MANKATO — Financial challenges compounded by a sense of over-regulation provides added stress to farmers, said a group of young producers.
“We all try to practice good stewardship. Some regulations just don’t make sense. The regulations compound on top of regulations,” said Cody Toothaker, who’s involved in a family hog operation near Fairmont.
He, along with Matt Greenough, who farms near Lake Crystal and Nathan Collins, a farmer from Murdock, spoke at a Linder Farm Network ag meeting on Jan. 10 in Mankato.
“The big thing for us has been the buffers,” Greenough said.
The state a few years ago required vegetative buffer strips along all drainage ditches and other waterways with the aim of reducing the runoff of sediment and chemicals. Greenough said that in many cases land slopes away from the top of ditch banks, preventing runoff into the ditch without a need for a buffer.
Collins thinks regulations will keep coming if farmers don’t better unite. “We’re going to keep getting regulations until we farmers all go to the Capitol and D.C. and say, ‘We know what’s best for our land, because we’ve been doing it for five generations.’”
Asked by moderator Lynn Ketelsen what their biggest challenge is, Greenough said: “Trying to make a profit. Looking at ways to be a lower-cost operation.”
Toothaker said finding help for their labor-intensive swine operation is a growing problem. “Finding laborers has been a big issue for us.”
He said farm families in the area have fewer kids, which reduces the number of potential employees and all businesses are scrambling to find workers.
“We’re doing more advertising. We try to find local but we’re looking at migrant help, too.”
Collins said their operation has been turning to more incentives to find long-term help, including equity stakes.
The trio said technology — from self-driving tractors to GPS systems that provide myriad information on every square foot of a field — can be a boost to efficiency and better profits. But they said it’s hard to keep up with the barrage of new tech and which things are really useful.
“We’ve come to the point where it really needs to make us a profit,” Collins said. “You have to look at return on investment because there’s so much stuff available.”
The Linder Network holds the Ag Outlook meetings at a few Minnesota communities each year. Ag marketing and commodity experts also spoke at the event.