What is Soil Erosion?

(Part of a down to earth series on the foundation of sustainable agriculture)

eroding diversion“What is soil erosion and how does that affect me?”  That’s a fair question.  Many of us do not see much soil during our workday.  According to a recent USDA-NRCS article, 81% of the people in the United States live in urban areas.  Maybe you may go by a park or see some trees planted in the median of the street, how would you know the soil is important to you unless someone explained why?  After all, unless you get excited about soil you probably take it for granted.  We never hear anything on the news about the loss of topsoil.  It isn’t like we hear reports of someone robbing topsoil from some farm.  But what if I was to tell you that millions of tons of topsoil are lost each year just in the United States!  Truthfully, we have none to spare.

1.7 Billion Tons

That’s how many tons of soil we lost in the United States just in 2007 according to the

One ton of top soil

A ton of topsoil take as much space as this chest freezer

United States National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), the nation’s office of natural resource stewardship, a part of the USDA.  We are doing a much better job than in the 1980’s.  Thirty-five years ago, we were losing over 3 BILLION tons of soil a year, much of it going down the ditches, streams, and rivers, dumping into the bays and estuaries of our nation.  According to a 2006 study by Cornell University, it costs our nation $37 Billion dollars a year in lost food production due to the soil being literally washed away.

What do 1.7 Billion tons look like?

IMG_0488We would think that such a loss must leave large holes in the farmland.  Why hasn’t someone taken a picture of the huge craters made from such a large loss?  That’s because you can’t hardly notice what 1.7 billion tons look like.  Pull out a dime.  See how thin it is?  1.7 billion tons is less than the thickness of a dime.  That’s right, the thickness of a dime.  Spread out over the entire farm and ranch acres in the United States, 1.7 billion tons of topsoil would equal a volume less than the thickness of a dime.  What’s the big deal??  It’s because the really good dirt, (the dirt that makes lots of crops and food), is the top inches of the soil.  We lose more than we ever add back to the soil.    USDA Erosion Chart

What’s the big deal?

How can soil loss thinner than a dime make a difference?  The top one inch of the soil is thousands of time more active and full of very powerful substances.  Things that interact with fertilizer, pesticides, roots, beetles, and the city of microbes that live around the roots of crops.  This is a group of complex and very active organic compounds that we are just beginning to understand.   Your nation lives by this soil.  Farmers lose part of their farm when they lose soil-the best part.  According to the Des Moines Register, Iowa farmers are perhaps losing $1 billion per year in profits due to soil erosion.  If you lose farmers, you lose your meal.  This was something well understood by ancient and not so ancient societies.  Erosion takes time.  It’s not sudden like an earthquake and it isn’t a highly concentrated strike of force like a tornado.  It’s a slow but deadly process.  Nations have collapsed because of its force.  Erosion takes away the most alive part of the soil.  Remember the dime.

Soil Health is critical to maintaining long-term social stability.  As we make advancements in soil health we must not forget our past.  It’s been about 90 years since the great Dust Bowl that crippled our nation’s farm and food security due to wind erosion of our topsoil.  Costing the public hundreds of millions of 1930’s dollars, the government instituted programs that included farm bailouts and paying farmers not to farm soils that suffered the most severe erosions.  It was out of the Dust Bowl that the Soil & Water Conservation District ‘s was formed so that we may never experience another natural catastrophe of that size again.

bound-for-owasco-lake

Water from the field bound for Owasco Lake

Soil health is critical.  However, if we lose all the topsoil down our local drainage ditches, creeks, and rivers, our crop yields will suffer, farmers will go out of business, and our efforts for food security will be that much harder.  Soil erosion reduction is vital for soil health efforts to succeed.

Here are the referenced links below.  Thanks for reading!

 

https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/soils/use/urban/

https://theweek.com/articles/554677/america-running-soil

https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/programs/farmbill/?cid=stelprdb1257899

https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/soils/?cid=stelprdb1041887

https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1510&context=leopold_grantreports

https://crops.extension.iastate.edu/soil-erosion-and-crop-productivity-topsoil-thickness

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohX1jIlH_kI&feature=youtu.be

https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/depression-era-dust-storms/6/

https://www.weather.gov/gld/SevereWeather4-2-2015

https://www.ksnt.com/news/dust-storm-blankets-much-of-texas-panhandle/1024338370

 

 

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Backstops and Crop Insurance

Chances are you either played or watched a baseball game.  It is with that thought that I want to take a couple minutes of your time to explain a program called Crop Insurance and how important it is to anyone who eats a meal in the United States.

Backstops and Crop Insurance

In baseball, you have a backstop that separates the batter, catcher, and umpire from the186820862 fans in the bleacher. Any stray ball, (or bat) is stopped from doing severe injury to those watching.  Crop Insurance is just like a backstop.  Farmers deal with many different uncertainties.  The largest uncertainty of all is the weather.  There are others who deal with the weather, like construction companies.  However, the thing that makes farming unique is that for months the weather cannot be too severe.  Extreme weather seems to be occurring more frequently over the past few decades.  Big onetime events like hurricanes and long-term weather like too dry or too wet can keep farmers from planting crops or damage crops once they are planted.  Without crop insurance and the subsidy to make it more affordable, I think farm production, economy and society would be very different than what we have today.

Currently, the insurance is kept solvent by premiums paid by farmers and the government.  In 2016, farmers insured $36 Billion dollars’ worth of crops from hail and other damages.  That $36 billion dollars of crops represents well over $150 billion dollars of food that we eat in our cereal, our salads, and feeds cows that help provide stuff like yogurt.  There is insurance for 130 different crops. According to one manager in the crop insurance business, the government pays for about 63% of the insurance premium while the farmer pays for the difference.   For example, in 2016 farmers paid just under $1 billion dollars to insure those $36 billion dollars of crops.  The premiums that are paid go toward paying the claims for losses when they do occur.  Currently, about 85% of the premiums are paid back in claims so the system has been working as designed.  Just like your car insurance, premiums are determined by mathematical formulas.  Riskier types of crop insurance cost more than others.

Farming has always been risky, and prices are volatile.  While you may notice your food bill going up a five percent, how would you like to see your prices double?  Farmers can see price swings over 50% from one year to the next.  Crop insurance also helps to get loans to pay for seed and supplies.  If harsh weather does come, suppliers and bankers know that crop insurance will be there to help cover some of the losses and they will have a better chance of being paid.  So, the next time you think about a hot and dry summer, please remember that the farmer thinks about it even more.  Crop insurance keeps farmers protected and able to have an opportunity to keep farming.  We need farmers to succeed.  Not only do they feed us, they manage over 900 million acres of land here in the United States.

Thanks for reading!

 

Value in a Three-Legged Stool

I had a general manager twenty years ago who was very good at explaining the basics ofThree-Legged-Stool-Outline-800px managing a business.  He would say, “think of your business as a three-legged stool.  Sales, margins, and expenses are the three legs.  If you don’t pay attention to one of them, the stool will fall.”  It’s a pretty solid analogy and applies to anything from someone’s first lemonade stand all the way to large businesses.  Underpinning all of this is one concept, and that’s called “value”.

Being the monetary worth of an asset, value is what primes the agricultural economy.  It is in the price that the farmer gets for the crop.  It is what pays the bills.  It sets the foundation for sales, margins, and profits for the entire supply chain of agriculture.  The agricultural world in the United States is searching for value.

There is a real search for value.

For example, take these few prices.  Anecdotal as they may be, it still drives home the struggle for value in commodity grains, fertilizer, and pesticides.  What we have typically done to offset such a condition is to look to ways to increase productivity and thereby keeping expenses under control.  Historical Prices

 

 

 

 

The use of technology allows us to make use of information and a lot of it.  With the ability to analyze massive amounts of data, we can now manage fields down to the exact plant.  Terra Byte the corn plant is an example.  Weighing in at a potential world’s record of 18.4 Gigabytes of data, Terra Byte was studied with all measurements recorded in a digital fashion.  Just to put this in perspective, if you had a 100-acre corn field and all the plants were studied and data logged like Terra Byte, it

seed, corn, creation, God

photo by author

would take 466,000 iPhones to hold all the data, for just one year’s crop.  This study was as much about digital farming and what we can measure as much as about anything else.  This is new, uncharted territory in how to make field decisions on a business-wide level.  Farms and their suppliers used shirt pockets with a notepad and pen, jotting down what information(data) they learned that day.  The important stuff was saved to be studied later, making it to a notebook in the office along with magazine articles thought important.  Those were the days of “analog living” Digital farming takes all this to the next level.

Information of all types is digitized into a format that many types of systems can manipulate and become part of the digital farm with data being called upon as needed in Copy of Yield Map pictureorder to track progress, make recommendations, or create some type of forecast.  Along with this comes all the accessories.  When data becomes transferable, then whole farm management programs like AgriEdge, Xarvio, and others allow farmers the ability to handle all the information that Terra Byte the corn plant and others send their way.  Decisions like fertilizer and seed needs by management zones, weather data, as well as pest, disease and yield forecasting, can all be brought under one digital roof, so to speak.

Buyers will certainly use the tools of digital farming in an effort to help advance their own efforts of meeting various demands, be they consumer, regulatory or internal goals.  In an effort to meet internally set carbon emissions goals, Walmart has committed to take a look at nitrogen fertilizer and how it is used in the production of the ingredients it purchases.  Some of us may be taken aback that such a large organization with a massive impact on farmers will begin utilizing digital tools to help promote their own goals.  However, I bet some really business savvy kids are taking advantage of some digital tools right now to help promote their lemonade stand!  That’s the thing about technology.  It allows the smallest entrepreneur as well as the largest corporation to promote their value to the consumer.

We have digitized the cow’s udder so the robot milker can milk the cow.  We even have robotic weeding units now coming available for commercial use.  All of this in an effort to reduce unnecessary costs while raising productivity and minimizing environmental impact.  All of these are necessary and worthy.  Will it all bring value to the farmer quick enough?  Perhaps we need to seek out other crops as well.  Maybe we will see days where we take the digitized farm and meld it into age-old practices like extended crop rotations growing more varied crops allowing more domestic sourced foods.  Perhaps that is part of the key to success.  Not only will we cut wastage on commodity acres, but maybe we will also take the new tools to help bring back crops that we have forgotten.

As any business manager knows, the quickest way to correct a budget imbalance is to correct both sides of the ledger at the same time.  Perhaps that is the long game for digital farming.  It will help us to cut back on waste while allowing farmers the opportunity to grow crops they have not considered so far.  We can hope!  As Bob Willard, Chairman of Willard Agri-Service said, “If the farmer isn’t making much money, it’s hard for us to make money.”  Such is the business environment of the agronomy supply business in the United States.

 

What are the benefits of growing multiple types of forage grasses for grazing animals?

Great article! Each plant species has its own unique effect on the soil and, just as importantly, helps the entire cover crop planting survive various weather patterns.

Soils Matter, Get the Scoop!

Although it might seem like grazing animals will eat any grass in the field, they are actually picky eaters. They prefer a “buffet” of grass choices. And while it’s good for the grazing animals, growing a variety of forage plants in the field also benefits the plants, the soil, and the environment.

Most of their grazing time, grazing animals are making decisions about what to eat with every bite. Luckily for the animals, they don’t normally have only one option for their meal in a pasture setting. Growing multiple plant species in the same space at the same time, polyculture, is the norm in pasture grazing scenarios.

alfalfa and grass in field Alfalfa provides the soil with nitrogen, and the animals with protein. Credit: Jesse Morrison

Usually, perennial grasses serve as the primary component in pastures for grazing. Most polyculture systems add in annual species because of their flexibility and low cost of establishment…

View original post 404 more words

The 4R’s and the Fertilizer Supply Chain

The stewardship of land and water is becoming a driving force in farming and the fertilizer retailer is taking up the challenge to help implement these changes.  The 4R’s are universal and adaptive to many different forms of farming.  They will affect both large and small, organic and nonorganic farmers as well as those who market themselves as being somewhere in between.

The 4R’s is nondiscriminatory as the concept can be applied in any farming environment.  Technology does not have to be complex to use the 4R’s as farmers in various parts of the world can attest. However, in technology driven markets such as Canada, Europe, and the United States, technology will play a key role in helping to make more precise prescriptions as well as in the application methods used.  Technology is driving a more precise version of 4R Stewardship.  Take our broadcast spreaders, for example.  At one time these stalwarts of productivity were designed to apply one rate across a set spreader width.  Today, these units are able to not only adjust spread rate but also pattern width and pattern position with the interconnected movement of spinner fan frame side to side and front to aft, to the rate of product coming out of the product.  The inclusion of a multiproduct bin makes for a limitless amount of pattern combinations and rates.  With the choice of power units available today, we have a vast range of equipment options to choose from.  No one would argue that the equipment we have today can perform more than ever before.

What products will you apply?  Will its physical properties and crop response patterns be on par to the equipment demands to do an accurate job?

It does not take a whole lot of imagination to see the opportunities for those who are looking to excel in quality, consistency, and compatibility to meet regional demands.  If you have been around a few truck loads and rail cars of various products, you realize that there are differences from time to time and load to load.  As we strive for higher efficiencies in our fertilizer programs, we will find ourselves pushing the envelope on application accuracy and placement.  Will things like SGN size, fines, and increased ease of storage and mixing be driven by the Right Rate at the Right Place of our products?  One would think this would be the case.

As we enter this new realm, products less known may find themselves being a good fit in certain markets.  How will the supply chain adapt?  Will we need a few more smaller bins or tanks for more precise windows of application?  How will it be sourced?  Will we need more regional terminals for less than rail car shipments?  How will new products effectively enter a grain market that is during a very tough multiyear economic cycle?

The Last Mile in Retail Services

Retailing, regardless of type, is undergoing a dynamic change in how products and services are delivered.  Retailers like Lowe’s, Home Depot, and others are advancing their customer value proposition with the delivery of heavy products to the customer while maximizing inventory turns and minimizing the cost of money by developing Last Mile Delivery Services.  Kind of sounds like the fertilizer business, doesn’t it?   Delivery services are being leveraged to build value to the customer as well as reducing excess inventory which minimizes carrying costs and asset value erosion.  The phrase “Last Mile Delivery” is coined to describe the entire process.  Granted, we in the ag supply industry haven’t been driven by e-commerce or purchase of kitchen appliances.  We may call it, “keeping in product”, “keeping up with the planter” or “beating the rain”.  The 4R process will revolutionize the way in which we manage inventory and its timely delivery, based on crop stage and environmental conditions.  All the while we will be factoring in various business constraints and market opportunities on the local and regional.  Might we see a supply chain that is even more driven by local and regional crop needs?

The days coming are very exciting ones.  Those who are nimble and adaptable, always keeping their suppliers well informed, will stand to offer the best in 4R services.

The Customer Experience Relay Race

 

In ag retailing, we can get it all right. We can have the best product; we can have the best social media campaign; we can have the best in class customer service policy. It’s our drivers and delivery staff that are the final, and most important leg, on what I will call the “Customer Experience Relay Race”. All other members, or processes, can execute flawlessly, but the race is won or lost in the final leg.

The spring rush can leave all of us a little frayed. Let’s try to be the driver’s advocate as we consider our daily and weekly schedules. Demands of weather and customers can push us hard and ours is an industry that is given an exemption from many of the hours of service rules that others must follow. However, we are all still human. A fatigued driver can be a danger to themselves, others, equipment, and the customers they service. Driver fatigue is something that needs to be recognized and prevented.

Another key to helping them do their job is having safe equipment. Not only do safe trucks help keep our DOT CSA scores low, they help to keep drivers focused on what matters most- the delivery of products safely and effectively in a courteous and timely manner. Our maintenance programs can’t afford to take a break in the heat of the season. Meanwhile, labeling of things like fuel and hydraulic tanks and what direction to turn a valve can appear to be over-kill but is a great reminder to the driver who is in the thick of a planting or spray season that broke hard and fast. Often these folks wind up going to a delivery site that can be ambiguous. A good preseason plan could include addressing some of these delivery point issues so that the customer, driver, and the company they serve all make it safe and sound to the end of the relay race.

Have a safe and successful season!

Point or Nonpoint Water Issues?

The discharge end of a drain tile

The water issues in Lake Erie were mainly about water quality and the general reasons for the massive harmful algal blooms[i].  Des Moines, IA, escalated from “merely” being about safe drinking water being to specifically about nitrates and who was going to pay to remove them[ii],[iii].  For decades, this topic has been gaining the attention of government entities.  For example, states around the Chesapeake Bay were the first to develop very comprehensive nutrient

A roll of drain tile to drain water from the field into the drainage ditch and onto the creek or river.

management regulations for even the smallest of farms[iv].  Terms like Point Source and Nonpoint Source were developed to help those involved in water quality management to categorize what actions, corrective and punitive, to take when situations are to be addressed.  The process has been long but is now coming to some very real conclusions at the local, state[v] and federal levels[vi].

That was then.  What about tomorrow?

Tomorrow and its demands are just a day away.  Municipal water quality and WOTUS

Runoff water  bound a local stream

issues have come into the spotlight and will now always be discussed.  They may not take center stage, but they will be issues none the less.  Technology will be our aid in helping us mitigate existing issues and help show us causes and effects so we can develop more sustainable corrective action plans.  Let’s not think that a Des Moines situation won’t happen again.  It can and we need to act as if it will.  In other words, how can we reduce nitrate levels in yet to be determined Point Source areas?  It is a real goal that deserves our attention.  They are measurable, and technology will soon make it easier to monitor the actual Thanks to technology, Nonpoint becomes Point Source quickly.  We must make it a priority to prevent another Des Moines from occurring.

The challenge has been laid down for thoughtful nutrient management decision making.  By utilizing time-proven stewardship wisdom and utilizing technologies that help us better understand our environment so we can plan now to prevent the problems of tomorrow.  Find out where your water comes from by going to this Nature Conservancy site.

[i] http://www.croplife.com/management/stewardship/ohio-water-at-the-tipping-point/

[ii] http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2017/01/27/water-works-ruling-what-you-need-know/97138256/

[iii] https://www.calt.iastate.edu/article/des-moines-water-works-litigation-resources

[iv] http://mda.maryland.gov/resource_conservation/Pages/farmer_information.aspx

[v] http://mn.gov/gov-stat/pdf/2017_01_24_FINAL_Clean_Water_Fact_Sheet.pdf

[vi] http://www.environmentalintegrity.org/news_reports/documents/EIP-TheCWAandtheChesapeakeDec20122_000.pdf

Fully Separate but Fully United(hopefully)

When politics steps into the arena of farming and food, things can become tense.  Politics CanadaUSAis built on negotiations.  We are in the season of nationalism on a world level.  Farmers deal in a world that moves with the seasons of nature, not political elections and national sentiment. The natural resources of land, timber, and mineral deposits were formed long before any nation staked a claim to it.  The local and regional soil types and climates allow for a native diversity of animals and crops adapted to the area.

I know I am making what seems to be a complicated issue simple, perhaps too simple. But, I do know this:  farmers and some of those who supply them deal in cycles and systems that are still as old as life itself.  They deal in the planting of trees, crops, sunshine, rain, hailstorms, and floods.  They deal in the birth of calves, pigs, lambs, and a host of other animals. They are fisherman and oysterman, people who work with the tides and streams; waters that were put in motion long ago.  These are systems that will outlive them and their children’s’ children.  Yet, their actions today will have post humus effects for generations to come.

A Hundred Year Management Plan

The same principles apply for those who deal in minerals and forestry.  A potash mine can’t simply up and move when trade policies would make it beneficial to do so.  Farmers around the world need access to potassium sources for increasing and maintaining crop yields.  Foresters deal in management plans that take a century to play out.  These forest assets produce some of the cleanest water are inseparably linked to and fisheries.  When was the last time your company did a 100-year asset management plan?  Supplier consolidation is driven in part because of the economic uncertainty that exists as governments work on agendas that have abbreviated timelines or engage strong diplomacy as we are currently involved in.  Suppliers consolidate and thereby spread their risk across national boundaries, farmers rarely have such an option.   However, in the process of national and international wrangling, long horizon assets like farming, minerals, and forestry can become swept up and forced into difficult positions.  It is in no continents best interests to see such assets distorted as it directly affects the farmers that each nation tries to protect.

The situation at hand is that the fertilizer industry and the farmers of the United States find themselves in the same dilemma.  For the farmers of America, we want to see our biggest export customers remain open to us.  Canadian fertilizer producers surely desire the exact same thing in return as the United States is their largest customer.  In 2013, Canadian manufacturers supplied America with 85% of its potash needs.  It would be a sorry state of affairs for neighbors to disrupt such a delicate system.   Meanwhile, the countries of Brazil and Argentina are seeing to it that they become a competitive supplier of corn and soybeans around the world, including to our neighbor to the south, Mexico.  These world class competitors push already revenue reduced crops into an even more tricky situation.  Without in injection of different crop rotations to spread out revenue risk, farm numbers will continue to decrease at a national level.

The Starvation of Farming

The farmers of the United States are looking for value.  In terms of 2009

farms, farming, USA

While 40% of the world population is involved in farming, less than 1% farm in the USA.

dollars, current estimates on net farm income are on par with incomes of 1939, 1980, and 2000.  Even with strong exports, profit will be thin to non-existent for corn and soybean growers.  Federal program payments in the form of Direct Farm Program Payments are forecasted to make up 19% of net farm income for 2016.  The upcoming potential resetting of the farm economy in the United States will garner a lot of attention from a citizenry that chose to walk away from farming as a way of life long ago.  However, we still expect cheap food.  Hence, a Free Market style of farming has evolved as compared to the Supply Management System for Canadian farming.

According to Progressive Dairyman, the United States has lost 33,000 family dairy farms (44.5%) in the past 15 years alone while the average herd size has increased by 181%. Today, United States dairy farmers milk 9.3 million cows.  In 2002, with almost twice as many herds, they milked 9.1 million cows.  Meanwhile, our harvests rely more and more on the efforts of migrant workers with over 1 million of these hard working people being undocumented according to a recently published report from Johns Hopkins University.  Meanwhile, Canada has a larger ag employee base than the United States while having seven times less farm land.  We can cry “unfair” regarding Canada’s policies on milk, eggs, and poultry, but in the process, they do protect their farming heritage so that consolidation perhaps does not progress at such a rapid pace.  It’s a delicate balancing act.  Short term results or long term stability?

Given that food and farming are mostly global, very powerful forces like the currency exchange and weather events can quickly alter the supply and demand for wheat, corn, meat, and dairy products.  These are issues that rise far above the issues between neighbors that are otherwise very good to each other.  Farmers would share with neighboring farmers when disaster hit.  Who knows, one day one country’s excess wheat could help the neighbors next door.  Candidly, the farmers and those who support them have seen such things coming for a while.  We just keep quiet and do our jobs.  We tend to be a quiet, driven bunch of folks.

The Consolidation Response of an Industry

The fertilizer industry and the retailers who supply the farmer have seen consolidation as rapid as the farmers they serve.  Driven largely by the commoditization of a world market and the desire of nations for food stability, the value is often found not in the eye of the buyer but in the increase in volumes by consolidating while driving down costs of production to be more competitive.  In this philosophy, there is not a better way.  We just continue doing what we currently do even better, even cheaper.  This assumes one very crucial thing.  It assumes we know all there is to know about farming and how land, crops, and animals interact.  There is no more truth to be found about this complex system and how we can better manage it.  However, this is far from the truth.  In reality, we still have much to learn in how such a large, powerful and yet delicate living system interacts.  Those discoveries continue to be made every month.

So, What?

You may say, “What does this have to do with trade policy?” It has much to do with trade policy.  There comes a point when old policies cannot continue to be supported in a long-term manner.  Monocropping, soil degradation, loss of organic matter, and increased water pollution are all parts of a business stress that farmers can not economically afford to carry.  Des Moines, Lake Erie, and others are just the initial water quality collision points between potable water for large population centers and farming.  It’s the ecosystem’s way of saying we cannot support this for much longer.  Maybe I will be dead before the full effects are felt.  But like I said, what farmers do today have post humus effects that last long past their children’s children lives.

In today’s world political climate and high tensions, I would think that we who live on this continent should do our best to work together to reduce the demands to and allow those who are feeding us to figure out how to best interact with the land, make a decent living, build diversity and feed us in the process, all during good times and bad. The process is slow, it is thoughtful, it is painful.  Sure, we will always need to compete for exports.  Let’s just not fight ourselves in the process.  While a zero-sum gain for North America, it is a non-zero-sum gain that our stewards of natural resources cannot afford to pay.

Nourishment and Comradery

The fertilizer and lime application season is here and planters will roll soon.  Many larger customers will pull out the first 24-row planter and get going and once the ground gets fit the second one will start rolling.  Your fertilizer bins are full and equipment is in good repair.  Let’s not forget to keep our staff and ourselves in good repair.

Tender Truck Treasure

A warm sandwich and a 30-minute break for the field crew

 

The key to any team consistently winning is being able to repeat the winning tasks play after play, game after game.  They don’t do it with fatigued team members.  Good sleep and a solid diet go a long way to promoting safety and satisfied customers!

I know we all know that but I also know we in the industry can get slammed with weather events and situations beyond our control and just like winning teams we will learn to try and overcome with our best plans on how to adapt.  Just make sure it includes you and your teammates being able to get the sleep and nourishment needed to be safe and productive.

A small grill with the tender truck?  Sound too extravagant?  Perhaps, or perhaps not.  If your tender unit sits for an hour at a time waiting to feed the applicator, maybe it’s not such a far-fetched idea.  If your’s is more of fast drop and go style, what about a grill at

Nourishment and Comradery

Centralize your warm sandwich cooking at the facility

the facility cooking food served on a stiff fiber plate wrapped in heavy tin foil to go out with the next truck?  I know it’s an “all hands on deck” time of year.  As one who has been there, I know it’s important to execute, and I also know it can’t be done week after week without taking care of the business of taking care of our bodies.

 

See if you can’t budget the money for some food, supplies, and someone to cook on the grill from 10:30 to 1:30.  Sound like a waste of payroll?  Perhaps it is for your business.  I just know that in my experience, showing your concern and promoting time to eat, (and offering it none the less), can go a long way to helping keep morale high and stomachs full when the long weeks start adding up.

Have a safe spring season!

The Best Investment You Can Make

The rush of the planting season is quickly upon us.  Some of us will ship up to 70% of our fertilizer tons during these 8 to 10 weeks.   Once the planting season is over, the post-spray period and side dress season will soon follow.  Once again, many fields will be serviced and work performed.

How does all get done?

By pick up, ten-wheeler, tractor trailer, nurse wagons, and field machines.  All used one day at a time.  Yesterday’s stellar pre-trip inspection will not make skipping today’s an option.

Make sure to check your equipment before you go over the road.  It will be the best 15

My favorite Dealer's Rep

minutes you will spend all day.  Not only is it a federal law, but in those minutes, you may very well notice the soft tire or the cracked rim.  You may see the dripping coolant leak or spot the faulty left-hand turn signal light.  That one detail could mean the difference between being stranded in a field or alongside a road,  Worse still, failing to catch and correct such things could cause the death of someone who didn’t think you were turning across traffic because they did not see your signal light because it was out.

A solid preventative maintenance program including and a certified mechanic on staff or a very good relationship with a local certified mechanic will go a long way to eliminate these surprises and keep your equipment legal in the eyes of the law before you even get to crunch time.  However, breakdowns in will still occur.  Do your part to prevent a breakdown from turning into an accident.  Being a professional is as much about taking care of things before putting the rig in “drive” as it is while you drive.

Have a safe spring rush!

https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/Final%20Rule_DVIR_2_0_09-12-14.pdf

https://www.jjkeller.com/shop/Product/Detailed-Drivers-Vehicle-Inspection-Report-2-Ply-Carbonless-w-Blue-Ink-Stock

https://www.slideshare.net/CliffLove1/dvir-example