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Smaller Farms Are Down, But Not Out

Gary Ellis

Gary Ellis

“The economics of the whole modern situation don’t really allow you to support yourself, strictly from a family farm,” says Gary Ellis, who raises about 50 head of cattle and some 500 bales of hay on about 200 acres of Tennessee farmland, pasture and wooded mountainside. But in an ironic turn that’s become the norm these days, it’s his “day job” as an electrical engineer that supports his work on the farm.

“We have gotten to where it’s really hard to support your family and maintain the farm … in terms of how much you can produce,” says Ellis. “So I’ve had to work full-time in order to maintain everything, including a standard of living.”

Ellis says he could sell the land “and make a little money off it,” or rent it out to custom farmers, but enjoys the work and is passionate about keeping a working farm in the family. “The No. 1 thing I want to do is to maintain the land the way it is and pass it on to my children.”

Then he pauses and says, “It’s getting to be kind of an odd thing to farm your own land, when it comes to these small to midsize farms. It’s getting to be a rarity.”

The latest census data from the U.S. and Canada backs up that assertion. In Canada, the number of farms earning less than $100,000 in gross receipts fell by about 12% from 2006 to 2011—that after a drop of 38% in the previous two decades. In the U.S., the actual number of farms in the 50- to 999-acre range fell by almost 56,000 from 2007 to 2012, a 4.7% decline.

For many smaller and middling operations, selling directly to consumers or joining co-ops has helped. Ellis has yet to work with a co-op or sell direct to consumers. Instead, he sells to a nearby stockyard. He says there’s currently not an applicable co-op in his area, but direct sales is something “I could move into, but I’m currently too busy for the added attention it requires.”

In something of a catch-22, he doesn’t have the time because of his off-farm job, which allows him to keep the farm. The long days are, however, worth the effort for Ellis, but for him it’s more than a hobby. It’s a business that provides a product, and small and midsize farms such as his offer additional capacity to feed the world.

“Parcels like these will never be incorporated into the big tracts,” Ellis continues. “So, unless the small guy farms them, the opportunity is lost and the land will go into forest or residential development. That is where the little guy … can really pick up the slack.”

For more on this story and to watch a video interview with Gary Ellis, see http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/smaller-farms-down-but-not-out/.

Massey Ferguson Delivers Further Enhancements to Harvest Support Service

Massey Ferguson, a worldwide brand of AGCO (NYSE: AGCO), has introduced the innovative Harvest Promise compensation scheme for operators of current production MF combines.

In the event of eligible MF combines being immobilised due to non-delivery of critical parts within 24 hours, the scheme compensates the customer should a contractor or replacement machine need to be hired to continue the harvest. Under the scheme, a refund of 35 Euros/ha will be made to the customer up to a maximum total of 3,500 Euros.

New Harvest Promise Compensation Scheme and Strategic Stocking Initiative Implemented

New Harvest Promise Compensation Scheme and Strategic Stocking Initiative Implemented

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Idaho Dealer Agri-Service Holds Series of Fall Tillage Days

Photo taken by Adam Hubbard, Marketing Manager Agri-Service, LLC

Photos taken by Adam Hubbard, Marketing Manager Agri-Service, LLC

While the skies above may look ominous in this picture, the tractors and equipment were in for a day of hard work ahead.  Several weeks ago in American Falls, Idaho, AGCO dealer Agri-Service, LLC had its first of a series of events called Fall Tillage days.  This is a chance for their customers and prospects get behind the wheel of our tractors and demonstrate them along with our tillage equipment.  “In attendance at this particular event were approximately 18 guests representing about 8 local farm operations,” said Adam Hubbard, Marketing Manager at Agri-Service.

Available to demo were a Challenger MT685 pulling a Sunflower 4511 Disc Chisel, a Challenger MT765 pulling a Sunflower 1436 Disc Harrow, and a Challenger MT865 pulling a Sunflower 4630 Disc Ripper.  Everyone in attendance was able to demonstrate each of these machines and Agri-Service salesmen as well as AGCO Product Specialists were on-hand to answer questions and point out key features of the equipment and highlight their benefits.  All were able to easily demonstrate the ability to till under the crop residue while leaving an impressive finish.

Tillage 1435 Shot

CH Low field shot

 As these machines were parked on a well-traveled road prior to the start of the day, there were some walk-ups inquiring about the impressive display including the static Gleaner Super Series S88 which was prominently showcased as well.

“We had positive feedback from all of the customers that attended.  All were able to operate the equipment and were impressed by the tractors as well as the performance of each tillage piece.  Some of them had used Sunflower [before] and some hadn’t,” stated Hubbard.   When asked if anything in particular stood out to the guests, Hubbard replied, “the SF 4630, the big disc ripper and it performed very well in addition to the incredible ability and performance of the MT865 tractor.”

Agri-Service has three more upcoming Fall Tillage events in October.  To learn more, click here.

What is the EU doing to support farmers – Q & A With CEJA

In this month’s regular column from CEJA (European Council of Young Farmers), President, Matteo Bartolini explains what the EU is doing to support farmers following the import ban by Russia on EU food products.

cejacolumn11MF: Can you provide some background on the Russian ban on EU food products?

MB: On 6 August 2014, the Kremlin published a decree announcing a Russian embargo on a number of agricultural imports in response to EU punitive sanctions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine. American, Norwegian, Canadian and Australian imports are faced with the same fate. Russia is the largest importer of EU agricultural produce with just under 10% of EU agri imports destined for the country. These imports were worth around €11 billion last year, half of which has now been banned by the Russians. The ban, which has been set for a year, will hit individual European farmers in particular, especially those who rely on export markets and who grow a small variety of produce. The ban will also hit Russian consumers with price hikes for certain products. The European Commission has been quick to try to support EU farmers with emergency measures. However, it is clear that funds available are simply not enough.

MF: What do these emergency measures include?

MB: The first measures outlined were to assist peach and nectarine producers and consisted of decreasing the volumes of fruit available on the market in an attempt to avoid plummeting prices.Extra funds are also being provided for promotion. Peach growers have been hit particularly hard. Indeed, such measures were already under discussion before the announcement of the Russian ban. The weather this year has contributed to an increase in supply but also a rapid advancement in maturity. This led to a much greater intensity of supply at the start of the season rather than a more even spread over the following weeks. Cooler and more humid conditions in June and July also slowed down consumption during this time. The budget for these measures is €29.7 million for withdrawals and €3 million for promotion, allocated to Italy, Spain, Greece and France on the basis of annual production.

For the full article, please click here
If you would like to get in touch with Mr. Bartolini or CEJA, email allusers@ceja.eu.

Shift Work: The Massey Ferguson Dyna-6 Transmission on the Farm

Ask Gavin MacDonald why he and his father, Donnie, purchased their Massey Ferguson® 6490 and he counts the reasons, literally.

Gavin MacDonald and his father, Donnie

Gavin MacDonald and his father, Donnie

Specifically, the number of times he would have to shift gears while driving to the field farthest from the barn in a comparably priced “green” tractor.

“Twenty-one shifts there and 21 back,” he says. “We figured that was a lot of shifting to do with a lot of clutch work when you’re spreading manure or something like that.” Because the MacDonalds’ MF6490 has a Dyna-6 transmission, “you set it and it shifts on itself,” Gavin continues.

“You basically drive it like an automatic [transmission] car,” adds Donnie. “It’ll go through its ranges … and gear down when it can. That’s great on fuel economy.”

The first Massey Ferguson tractor Donnie bought was almost 27 years ago and from Brock Proudfoot at Proudfoot Motors in nearby New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. “Since then,” says Donnie, who now owns five Massey Ferguson tractors and one combine, “we’ve been pretty well with him for everything that he can supply. We get great service … right through to the parts and service, and all the guys at the shop. We don’t have a lot of breakdowns, but we get good service when we do have them.”

Donnie and Gavin do, however, comparison shop. “You just don’t buy something because the color,” says Donnie. “Massey’s always been competitive.

“They’re also very durable,” he continues. “Like I say, some of the tractors have been here for quite a while.”

See the full story about the MacDonald operation, “Budding Trend: Young People on the Farm.”

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