Universities have been responsible for the mess many farmers and ranchers are in today. Recommending more inputs on top of more inputs is generally not a good idea. Having Monsanto pay for “research” is not a good idea if you are truly interested in helping people. Doing “research” and “studies” on small, isolated patches of ground or with low numbers of livestock is not similar to what farmers and ranchers experience in the real world.
You see there are two huge problems the universities have. The first problem is they employ people who don’t make a living from Agriculture. Why the hell should they be teaching people how to make a living in Agriculture if they don’t make a living from it? The best people to teach Agriculture are…. you guessed it, successful farmers and ranchers. Now, if the goal of the university is to create more professors for the university, then I think they are doing an outstanding job! The second problem is funding. Who funds the “research” that universities do? Monsanto, Bayer, ADM etc. Farmers do their own research and guess what, it’s free. Don’t you think the “results” derived from the “studies” might be in favor of these companies products?
You see, if some fancy pants university finds out that “X amount of some new chemical made by Monsanto reduces some parasite by 1300%!!!” farmers will be more prone to use that chemical. The extension agents who work with universities will also recommend these products to farmers. Additionally, the more chemicals you use, the more dependent you are on them, much like a drug. Therefore the universities and Monsanto need to invent an infinite amount of chemicals to control or reduce the problem they created in the first place. Another example of university recommended incompetence is the fact that most university trained extension agents suggest to ranchers that they need to fence off their rivers, creeks and streams to prevent livestock from going into them. Can someone explain to me how the buffalo were fenced out of every river, creek and stream? It didn’t happen. Livestock are essential to improving and maintaining healthy riparian ecosystems. No further discussion is needed on that subject. Damage from livestock is a function of time not animal numbers.
The difficult thing about Agriculture is that there is no “right answer” or “silver bullet!” As Ian likes to say “We are dealing with chaos out there!” And ultimately Ian is correct. Nature always bats last. Nature doesn’t play favorites. We as farmers and ranchers need to realize that some things are out of our control! The sooner we accept this fact, the more successful we will be both in terms of profit and our ecosystems health.
If the universities repeated what I just said and told the public that “there is no right answer or silver bullet to Agriculture’s problems” then they would have no reason to exist. Instead they come up with “new” technologies or processes that marginally improve the problem they are working on for a short period of time. This is also know as applying a band-aid to a severed limb.
Ian has given me some old books on agriculture to read. One book was published in 1962, another one in 1972. These books were published before big agricultural companies got into bed with the universities on a large scale. For example the book I’m reading now “The Biology of The Trace Elements” was written by a South African professor at The University of Cape Town. The book is so full of relevant information and it’s not trying to sell anything! It provides real world examples and how farmers and ranchers could use that information to improve. Seems simple right?
Sure there are some universities out there that are doing a lot of great things in agriculture. However, most of them are crap. If you want to really learn how to make a living from agriculture go learn from a successful farmer or rancher.