Kansas farmers can teach Mike Bloomberg a thing or two about farming, but it would require a little humility on Mike’s part.
We know what the New York Democratic presidential thought of farmers when he addressed an international audience at Oxford University a couple years ago: “I could teach anybody, even people in this room. no offense intended, to be a farmer. It’s a process. You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn. Now comes the information economy, and the information economy is fundamentally different because it’s built around replacing people with technology.”
Bloomberg added: “That is a whole degree level different. You have to have a lot more gray matter.”
“No offense intended,” indeed, but candidate Bloomberg, you might update your derisive 19th-century understanding of farming if you took the time to travel through flyover country.
Yes, it would require you to cross the Hudson, but make sure to stop before you get to L.A.
A typical 21st century Kansas farmer understands agronomy and the complex chemistry of the soil biome; plant and animal genetics; veterinary medicine and the consequences of disease and pathogens in animals and plants; hydrology and meteorology, and careful stewardship of shared air and water resources.
Farmers must understand what was only recently, military-grade global-positioning-satellite systems; software and cybersecurity mandates that protect not just multi-million-dollar pieces of equipment, but no less than our nation’s food security.
Today’s farmers aren’t intimidated by Wall Street. To survive and prosper, they understand complex finance decisions, when to lease vs. buy and the term structure of interest rates. They understand insurance and even mind-numbing commodity futures and put, call and straddle tools familiar to global commodity options traders.
They understand logistics and the politics of global trade.
Not least among the requisite skillset, a farmer must skillfully navigate the panoply of three- and four-letter federal agencies, each staffed with its legion of bureaucrats wielding often conflicting regulations.
We agree with Bloomberg on one thing, “The information economy is fundamentally different because it’s built around replacing people with technology.”
The agility of farmers living comfortably and skillfully in the information age is precisely why it takes just a fraction of their forebearers for today’s farmers to produce enough for a nation and a world many times as populous.
The “lot more gray matter” is what, according to Purdue University, farmers and their ag tech industry partners have used to elevate average corn yields from about 30 bushels per acre the year Bloomberg was born, to about 175 bushels, today.
“Up comes the corn,” indeed.