Monday, April 14, 2014

Agricultural Leadership is Hard Work

During our Indiana Ag Leadership class trip to Liberia, West Africa recently, I saw something that has stuck with me since I arrived back in Indiana. At a United Nation's peacekeeping outpost in Ganta, Liberia--manned completely by Bangladeshi troops and engineers--I noticed a large saying hand painted on the side of a building. I could only make out a few words, but I wrote those down. When I returned to Indiana, I Googled the phrase to see what it said.  Here's what I found:
It is not enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Reduce Farm Liability: Set Up a New Company for Your Custom Farming Operation

Farm Journal's Sara Schafer recently consulted me for an article she wrote on how to "Reduce Liability" for the farm. Her article discusses the need to create new legal companies to handle certain farm operations that fall outside of normal farm-work, such as custom farming or trucking.  Her article appeared in Top Producer and AgWeb, Farm Journal's online publication:
Custom farm work is a great way to diversify a business. It can provide supplemental income but can also add extra risk and exposure to your primary farm.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Indiana Ag Leadership Program Wrap Up

The previous five posts chronicled my journey with the Indiana Agricultural Leadership program to The Netherlands, Belgium, and Liberia. From an agricultural standpoint, the contrast between northern Europe and West Africa could not be more extreme.  Northern Europe has highly developed agricultural systems; West Africa's agriculture is rudimentary by comparison. Now that the trip is a few weeks behind me, I thought it worthwhile to provide some big picture deductions after observing these two different places in our world.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Challenges Facing Liberian Agriculture

The last leg of our Indiana Ag Leadership class was to Liberia, West Africa. What we saw was dramatically different than the highly structured and sophisticated agricultural systems of Northern Europe.  Liberian agriculture struggles in every area where EU agriculture thrives.  The root causes are many.  After a week traveling across the country, I am no expert in Liberian agriculture, but I hope these observations are enlightening to those who may never get to travel to Liberia or similar places.  My analysis below means no disrespect to the Liberian people, most of whom work hard each day just to obtain food and water.  The people I met were very friendly and welcomed US visitors with open arms.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The European Union's Common Agricultural Policy

Our Indiana Ag Leadership trip to northern Europe included a visit to the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium. The European Commission is the executive branch of the European Union (EU). One of the main topics of discussion was the Common Agricultural Policy, or "CAP," the EU's version of the US Farm Bill.  The CAP has been an essential part of EU policy for decades and, like the Farm Bill, periodically undergoes reform.  The post explains some of the differences and similarities between the CAP and most recent Farm Bill.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The European Union's Reluctance to Embrace GMOs

One of the questions that was frequently asked by our Indiana Ag Leadership class in Europe was why the European Union (EU) has not embraced genetically modified organisms (GMOs) like farmers in the US.  The answers were very interesting.

A fact I did not know prior to our recent trip is that many EU countries do allow importation of GMO corn and soybeans from the US.  Such products are used as animal feed, even though the same products could not be sold on the shelves for direct human consumption (unless the proper labeling was attached). Thus, milk on the grocery store shelves in EU member states may have come from cows fed GMO corn.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Three Agricultural Lessons from The Netherlands

The Netherlands is a country roughly the size of New Jersey yet is the second largest agricultural exporter in the world behind only the USA. That statistic is made even more remarkable when one considers that The Netherlands has over 17 million people and much of the country is below sea level. Our Indiana Agricultural Leadership class recently toured parts of The Netherlands to examine how the country maintains such productivity.  Here are my top three observations:

Friday, February 21, 2014

Indiana Ag Leaders to Visit Dutch Farms, European Union and West Africa

I am fortunate to be part of the Indiana Agricultural Leadership Program (or AgrIInstutitue).  In the next few weeks, our class will be travelling to The Netherlands, Belgium, and Liberia, West Africa.  While in The Netherlands we will tour a dairy farm, the flower market, The Hague, and one of the world's largest ports, Rotterdam.  Our Belgium visit will take us to the European Union (EU), where we will meet with world ag leaders.  Our stop in Africa will be in the country of Liberia, on the central western coast.  We will work with organizations teaching and developing agriculture in that country.

Our trip was recently written about in The Liberian Observer, the newspaper of the capital city of Monrovia.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Understanding Indiana's Farm Trespass Bill

The past two years farm issues in the Indiana legislature have been dominated by so-called “ag-gag" bills. These bills sought to stop undercover videotaping and photographing, activities used by undercover groups to expose what they believe are abusive practices.  This year’s farm trespass bill takes a different approach, and as a result, it lacks the “gag” component that many found offensive in prior legislation.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

What Agriculture Can Learn from McDonald's

Today I had the privilege of hearing Don Thompson, CEO of McDonald's Corporation, speak to a room full of farmers, agribusiness professionals, politicians, and students about the connections between McDonald's and agriculture.  Some of Mr. Thompson's messages really resonated with me, so I thought I would share them here.

According to Mr. Thompson, McDonald's sees three consumer trends that drive how McDonald's evolves:  (1) transparency, (2) food quality, and (3) sustainability. Transparency explains why McDonald's posts nutritional information on all of its packaging.  It also explains why McDonald's started answering questions from consumers openly on its website:  Your Questions Answered.  For example, "Are Chicken McNuggets really made from the parts of chicken no one wants to eat?"

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

With the Promise of Drones Comes Legal Questions

Imagine a future where a rancher can use an autonomous drone to fly out to a pasture miles from the homestead to check on his herd. The drone reports back that the herd is accounted for except for one steer that is lying down alone, more than 1,000 feet from the herd, and appears to be sick. The drone sends GPS coordinates to the rancher, who then dispatches a ranch hand to the exact location of the sick animal. The drone’s surveillance ultimately saves the animal’s life.

Now imagine that a similar drone is used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fly over feedlots. The EPA drone spends its flying hours, not looking for sick or stray cattle, but instead looking for Clean Water Act violations. The drone flies over pens, counts cattle to make sure numbers do not exceed permitted amounts and checks for visual evidence of runoff from pens into nearby creeks or streams. If a problem is found, the drone takes pictures for evidence and alerts state or federal officials to come to the feedlot for an inspection.

As is often the case with new technology, beneficial uses are often accompanied by nefarious uses. The promise for drones raises a lot of legal questions about how drones will ultimately be used.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Five Legal Issues to Watch in 2014

What will be the hot topics in ag law for 2014? Here are some predictions for the coming year:

1. Clean Air Act Targets Farmers. Congress passed the Clean Air Act in 1970 to clean up the nation’s air. The low hanging fruit of air pollution—power plants, industrial factories, trucks and automobiles-- have been under scrutiny ever since. The EPA is looking for ways to further reduce air pollution in the US, and farms will be next. Large grain dryers (producing particulate matter) and anaerobic digesters (producing carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and methane) will be part of this new frontier for the Clean Air Act.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Year in Reverse: Janzen Ag Law Blog's Top Stories for 2013

2013 was an exciting year for agricultural law.   We saw the Supreme Court take on an Indiana soybean farmer, the CDC address raw milk sales, and Congress push the Farm Bill aside so that it could focus on the debt ceiling and Obamacare.  What were the three biggest stories on the Janzen Ag Law blog (based upon pageviews, comments, and email feedback)?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Local, State, and Federal Regulations Affecting Agriculture: Join me at the Indiana-Illinois Farm Equipment Show December 17, 2013

On December 17, 2014, I'll be attending the Indiana-Illinois Farm Equipment Show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. I'll be speaking on a panel at 11:00 a.m. moderated by Hoosier Ag Today on "The Business of Farming: taxes, accounting, regulations, and interest rates." The panel also includes:

Joshua T. Sickler, CPA, Sikich LLP
David A. McDaniel, CPA, Sikich LLP
Matt Monteiro, VP of Finance for Farm Credit Mid-America

Please stop by if you are attending the farm show. Hope to see you there.