Social media provides a platform to spread a massive quantity of information and sometimes misinformation about agriculture.

We don’t have to embrace social media, but we must understand its capacity to reach our population.

This is evidenced by the “how did that tractor get flipped upside down in the creek” photo or the recent popular video showing a planter relentlessly continuing to plant with a dangerous twister in the near background.

Farming is hard. It always has been hard, and it probably always will be. If it were easy, we wouldn’t be facing the looming shortage of farmers in our country.

But that’s exactly why farming is great. Agriculture requires its participants to acknowledge that we are not in control.

After being rained out of the fields for more than a month, yesterday we were finally able to turn a wheel. Then after six hours of “nearly fit” working conditions, the rains came again.

In addition to low prices and rising costs, we are facing historic delays in planting this crop. Yet we will continue until either our banker tells us “no” or our Maker calls us home.

Farming isn’t like any other occupation. It’s a way of life handed down by past generations for safekeeping until the next generation is ready to take over.

Almost daily this spring, I have recited to myself some part of the second paragraph of the FFA Creed:

“I believe that to live and work on a good farm, or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits, is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny.”

My last column referred to the first paragraph of the FFA Creed as it relates to transition “not through words, but of deeds.” The second paragraph of the Creed, though, is by far my favorite.

“Joys and discomforts”

As grain producers urgently finish planting and transition to spraying, cattle producers struggle to cut and bale hay while the dairy producers desperately search for anything to finally turn in their favor.

Even through currently depressed, the American farmer has a strong faith and a great sense of pride in producing enough food to feed the world (even if the rest of the world is sometimes unappreciative).

One of my favorite movies is Titanic. It is the story of the “unsinkable” ship that sunk in the Atlantic Ocean on its maiden voyage in 1912, killing 1,500 passengers.

There is a scene in the movie when the passengers realize that there aren’t enough lifeboats for everyone. Even though the ship had been designed to hold 32 lifeboats, it left Northern Ireland on its first and only journey with only 20 lifeboats due to concerns that the deck would be cluttered, and they wouldn’t be needed on an “unsinkable” ship.

There were men on board who consciously stayed on the Titanic to help lower the lifeboats in the water, unselfishly helping others get to safety to their own detriment.

It was the right thing to do for someone to stay behind to see that others’ needs were taken care of first.

This is a lot like production agriculture. We plant and harvest food that the rest of the world needs but has no idea what it takes to produce. Yet the farmer selflessly sacrifices and steadfastly provides security for those who question the very manner in which it is provided.

“Inborn fondness”

All of us have fond memories of a simpler time growing up on the farm. Passing this opportunity to children so that they can pass it to their children is important for the sustainability of agriculture.

Time spent around the dinner table with family is an invaluable opportunity for communicating business matters and developing healthy family relationships (despite gaining the obligatory 10 pounds for me, eating mom’s cooking each planting and harvest seasons).

Children today have a better relationship with their phone than they do with their parents and grandparents. It makes me wonder what kind of fond memories this generation will have of their upbringing compared to the ones that we had. This generation are unfortunately missing the importance of relationship building.

“Hours of discouragement”

With commodity markets depressed by global supplies and trade disputes, farmers will turn to ways to cut the cost of production.

Rising costs will cause margin issues and will add financial stress. Farm production expenses in 2018 were at the highest level since the peak in 2014. At the same time, prices are at a 10-year low.

Interest expense may again become the enemy for agriculture as farmers incur added debt to continue day-to-day operation. Banks are beginning to report declining loan repayment rates and are imposing caps on cash rents as well as raising collateral and operating capital requirements.

Another year of higher interest rates and declining farm incomes may put pressure on farmland values if more farmers are forced to sell some land to raise capital. Combine this with the massive division and transfer of wealth that is on the horizon for aging landowners, and a potential land value decline could aggravate our current discouraging situation.

We cannot afford to rely on a fourth consecutive year of above-trend crop yields to make up for low commodity prices and rising costs.

“I believe that to live and work on a good farm, or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits, is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny.”

It may be an optimist mentality or simple stubbornness, but the American farmer has staying power. The physical toughness and mental fortitude naturally acquired over the years on the farm has served us well. Surviving this year will no doubt add to this resilience.

Farming is hard, but the discomfort that comes along with overcoming daily challenges that we face is what makes it great.

My hope is that as our industry matures, we can continually find improved strategies to transition a way of life so that the next generation will have the same opportunity that was passed to us by our parents that was passed to them by theirs.


For 26 years, Steve Bohr has been a partner in the farm continuation firm of Farm Financial Strategies, Inc. For additional information on farm continuation issues or if you have a question please contact Steve via email at Bohr@FarmEstate.com or by phone at 1-800-375-4180.