With ag prices in the dumpster, it’s easy to become discouraged about what’s happening on America’s farms. But if you awoke in Indianapolis after a 5-year nap, you wouldn’t have known prices were down. That’s what we saw from 890 attendees from six countries at our 2019 National No-Tillage Conference in Indianapolis.
Over 4 days and hundreds of conversations, our No-Till Farmer staff didn’t hear a single word of “woe is me” or witnessed any group pity parties. Despite the free-fall in commodity pricing and growing concerns over ag tariffs, this group of no-tillers are among the most positive thinkers I’ve ever seen. Other farmers and suppliers say this attitude is unique — compared to the “gloom and doom” attitude that floods the thinking of growers at many farm shows.
Focusing their efforts and attention on what’s in their control, these no-tillers were seeking new ways to boost yields and trim costs while protecting soil and the environment.
As data in the chart at the lower left demonstrates, no-tillers understand the huge dollar benefits available from shifting to less tillage. Dick Wittman, a veteran no-tiller and financial analyst from Lewiston, Idaho, explained how no-tillers earn a 19% higher return on equity vs. growers using intensive tillage. (Note: Share this data with lenders, landowners and suppliers who aren’t sold on no-till.)
I’ve been covering no-till for 47 years and the positive thinking from the hundreds of innovative no-tillers at our conference really made an impression after another tough year for ag. It also was recognized by the staffs of the 14 suppliers who co-sponsored this event. Several remarked on how it’s a breath of fresh air to be part of an event where attendees are so positive about American agriculture.
One supplier shared how more than a dozen no-tillers took time to thank him for being a conference co-sponsor. That’s something he’d never seen at any other farm event, and speaks volumes about an audience so eager to learn from the top minds in the industry.
Cover Crops, Planting Green
For me, there were two major conference surprises. When we asked attendees in a general session to stand that were already using cover crops, it looked like better than 90% were already cover cropping some acres.
The other surprise was when a speaker asked for a show of hands among attendees as to who were “planting green” into cover crops. It appeared to me that 40% were already doing so.
The surprise wasn’t that attendees had adapted these techniques. Instead, it was the large percentage of no-tillers already on board and blazing new ground with these money-making concepts.
Not only are no-tillers among the biggest innovators in all of ag, but they’re among the most positive folks you’ll find anywhere. Our hats are off to the contagious “can-do attitude” of no-tillers who continue to make profit-building changes — even in tough times — while still moving their farming operations forward.