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CLAYTON RYE

By Staff | Oct 7, 2016

Oct. 2 marked 17 years since my dad passed away. When the anniversary of his passing comes around each year, I wonder what he would think of all the changes that have taken place since 1999.

Around here, the biggest changes would be the proliferation of wind turbines and the construction of ethanol plants, none of which was mentioned or even thought about in 1999.

We do not have any wind turbines on our farm, but I have neighbors not that far away who do. I haven’t heard them complain about farming around them and I believe the annual check comes in handy.

Ethanol production has brought huge changes. It provides a floor of demand for corn, a floor of demand I am grateful for when we are looking at a 14-billion-bushel-plus corn crop.

At the time of his death, an 8 billion bushel corn crop seemed overwhelming.

In the 17 years since his death, we have seen grain prices go through a boom and now are at a bust as everyone has to recalibrate.

Everyone is not only grain producers, but dealers who sell machinery, fertilizer, herbicide, seed, and especially those in the credit business who lend the money we depend on each year.

Then there are changes which are not as easily seen, but just as large, such as technology from the phone in our pocket to the controls that allow a tractor or combine to be guided or controlled, while recording what is being put down or taken up.

I believe my dad would be taken aback at land prices and rental rates for good productive land, something that has gone through a boom and now the bust is settling in slowly.

There have been a lot of changes in only 17 years.

But what about the next 17 years?

By then I will be 85 and my dad died at age 82 so I am not sure of my chances of being around another 17 years. I’ll get as close to it as I can.

I believe the next 17 years will see huge changes in land ownership as my generation passes away and the off-farm heirs will want to cash-out their land as they see a probable significant amount of money plus they do not have any strong connection to that land.

As machinery gets larger allowing one person to cover more acres, the competition for increasing the size of a farm operation will remain strong.

Farming will be in fewer hands which will mean the rural countryside will reflect the changes in a smaller population. That will affect schools, churches, retail businesses, pretty much anyone who provides a service.

While this may sound like doom and gloom, it is a continuation of the consolidation of agriculture that has been going on for over 100 years when two 80 acre farms became a single 160 acre farm.

Now, instead of a single 160-acre farm, we have a single farm with fields of 160 acres or more. Yes, there will be attrition of farms and farmers in the future with the land going to fewer and stronger hands. It will be interesting to watch and I hope to have a front row seat.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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