group to group, so don’t know their final forecasts, or what they decided to teach to boost income. Lots of informed talk went on. Group ideas will be collected, printed and shared. Soon, I hope.

As a communicator, I saw a lack of talk on telling our story. As a journalist, I worry about the non-understanding of writing skills of newspaper writers. Good ones write at levels of their readers.

Few farm readers talk like scientists or bureaucrats. Writing farm talk takes listening to farmers talking. They talk in easy words, not economic jargon. Stories told at morning coffee club at local cafés differ from Extension administrators talking to field staff.

A big part of advancing the value of farm products depends on the power of words.

        We will never live down the words of a plant breeder bragging on his better variety. He said it came from “genetically modified organisms” (GMOs).

Consumers want food from farms, not “research centers.” Power words pay.

For food shoppers, words are big deals.  Our dairy economist told how milk at a local organic store brings three times per gallon the price paid for milk from most farms.

Grazing dairies have an edge on survival. They use low-cost forage based rations. They then could advertise grass-fed milk. That should bring a higher price. Marketing pays.

Help me: Send your ideas on farming will be in 2030 to Use easy to understand talk, please.