I started the month with a quick trip north for the Minnesota Farmfest. I had a great time as I walked the rows of shiny new machinery. Farm shows are where hopes are born, only to be dashed by a quick perusal of the checkbook upon the return home. Not only that, but my life and financial partner has a much more realistic approach than I do to that granite shore where the waves of want crash against the rocks of what we actually need. What the heck. It’s fun to dream, and farm shows bring back some great memories. Including the farm show memorialized in one of our photo albums, the show we attended in 1983. As I look through the photos, I realize how much bigger machinery is now than it was three decades ago. I’ve grown (out) in the last three decades as well. One noticeable change in farm shows: no music acts with Nashville stars advertising seed corn. I still remember the “Nudie Suit,” a pink leisure suit with gold bling, which Whisperin’ Bill Anderson wore in central Iowa in 1983.
This show is in southern Minnesota, almost directly north of my home. We’ve had a terrible year here, with entirely too much rain. For the first 40 miles I traveled, the crops look much the same as they do at home 10 miles south of the Iowa line in Northwest Missouri: nitrogen deficiencies on the side hills, bottom ground flooded out, and weedy and late beans. Then, for 300 miles, some of the most beautiful crops I’ve ever seen. There’s been much comment about the latest crop report and Missouri has 1.6 million acres that didn’t get planted, but there are some outstanding crops in at least part of the Midwest.
I returned home just in time for fair season. The local fair, where my grandson shows pigs, and the Missouri State Fair, where I spent four days. Aaron placed second in one class, which is a vast improvement over the last three years. I guess Aaron has spent his early years in the show ring building character, but it was nice to see him have some success. Julie and I showed up for the premium auction, which went better than last year. I bought a goat a year ago, and my granddaughter was very excited, until her mother explained that we wouldn’t be bringing the goat home. I’m always gratified to see the generosity of my neighbors, as they reward junior farmers for a summer of hard work. My grandson has a practical outlook on the whole affair, and is always ready to enjoy the fruits of his labor as bacon on the plate. My daughter reports that this caused some consternation when she attended a recent gathering of health professionals, many of them vegans, who were offended that Aaron had named one of his pigs Pork Chop.
Then came the state fair, which attracts both eccentrics and politicians, with the two groups sharing many members. I came home with a couple of great stories. Only one of which will pass editorial muster. A ten year old boy, the son of a friend of mine, remarked to his father that it was the first time he’d seen someone with both orthodontic braces and a tattoo. I’m absolutely convinced that we could have a hit reality show called the People of the Missouri State Fair. And that’s without Donald Trump, who was at the Iowa State Fair, while Missouri was blessedly free of presidential candidates.
We spent legislative day at the fair talking about the Waters of the U.S. Come to think of it, that’s what we talked about last year. Fairs are all about tradition, from butter cows to cotton candy to Ferris wheels, but this is one tradition I could do without. The Waters of the U.S. rule (WOTUS) went into effect August 28th, except in 12 Midwestern States, including Missouri, which benefitted from a last minute injunction.
We had just received maps of Missouri, showing how the changes in the rule will affect our state. I had asked the map makers, a well-respected consulting firm, to make a map of our home place covering the farm where I grew up. The map starts out by highlighting the present rule, then overlays the various new aspects of the rule. All of our farm is now under WOTUS jurisdiction. It’s a sobering thought to realize that our ability to farm is now at the mercy of a series of ill-defined exceptions to the rule. A video can be seen here: https://youtu.be/Sn8ig9dPcag
It is a good bet that the EPA will not move quickly to enforce the rule, as the smart political play is for the agency to keep its head down until the present political furor passes. Political issues come and go, elections happen every even numbered year, but the patience and time span of the average bureaucracy is for all practical purposes infinite.
My family is preparing for harvest; the early mornings are cool and wet, the evenings have just the hint of fall. It won’t be long until the combines roll and all the questions about this year’s harvest will be answered. The crop will be short here in Northwest Missouri and prices are disappointing. But as August winds down and the days grow shorter, I’m like most farmers, looking forward to our favorite time of the year. The combine is the perfect place to put temporary problems on hold while we engage in the timeless rhythms of harvest. It’s the best time of year for a farmer, and long harvest days remind me of why I’m so lucky to do what I do.
About the author: Blake Hurst is a third-generation farmer and president of the Missouri Farm Bureau board of directors.
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