When systems break, they are often analyzed for a solution. Eventually, they are repaired or fixed. Farmers are the world’s best problem solvers—but it seems as if the system is getting increasingly difficult to fix. Recently, the Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership hosted its second annual risk management conference focused on “solving the resiliency puzzle”. The conference brought together over 80 individuals that included farmers, experts, community members, and specialists dedicated to seeing conservation practices as a risk reduction tool for the farm and land.
Not only can implementing conservation practices buffer the farm against extreme weather conditions—they can increase profitability while meeting growing consumer demand. Farmers need more solutions like this. Dr. Gary Schnitkey, Professor, Ag and Consumer Economics, UIUC, discussed a recent report at the risk management conference from Precision Conservation Management titled “The Business Case for Conservation.” It is an in-depth cost-benefit analysis of conservation practices, and operator and land investment return. In general, lower tillage pass systems have a higher return rate value and yields on corn and soybeans in particular. What does this data mean for farmers? A possible solution out of many to fix broken systems.
Farmers know there is never one solution to fix all on the farm. It is a complicated system full of external and internal factors. The stress farmers are facing is becoming increasingly apparent—one such cause being the frequent extreme weather conditions. Luckily, there are many tools and resources that are available to directly help farmers in need. At the conference, farmers were guided to a host of mental health resources located on the ISAP website.
The system is complex—but there is a community of researchers and farmers that are dedicated to finding a vast array of solutions. What has always been used isn’t always the best answer—there are too many complex changes that make relying on the same practices and technology of past generations nearly impossible. The more that conservation is tied to risk management, the longer it will stay in place and with more success. Many panelists at the conference, including farm advisors and supply chain representatives, suggested small steps forward. The best solutions are for farmers to find a trustworthy mentor to discover and implement new solutions.
ISAP recognizes and applauds the good work our farmers are doing with conservation and soil health practices. As the nation is struggling with the issue of resiliency (on many fronts and levels), our farmers are working to solve their part of the puzzle. It is time for all of us to find solutions and fix what is broken.