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Reflecting on three decades of Texas agriculture

Reflecting on three decades of Texas agriculture

I have a confession to make. I never meant to stay this long.

Nearly three decades ago, I was employed by Texas Farm Bureau—28 years, five months and 29 days to be exact. I was much younger then, searching for my calling with visions of my own business dancing in my head.

Then something funny happened. I started to believe. For the first time in my life, I was truly involved with the issues of agriculture. I witnessed the daily struggle of farmers and ranchers trying to stay ahead. I saw an organization with a steel resolve to make life better on the farm and ranch.

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Cage-free eggs not all they’re cracked up to be

Cage-free eggs not all they’re cracked up to be

By Mike Barnett

Cage-free eggs. Sounds good. But is it really better for the chickens that lay them?

Maybe if you believe in live free and die hard.

Cage-free eggs are the new rage. Driven by consumer perception that cage-free chickens are happier and healthier, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Costco and, most recently, Panera Bread will require suppliers to go cage-free over the next decade.

That leaves the egg industry—worth $10 billion a year—struggling to figure out how to shift from confined hen laying to cage-free.

It’s not as simple as turning chickens loose. Cage-free doesn’t mean problem-free.

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5 things ag is doing wrong (and how to correct them)

5 things ag is doing wrong (and how to correct them)

By Mike Barnett

When it comes to new machinery, new cropping methods or new herbicides and pesticides, farmers and ranchers are on top of their game.

No doubt that’s why American agriculture is the most progressive in the world.

Not so much, though, when it comes to communicating. We have work to do. Farmers and ranchers have talked about “educating” the public for all of my 30-year career in Farm Bureau.

Truth. The public doesn’t want to be “educated.” They want answers. To their concerns about food. How you grow it. And what you do to ensure their family’s safety.

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Rain can be blessing, curse for Texas farmers

Rain can be blessing, curse for Texas farmers

By Mike Barnett

Mother Nature is a fickle lady when it comes to moisture. Especially for Texas farmers and ranchers.

Too much. Not enough. Just right.

The third is the least common scenario.

This year, rain has been wild, unpredictable, devastating and wonderful. Sometimes all in the same area.

The season kicked off with abundant moisture in South and Central Texas. Spring came and it rained, rained and rained. Planting was delayed. The wheat crop suffered. Farmers kept looking for a break. And more rain came. Many farmers in South, Central and North Texas never fully recovered. Crops were stunted. Lost. Or never planted.

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Profit is not a four-letter word

Profit is not a four-letter word

This blog was originally posted on Dec. 10, 2012. 

By Mike Barnett

Your profitability as a farmer or rancher ranks low on the list of concerns of those who consume your products. I call them customers.

I’ve noted this fact in a survey or two and was reminded of it the other day when a Facebook friend posted some tidbits he had read from an article in the excellent publication Livestock Weekly.

According to the article, consumers believe the priorities for those farmers and ranchers who genuinely try to make a living from agriculture should, from first to last, be:

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