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Farmers Keep Up With Development

July 24, 2012, 10:08 PM by Brady Mallory

Farmers Keep Up With Development

Even if you close your eyes, depending on which way the wind is blowing, it is not hard to tell you are in farm country.

"You do pick up the smell a bit," Doug Ode of Royalwood Farms said.

But there is something else in the air.  You do not have to drive too far out into the country to realize there is not as much country as there used to be years ago.  We have seen more and more development spreading into our farmlands not just in KELOLAND, but all over America.  In fact, we have lost 40 million acres over the last 25 years nationally.

More and more stores and restaurants are taking over farm acres.  It may be a step toward progress and development and could help strengthen our economy.  Ode does not see it that way.

"It kind of makes you scratch your mind or brain a little bit," Ode said.

For generations, the Ode family has been knee deep in dairy cows at Royalwood Farms, just outside of Brandon.  Though he is not worried about development taking over his livelihood, he is nervous about what losing millions of acres per year could do to farmers all over the country.

"So, if you do the math, 25 years is about 17 million minutes.  So, every minute for the last 25 years, we've lost one acre of prime farm ground to development," South Dakota Agriculture Secretary Walt Bones said.

With agriculture the number one industry in South Dakota, and a primary reason we have avoided the same unemployment problems plaguing other states, Bones said it might be time to start conserving farm land to avoid a growing problem.

"This is some pretty good farm ground in the southeast corner of the state and obviously some of it is being developed, which is fine; that's the prerogative of the land owner," Bones said.  "As the world population continues to grow, more and more countries are looking to the U.S. to provide them with food and feed and fiber."

Right now, the U.S. dwarfs every other country when it comes to feeding the world.  Ode expects American farmers will have to produce 70 percent more food in 2050.

"Where is that going to come from?  With less acreage to plant from and grow your crops to feed livestock, where is all this meat, milk and pork going to come from?" Ode said.

Just like in the past with technology, as more of this development spreads, farmers will do what they have done best: adapt.

"If we had still farmed exactly the same way that we did in the 1950s, the way my dad did, we would have no food for the seven most populated states in the U.S., which is 130 million," Bones said.

Simply put, Bones said farmers will have to do more with less.  It is not a new concept, but it will certainly apply as land gets more scarce.  Beyond better and smarter farm equipment, adapting includes using acre space more efficiently, souped-up seeds and a lot of hard work.  It is an eye-opener to what farmers need to do to keep up with the concrete.

"When I was a kid growing up, if you had a cow that was producing 50 pounds of milk that was quite a cow back then.  Now, today your whole herd might average 85-90 pounds a day.  Look how far we have come," Ode said.

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