The value of ag and energy partnerships
No doubt 2022 has been a year full of challenges, frustrations, severe drought conditions, and what seem to be never ending costs. Never, in the history of our farm, has our overall crop production been so low and our expenses been so high. In today’s world, agriculture producers find themselves at an unfair disadvantage. When the price of inputs, including repairs, labor, equipment, utilities, fuel, and transportation are on the rise, ag producers have no choice but to figure out how to absorb those costs. While the commodities we produce are held hostage by the markets, there is also nowhere we can pass along these increasing expenses. All these rising costs catch momentum as they travel downhill, and America’s farmers and ranchers are at the bottom of that hill as we brace ourselves for their full impact.
We’ve all heard the saying that “a country that cannot feed itself, cannot secure itself.” But what does that actually mean? In short, it means the more we depend on other countries to produce the things we can produce in this country, the more vulnerable we become to relying on other countries to provide us with what might arguably be the most important thing any of us do on a daily basis: eat. If we don’t have a reliable, plentiful, and safe food supply, we are ALL in trouble.
It’s easy to take for granted when we go to the grocery store or visit our favorite restaurant, that the food we want is readily available, safe and affordable. But I think there are very few of us who stop to think about all the factors at play to make possible this seemingly endless supply of food. Let me explain.
A farmer begins with the land. Next, he uses a tractor to pull an implement that tills the soil, followed by a different implement to level the soil before planting. Next, after ordering and receiving the seed, grown by a seed dealer who uses the same process to produce the seed, he plants it in the ground with a targeted plant population and specific depth in the soil. He then uses either chemical or mechanical cultivation to control weeds in the field. Finally, he uses a machine designed specifically to harvest the crop. He then dumps the crop into a trailer, pulled by a semi-truck, which then transports it to either a grain elevator or on-farm storage, where the grain needs to be kept at a specific temperature and moisture content before being shipped to a miller or processor. All this goes without even mentioning the resources spent to create and maintain the science, consistency, and production of food products we see on the shelves. The customer is still many steps away at this point, but you get the picture. Each part of the process requires significant capital, management of resources, time, fuel and repair expenses.
So why does all this matter? It matters because farmers cannot produce food without the help of many different industries. Many modern machines are so technologically advanced (thanks largely to emission regulations), their repair requires highly skilled technicians. Every part on every machine in the entire food chain eventually wears out or breaks and needs replacing. Through the cooperation of many different manufacturers from across the country, these parts are built and shipped, and done so in a manner that does not interrupt the flow of food products to the consumer. That, in itself, is quite remarkable.
The overlaying message to all of this is that the energy industry is the foundation that keeps all these parts moving harmoniously. Energy, despite its horrific label in today’s political climate, is perhaps the single biggest reason American farmers and food processors can produce the safest and most abundant food supply in the world. From the manufacture of parts to their shipping; from parts like belts and tires that are a byproduct of the energy industry to the technicians that arrive at the farm to diagnose problems; from the production of grain and cattle to the transportation of those commodities; from the equipment used to process grains to converting them to food products we enjoy, the energy industry is the backbone that allows for this seamless process to continually feed America and the world.
But what does the public and Washington bureaucrats see? Dirty oil rigs, greasy workers, pollution and carbon emissions, of course! To be reasonable, I think we can all agree that we can always do better. That’s what American innovation has always been about. I’m not against, nor have I ever met anyone who is against, clean energy. We should constantly strive to learn and improve in nearly everything we do. But at what point do we declare that government regulation is often much more of a problem than it is a solution? I am not arguing against all regulation, just merely over-regulation. Washington continues to try to legislate nearly every aspect of our lives. Don’t believe me? Look at every label on nearly everything. Do we really have to tell people they should remove their child from the baby stroller before they attempt to fold it?
On our farm, we burn tens of thousands of gallons of diesel fuel each year. This cost alone has nearly tripled in just one year, and we are left trying to figure out how to offset or absorb this inflationary cost. I’m sure Washington would tell me to buy an electric tractor. While that’s a nice thought, how can I justify that cost when profits are already nonexistent because of inflated costs across the board? Furthermore, what’s the solution when I’m 30 miles from the farm in the middle of the night when the battery needs charged? Or when my electric combine needs charged when I’m racing against a pending storm?
Through a series of extremely poor energy policies, the Biden administration is creating an environment that will produce dire consequences for American consumers, business owners and agriculture producers. Just as we should demand that the food we eat is produced on American soil, we must also demand that the energy we consume is produced in our own country. Not only does the United States contain some of the best farmland in the world, it also happens to contain some of the largest natural gas and oil reserves in the world. Utilizing these resources at home can do nothing but bolster our entire economy and strengthen our communities. When business and people thrive, the government is a direct beneficiary. It’s truly a win-win for everyone.
As American citizens, despite our political affiliation, we must not continue to allow this administration to further erode our way of life. It is critical that we nurture and promote calculated investments in domestic oil production by the federal government. Additionally, the cohesion and cooperation between the energy and agriculture sectors are essential to the survival of our communities and our economy in Wyoming and in this country. It is time we stand as a unified voice, and it is our responsibility as citizens to demand common sense policies that can benefit us all.
Rabou farms in southeastern Wyoming and writes a monthly column for the Wyoming Tribune Eagle that was recently picked up by the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. He can be reached at http://www.raboufarms.com.