To some, it might seem odd that the Future Farmers of America (FFA) would recognize and reward musical talent. After all, the 85-year-old organization’s stated mission is to “prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population.”
Yet the organization’s Career Development Events program does spotlight the musical endeavors of its members, as well as other pursuits. Besides awards for swine and goat production, dairy evaluation and tractor driving, the National FFA Organization honors members who excel at such activities as public speaking and crime prevention.
“Everybody stereotypes ag, thinking it’s just cows and plows. If you look at the industry, there are more jobs in the world not directly producing food but manufacturing it, hauling it or marketing,” says Marty Myers, a high school FFA sponsor. “Ag teaches leadership, not just farming and plowing. It tries to get them ready for real life.”
Real life includes finding a balance, and music has always been a part of many farmers’ recreational time. That’s why the FFA at the national and state level holds competitions to help develop and showcase talent and leadership skills.
In 2014, the National FFA Organization is offering $2.1 million in scholarships. AGCO is part of this effort. During the 2013-2014 FFA scholarship year, AGCO and nearly 50 local Challenger®, Massey Ferguson® and Gleaner® dealers will distribute a total of 100 scholarships in the amount of $1,000 each.
Valtra’s Unlimited Studio has created a pink tractor that is all about “passion”, which is this year’s theme among the Young Farmers of Finland, an organisation of MTK (Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners). The theme is reflected in both the interior and exterior styling of this customised tractor, which has been dubbed “Pink Cat”.
Options and features of the Pink Cat are designed together with Young Farmers representatives and Valtra Unlimited Studio. The tractor is a four-cylinder N163 Direct with stepless transmission. The specs include bright pink taping, red leather upholstery, chrome headlight surrounds, chrome exhaust, chrome mounting rack on the roof, chrome grill guard, alpine horns on the roof, LED auxiliary work lights, breath alcohol ignition interlock, a top-end stereo and DVD player, a stainless steel mirror on the ceiling of the cab, rim guards made out of chrome-plated sheet metal, iPad and an Auto-Guide readiness system. The tractor itself boasts 171 horsepower, 700 Nm of torque, a 50 km/h transmission and 160 litre per minute load-sensing hydraulics.
Pink Cat will appear at Young Farmers’ events throughout Finland, beginning at the Okra fair in Oripää on 4 July. The tractor will visit all Finnish provinces before returning to its roots in Central Finland at the KoneAgria fair on 11 October. Pink Cat will be accompanied at these events by a customised trailer featuring a hot tub and terrace. After the tour the tractor will be offered for sale to customers just like any other demo tractor.
Pink Cat features:
- Pink taping
- Red leather upholstery
- Chrome exhaust, headlight surrounds and grill guard
- Alpine horns and auxiliary lights on roof
- Breath alcohol ignition interlock
- Top-end stereo and DVD
- Stainless steel mirror and LED lamps on cab ceiling
- Auto-Guide readiness system
The European Commission launched its new Milk Market Observatory in April. In this month’s regular column from CEJA (European Council of Young Farmers), we asked President, Matteo Bartolini to outline what can be expected from this new body.
MF: What is the purpose of the Milk Market Observatory (MMO) and what is the background?
MB: It is designed to publicly provide data transparency, complemented by market analysis, short-term outlook reports and regular meetings of an economic board. This will strengthen the Commission’s capacity to monitor the dairy market and help the sector adapt to the new environment once the dairy quota system which has been in place for 30 years is abolished on 31 March 2015.
The Commissioner first initiated the idea for such an observatory at the Milk Conference in September 2013 which featured a number of CEJA young farmers. The conference brought together all stakeholders in the dairy supply chain – from dairy farmers to milk processors and retailers – to discuss the post-quota future of the sector.
MF: How important is the dairy sector in the EU?
MB: Milk is produced in every single EU Member State and, as a single product sector, it is valued at approximately 15% of all EU agricultural output. The EU is a major player in the world dairy market as the leading exporter of many dairy products, in particular, cheeses. For some Member States, it forms a crucial part of the agricultural economy. Total EU milk production was estimated at around 152 million tonnes in 2011 but this is expected to grow as global demand escalates and EU quotas are phased out. It is no secret that dairy quotas can be a contentious issue in Europe and so the only widely supported concrete suggestion of the Dairy Conference was that of the establishment of the Milk Market Observatory.
Evidence mounts that young people are returning to farming in many parts of Canada and the U.S. Can it last? Given demands on their time, slimmer margins, price of land and other obstacles, it’s little wonder young folks have for decades opted for non-farm careers.
That trend, however, has recently shown signs of reversing.
While the 2011 Canadian Census of Agriculture, the most recently released, showed a continued decades-long exodus of youth from farms, more recent anecdotal evidence points to an increase in the number of young producers. Extension agents, dealership staff, farmers and others describe seeing more men and women under the age of 40 at meetings, in their stores and on their farms.
“Lately,” says 26-year-old dairyman Gavin MacDonald of the region near his family’s community of Greenhill, Nova Scotia, “there has been an influx in young people that are really gung-ho to start farming or to continue farming, and that’s a really nice thing to see. I think [they] are interested in farming now because the technology is advancing in everything from milking cows to tractors they use, so it’s a lot different work than just manual labor. Even feed salesmen to tractor salesmen, they’re even getting younger too because there’s now a younger group of farmers.”
There’s now tangible evidence of the same trend in the U.S., albeit, as in Canada, the growth is mostly in the smaller farm sector. The most recent USDA Census of Agriculture—the 2012 edition, released in February—showed a 1.1% increase since 2007 in the number of producers younger than 35. A modest rise, but made all the more substantial when you consider that in 1982 young farmers less than 35 years old comprised 15.9% of the total. The most recent census shows the percentage of producers at just 5.7.
Perhaps these new census numbers and other evidence signal the exodus of young people from farming is abating. For more on the trend and Gavin MacDonalds’ dairy operation, see http://www.myfarmlife.com/crops/budding-trend-young-people-on-the-farm/.
What might the European parliamentary elections mean for farming? In this month’s regular column from CEJA (European Council of Young Farmers), Massey Ferguson speaks to President, Matteo Bartolini about the possible outcomes and finds out more about CEJA’s latest campaign to target the new parliament.
MF: The European elections are just around the corner (22-25 May). Can you tell us a little more about them and why they are important?
MB: If you are a citizen of the European Union, then you are eligible to vote for one of your MEP candidates. 751 MEPs will then be elected to represent you and your region in the European Parliament for the next five years. They will have the power to amend, approve or reject a majority of EU legislation. The number of MEPs is in fact decreasing this year from the current number of 766 to 751 (750 MEPs and a President). Although you may still think 750 is a high number, it is not a lot to represent over 500 million citizens! We are yet to get a clear idea of the anticipated results of the elections but it seems there may be a move to the right this time. Although this should not pose much of a risk to agricultural support, it may mean a more conservative approach to a number of upcoming free trade agreement negotiations between the EU and other regions which could have an impact on European farmers.
MF: The European Parliament is made up of a number of different Committees, which is the most relevant for CEJA?
MB: This is the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development (COMAGRI). COMAGRI’s current members have had a significant impact on the shape of the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and, therefore, can influence EU policy and decision-making which have a direct and important impact on European farmers. This is particularly the case since the structural changes to the EU decision-making processes made in 2009 which strengthened the Parliament’s powers, notably in agriculture.