Taking full advantage of a mid-June opportunity to educate New York City investment fund managers on American agriculture, three outstanding growers made an extremely strong case for the many benefits of no-tilling.
These no-tillers — Ken McCauley of White Cloud, Kan. — Marion Calmer of Alpha, Ill.; and — Dean Fehl from La Porte City, Iowa — demonstrated why no-tillers are definitely ahead of the general farm community when it comes to producing food. But they also shared their concerns with more than 60 top investment managers who see ag offering bright investment opportunities.
Even with many new developments in ag, the no-tillers indicated that they are worried about increasing input costs, changing weather patterns, yields, ethanol concerns and consumer myths about food.
Billed as “The Corn Belt Comes To Manhattan,” this daylong event featured nine growers and supplier speakers that explained the latest in ag to top investment fund managers in New York City. The event was co-sponsored by New York City-based Wall Street Access and Lessiter Publications, which produces No-Till Farmer, the Conservation Tillage Product Guide and the National No-Tillage Conference.
Charlie Rentschler, vice president and senior analyst for ag companies at Wall Street Access and an Indiana no-tiller, outlined what he believes is an ideal farming system. It includes no-till, genetically modified seeds, controlled traffic, automatic steering, longer rotations and cover crops.
McCauley, who has been no-tilling since 1982, manages 4,000 acres of corn and soybeans. The chairman of the National Corn Growers Association sees an extremely bright future for agriculture.
“We’re heading back to where agriculture was the mainstay of the country,” he told the audience. “Ag will have its ups and downs, but the future is bright for farmers.”
Despite what consumers think, McCauley told the investment managers that food prices have only risen about 3% due to increasing corn prices and demand. “Most of the food price increases have come from other areas,” he says. “We will have enough food in the future and people will be able to afford it.”
McCauley says total corn production will continue to expand mainly due to higher yields rather than increased acreage. Ethanol plants will become more efficient and shift over to cellulose as a replacement for major amounts of corn. More efficient uses of the by-products from ethanol refining will help trim livestock feeding costs.
Like many farmers, Fehl is concerned about increasing input costs. A long-term no-tiller who has invested extensively in GPS and autosteer, he applies nearly all corn fertilizer in the fall in strip-tilled berms to save dollars and to spread out the workload. He’s also been very successful in running no-till soybean rows at a 15-degree angle to the old corn rows.
Despite new developments in genetics, GPS and other areas, Calmer told the investment managers that many people are trying to make agriculture too complicated. He outlined several new practices he’s using that have had a big impact on both yields and profits.
“For instance, I sprayed all of my corn in 2007 with a fungicide and love it,” he says. “I would think it’s only a matter of time before everyone sprays most of their corn acres with fungicides. Besides controlling disease, it’s a great way to keep stalks from falling down and can help make harvesting much easier.”