The Planted Row: Investing in local food and news

Stan Wise

by Stan Wise
Farm Forum Editor

One of the most difficult challenges a beginning farmer encounters is finding access to land. It’s certainly a big hurdle here on the wide open Northern Plains.

As you might imagine, it’s also a problem other parts of the country, especially the tiny, densely populated state of Rhode Island. A recent NPR article said the state has the most expensive farmland in the country. The article quotes farmer Ben Torpey who has an eloquent way of describing why the price of land is so high in the state: “What I see as enough land to grow food for 130 families, a developer would see as enough land to build eight McMansions.”

To support farmers, Rhode Island has initiated a new program in which the state buys farms at market value and sells them to farmers at roughly 20 percent of that price. There’s a catch, of course. The state retains the development rights for the land, meaning the farm must stay a farm. It can’t be broken up into house lots.

If you ask me, that program is an impressive investment in local food. It makes me wonder how feasible it might be here. Certainly, the larger acreages in crops and cattle would make the price prohibitively expensive, but farms growing fruits and vegetables for locals and restaurants are much smaller. If we decide to get serious about growing the field-to-fork movement, a program like Rhode Island’s might be a way to help the much smaller produce farms compete with larger crop farms for access to land.

Tariffs: It’s not just soybeans

By now, we’re all aware of the effect new tariffs are having on prices for ag commodities. However, agriculture is not the only affected industry.

A new tariff on Canadian newsprint — the paper on which the news is printed — threatens to swamp the newspaper business. This tariff will drastically increase our production costs and threatening thousands of jobs across the country. 

The consequences to the Farm Forum are becoming very real very fast. If you enjoy this newspaper, I encourage you to make your voice heard. Below is a note from J.J. Perry, the American News and Farm Forum executive editor, about the newsprint tariff and what you can do to help.

Help STOPP newsprint tariffs

By J.J. Perry, American News and Farm Forum Executive Editor

A petition against newsprint tariffs has been created at www.stopnewsprinttariffs.org. The “Sign our petition” page will forward, with your name, a letter to Rhonda K. Schmidtlein, chairwoman of the International Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. 

“STOPP” stands for Stop Tariffs on Printers and Publishers, a new coalition against the newsprint tariffs. The South Dakota Newspaper Association, of which the American News and Farm Forum are members, is one of more than 70 associations and businesses that have joined the STOPP coalition.

Just for background, here is how STOPP explains the tariffs:

“A single paper supplier, NORPAC, alleges that Canadian imports of uncoated groundwood paper … are being subsidized or shipments are being dumped into the United States. NORPAC has asked for duties that range up to 50 percent on the purchase price of Canadian paper.”

The newsprint used to publish the American News and the Green Sheet comes from a paper supplier in Canada. These tariffs could measurably change those two products — and more. In fact, the green paper used for the Farm Forum is considerably more expensive to purchase than the plain white; the tariffs will hit this product hard.

We have already seen increased prices, with more to come. We expect newsprint price increases of around 40 percent over the prior year, with tariffs driving most of the increase.

If you have a chance, please consider signing the petition at www.stopnewsprinttariffs.org/join-the-fight-to-protect-u-s-jobs.