Tuesday, January 31, 2012

No Dooms Day in Ag

Recently I watched a TV show on the History Channel that had four gentlemen self-titled Prophets of Doom. Yes, I know just the title of this show should have given me some insight as to the uplifting nature of the material. The four "experts" were predicting just how and when the US would crumble and fall.

While I somewhat agreed with many of the ideas covered i.e. too much reliance on credit, too little worrying about water and too much dependence on fossil fuels. However, there was one major factor that these clairvoyants failed to see. The United States has been, throughout its history, very much an innovator, problem solver and survivor.

One "expert" took aim at agriculture. His assertion was that we were in over our heads and that if fossil fuels were taken away, we could not function. On the surface, he may appear to be correct. His theory was that we relied heavily on fuel for our machinery, natural gas for our fertilizer and petroleum for our pesticides. Because of those elements we had made our soil unproductive and without fossil fuels we would starve.

What he missed were our better understanding of science and technology. We now understand the importance of organic matter and soil structure. Innovations like no-till have led to a re-building of our top soil. Because of this we have the ability to grow more crops with less fertilizer. We will continue to use less and less fertilizer as the science and technology get better.

This "prophet" also bemoaned our reliance on herbicide made from fossil fuels. Because of advanced technology, namely those labeled gmo, we are far less reliant on herbicide. We use much less chemicals than just a few years prior and that trend will continue to decrease.

While we are on the subject of gmo let me point out that we are also seeing the introduction of drought tolerant crops. One "expert" also spoke about the risk of running out of water. I also see this as an impending crisis, but those of us in ag are doing our part to lessen our usage. We are working to more reliable produce food in an unreliable environment.

While we face many potential crisis I am proud of the work all of us in agriculture are doing to insure a safe, abundant supply of food and fiber. Agriculture has always rose up to meet the challenge. Challenges given to us by an ever growing world population. I see no reason to think we cannot keep up, if we are allowed to do what we do best, innovate and create new technologies. That, is why I am the proud producer of the food we all need, and even prouder that I am one of many.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

RIP Cisco

Jennifer and I got Cisco almost 16 years ago when we left Harper County. Cisco was a gift to Jennifer from one of the neighbors of the ranch she worked on. She was a blue heeler, border collie cross, but in the coming years she became much, much more. We called her our practice kid, joking that if we could raise a puppy, we could probably raise kids.

At first she was just content to ride on the console between us in the pickup. Everywhere Jennifer went, Cisco was sure to be along. The two of them along with Ace, the horse, could move any herd of cattle we had. Cisco was one of those dogs who just knew what you wanted her to do, and all she wanted to do was to make you happy. There was no doubt she was Jennifer's dog and Jennifer was her person.

Then came the kids. We kind of wondered what she would do when the kids came along. I am not sure why we worried. We often said Cisco viewed our kids as her pups. She watched over them and tolerated every yank on her ear and the constant pestering. All the while, she continued to be the top cow dog on the ranch.

Over the years the miles started to show their wear and tear. She was just a bit slower, she needed a longer run to assume her rightful place on the back of the pickup. During this time we introduced Killer, the cow dog. She accepted the challenge of training the new cow dog like all the other challenges we gave her. She tolerated Killer, nipped at him when he needed it and led by example.

Over the last couple of years the arthritis took it's toll, her eyes got cloudy and her hearing slipped away. We worried about the extreme Kansas weather and let her in the house. She adapted to indoor life like a champ, assuming her rightful place in front of the woodstove in the winter and the air conditioning vent in the summer.

We knew our time with Cisco was limited and dreaded the day when she would no longer be with us. In typical Cisco fashion, she took care of that too. She had never wandered out of eyesight of the house, but one day last week she slipped away after morning chores never to be seen again.

I have heard that dogs know when it is time and often just disappear. I know in my heart that she slipped off to one of the hills overlooking the ranch and passed away on the ranch she loved. Cisco was truly a "once in a lifetime" dog and I hope that each of you will someday be lucky enough to own a dog like her. I am sure we will have other dogs, but they will never quit live up to our Cisco dog.