“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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If you would like to get in touch with Mr. Bartolini or CEJA, email email@example.com.
Ask Gavin MacDonald why he and his father, Donnie, purchased their Massey Ferguson® 6490 and he counts the reasons, literally.
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.”
Farmers and contractors in the Wimmera region of Western Victoria, Australia have a new partner supporting their businesses.
Traction AG has been appointed as the AGCO Dealer for the export focussed broad acre district that produces cereal, pulse and oilseed crops as well as some livestock.
New Dealer Principals Kym Grosser, Frank Delahunty and Peter Blair combine a vast range of expertise with backgrounds in engineering, machinery sales, business and farming. The Traction AG team have over 150 years of experience and are passionate about machinery that delivers performance, efficiency and productivity.
Celebrating the opening of the Horsham premises, 160 local farmers and contractors were invited to enjoy a social evening and meet with the Traction AG staff and AGCO representatives.
The event was a great opportunity for attendees to see the exciting AGCO range of products and speak with Traction AG staff and AGCO representatives about innovations and technology that can help them drive efficiencies in their farming operations.
AGCO Area Sales Manager West Victoria, Chris Browne was impressed with the increasing interest in efficient farming practices.
“It was great to see some new and familiar faces at the event and hear a lot of positive views on the increasing importance of technology and improved efficiencies in farming practices in the Wimmera region. There is a lot of enthusiasm for products that tick all the boxes in broad acre farming which is increasingly about economies of scale”, said Chris Browne,
Traction AG Business Manager Will de Fégely was keen to catch up with guests and also spoke of the increasing significance local farmers are giving to efficient farming systems
“It was a good opportunity for farmers to meet our staff and get a look at our new premises as well as the range of AGCO products. The region has increasing demand for technology that will drive down costs in broad acre farming. With our Horsham and Nhill branches, we are looking forward to meeting this demand for a complete product range that exceeds the expectations of customers and is backed up by reliable service support and a global parts network”, Will said.
Traction AG is set to open their Nhill branch in October during the Nhill Show. The team is looking forward to a bright future supporting the Wimmera farming community with products and service support that meet the demands of modern operators in the region.