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Articles from 2019 In April

Promote happiness by doing these 4 things


Yesterday’s blog on depression in agriculture really seemed to resonate with our community. In case you missed it, you can read the post by clicking here. The blog includes articles worth reading and available resources for those struggling with suicidal thoughts, depression or other ongoing mental health issues.

Today, I want to discuss tangible things we can do at home to promote mental health and wellness in ourselves and our families. While these suggestions can’t replace professional help, I do believe every once in a while, we could all use a pick-me-up.

These four ideas may just put a smile on your face and some pep in your step. Perhaps they’ll renew your spirit, refresh your mind, reignite your passions, reaffirm your values and boost your self-esteem, as well.

1. Spend more time with family & friends

When you’re working hard on the ranch and burning both ends of the candle, it’s hard to carve out time for your spouse, kids, extended family and friends. When these relationships are strained, it adds stress. Make an effort to carve out time to make memories together.

Yes, I know, it’s easier said than done. After all, it’s breeding season. Then it will be time to pull the planter out of the shop. Next, you’ll be prepping fences for summer turnout. Oh, and don’t forget to spray for weeds, fill creep feeders and update your balance sheet when you have a minute.

There’s never a dull moment on the ranch. There is always work to be done. Having trouble carving out the time for making memories with loved ones? Invite them out to the ranch and tackle some projects together. Chances are, your off-farm family members and friends will love the opportunity to get their hands dirty while accomplishing a task. And a bonus, you’ll get some of your to-dos marked off the list, too!

2. Sit outside and enjoy the view

One of the greatest benefits of living in the country is the view. I have a gorgeous view of the barn and rolling pasture hills right outside my kitchen window.

Sure, I can appreciate the scenery outside my window while washing dishes, and I can enjoy the prairie pasque flowers in bloom on our rangeland while doing chores, but when is the last time I really sat down to appreciate where we live and what we get to do in agriculture?

At the end of a long day of hard work on the ranch, when the kids are put to bed and the supper dishes are put away, take a minute to sit outside on the porch with your spouse and simply enjoy the beauty around you. What do you see and hear? A gentle breeze. Crickets chirping. Cows mooing. Rabbits hopping. Birds flittering from tree to tree. The smell of freshly cut alfalfa. There’s beauty all around, but we rarely slow down enough to truly enjoy it.

3. Do good in the world

Do more than just drop your contribution in the collection basket each Sunday at church. Volunteer for a non-profit organization that reflects your values.

Serve meals at the local food bank. Sponsor a missionary through the church. Offer support to the homeless. Donate supplies to the local women’s shelter. Get licensed to become a foster parent. Help a neighbor rebuild fences lost to flooding or fire. Host a charity event to raise money to gift to someone you know battling cancer.

BEEF Senior Editor Burt Rutherford recently shared with me a TED Talk by Elizabeth Dunn titled, “Helping others makes us happier — but it matters how we do it.”

In her presentation, Dunn says it’s important to do more than sign a check to the charity of your choice. We’ve got to get our hands dirty, so to speak, by physically getting involved with charitable organizations and volunteer work.

Yes, this puts even more pressure on your time, but how great would you and your spouse feel providing a safe refuge in your home for a foster kid in need? What might you be able to teach your kids by serving meals to the homeless in your community? How exciting would it be to watch your dollars at work by sponsoring that mission trip to Africa?

Dunn says, “All of us are capable of finding joy in giving. But we shouldn't expect this to happen automatically. Spending money helping others doesn't necessarily promote happiness.

“Instead, it matters how we do it. And if we want people to give more, we need to subvert the way we think about charitable giving. We need to create opportunities to give that enable us to appreciate our shared humanity.

“If any of you work for a charity, don't reward your donors with pens or calendars. Reward them with the opportunity to see the specific impact that their generosity is having and to connect with the individuals and communities they're helping.”

Watch the Ted Talk by clicking here.

4. Practice an attitude of gratitude

We live in a consumerist society. It can be easy to fall into the trap of “keeping up with the Joneses.” Whether that’s a new house, new car, new clothes, new home decor, new exotic vacation destinations, new tractors or equipment, there is always going to be someone who has the latest and greatest, which can leave us feeling like we’re lacking somehow.

This is where it’s important to practice feeling grateful for what we have and what we are able to do. Find something to be thankful for each day — your health, your family, your friends, a safe home, food in the refrigerator, a running vehicle, clean water — there’s always something to be appreciative of that we often take for granted.

You don’t have to lose your ambition to grow to also be content in where you are right now.

What other tips for promoting happiness would you add to the list? Email me at [email protected]

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Farm Progress.

Fed Cattle Recap | Cash prices tilt downward

Fed Cattle Recap

As we all know, market dynamics are affected by any number of things. For example, the market for grass cattle has been strong lately as beef producers anticipate an excellent spring and summer grazing season.

The cash market for fed cattle has also behaved seasonally for the most part, in spite of the leverage that packers have maintained for most of the year. Looking ahead, those in the market see more fed cattle coming to town as time goes on. That is and will continue to affect the cash market going forward.

Looking at volume numbers for the week ending April 27, the Five Area formula sales volume totaled 239,110 head, compared with about 257,427 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 95,404 head, compared with about 112,499 head the previous week. 

Nationally reported forward contract cattle harvest was about 91,000 head for the week. Packers had 305,000 head lined up for April and now 183,000 head for May.   

National cash sales for the week include 32,346 head of 15- to 30-day delivery and about 31,758 head previous week. Really big numbers of contracts along with big numbers of 15- to 30-day delivery normally have some negative pressure on the cash prices. 

Now looking at prices, the weekly weighted average cash steer price for the week ending April 27 for the Five Area region was $126.69 per cwt, compared with $128.42 the previous week, down $1.73 for the week.  

The weighted average cash dressed steer price was $204.58 per cwt, compared with $207.76 the previous week, which was $3.18 lower.

The Five Area weighted average formula price was $202.54 per cwt, compared with $200.52 the previous week, making it $2.02 higher. This is typical for formula prices, as they lag the cash market by a week.

The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest was 643,000 head and that compares with 628,000 head the same week last year. During the last six weeks, total harvest is running 106,000 head higher than last year.

The latest average national steer carcass weight for the week ending April 13 was 864 pounds, 1 pound lower than the previous week and 3 pounds lower than the 867 pounds noted the same week last year.                            

The Choice-Select spread was $13.58 on Friday compared with $13.16 the previous week and a $17.42 spread last year.  



MORNING Midwest Digest, April 30, 2019

There's a terror-recruiting problem in Minnesota.

There wasn't much done as far as planting progress in the past week. Many states are behind average pace.

A jet carrying more than 60 veterans took off for Washington to see the memorials. It was an Honor Flight.


Photo: zabelin/Getty Images

Farm Progress America

Farm Progress America, April 30, 2019

Max Armstrong remembers Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., who passed away over the weekend. Lugar was a powerful player in developing farm policy, including the Conservation Reserve Program, which as actually announced on his farm for the 1985 Farm Bill. Lugar served on the Ag Committee for his entire career.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Photo: Leigh Vogel/contributor/Getty Images

On ag & depression — addressing mental health issues in our community

eclipse_images / Getty Images Farm economy adds stress to farmers

If farming and ranching were easy, everyone would do it.

Producers are independent and resilient people. However, even the toughest among us are facing nearly insurmountable challenges, particularly if you’re looking at the crop and dairy industries.

In the last couple of years, producers have faced incredible challenges — ongoing trade wars, market uncertainties, increasingly high debt load, the challenge of transitioning the farm while also having a nest egg for retirement, Mother Nature’s brutality with blizzards, wildfires, floods and hurricanes, activist threats, retailer demands, consumer misconceptions and the list goes on.

There’s no doubt about it, farmers and ranchers may find themselves in a tough spot right now. Not only is the family business in danger of collapsing, but the farmer himself may lose his identity, as well.

There’s grief, depression, anger, blame, resentment and a feeling of failure. Production agriculture can be isolating, which tends to intensify these feelings.

BEEF_mental-health-infographic.pngIn recent months, there’s been a heightened focus on mental health issues within the agricultural community. I wish I could fix the root cause of the problem; however, in the meantime, I think it’s important to share the available resources out there that discuss depression and suicide.

For starters, if you or someone you know is going through a difficult time right now, know there is help available. For free and confidential assistance, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Avera Farmers Stress Hotline at 800-691-4336. Additional assistance can be found through the experts at FarmAid — call 800-FARM-AID.

Secondly, I’ve rounded up a list of articles that have been recently published on the topic. Perhaps you’ll gain insight to this growing problem in our agricultural community. Maybe you can relate to the subjects in this story. Or quite possibly, by sharing this blog post, you may help someone who really needs it.

Whether it’s grief, depression, suicidal thoughts or family members dealing with trauma or loss, these articles may be helpful resources to you, or at the very least, a point of reference to further understand what others may be going through.

1. “I Work With Suicidal Farmers. It’s Becoming Too Much to Bear” by Mike Rosmann for The New Republic

Rosmann writes, “I serve as a counselor for farmers and ranchers. I’m probably on the phone or on email anywhere from 15 to 25 hours a week, seven days a week, trying to respond to requests for help from all around the country.

“I only take on the most difficult and unresolvable problems that you could ever see among farm people, where depression has not been successfully treated by any kind of medication or psychiatric help. I try to figure out what to do about them, because—well, I don’t know how else to say this, except that I have a lot of experience doing this. It gets me going.”

2. VIDEO: “The Surprising Reality of Depression and Suicide Among Farmers” featured on HuffPost

Watch the emotional video clip by clicking here.

3. “10 truths about how farm families talk” by Holly Spangler for Prairie Farmer

Spangler writes, “Life has changed on the farm in the past 25 years. Here’s what it means for how we talk to each other. Or, you know, don’t talk to each other.”

4. “Why do farmers commit suicide” by Holly Spangler for Prairie Farmer

“Desperation, pressure and lack of communication mount. Here’s a look at what really happens, plus what a veteran farm counselor says you can do to help,” says Spangler.

5. “All the land between happy and sad” by Holly Spangler for Prairie Farmer

“If a farmer in crisis won’t call a hotline, what do you do?” asks Spangler. “Call Ted. He’s talked to more desperate farmers than you can imagine; here’s what he’s learned.”

6. “Grief: What really helps” by Holly Spangler for Prairie Farmer

“When Josh and Tiffany Flint lost their young son to a rare and aggressive cancer, they had to rebuild a crumbled world,” writes Spangler. “Here’s what they learned, and how you can help friends in crisis.”

7. “What a professional says about grief” by Tom J Bechman for Indiana Prairie Farmer

“A mental health professional answers questions about the grieving process after the loss of a child,” writes Bechman.

8. “Ag’s No. 1 ambassador made most of his time” by Tom J Bechman for Indiana Prairie Farmer

“Six-year-old Travis Wenning never missed a chance to talk about agriculture and no-till,” says Bechman.

9. “American farmers confront a mental health crisis” by Mario Parker for Bloomberg

Parker writes, “The worst agricultural downturn since the 1980s is taking its toll on the emotional well-being of American farmers.”

After reading these articles, ask yourself if you can see a loved one or a neighbor who may be going through similar challenges and experiencing these types of emotions. Reach out. Don’t let them suffer alone. Check in. Help lighten the load. Be a friend with a shoulder to cry on. Pray.

Mental health issues have been largely ignored by the rugged and fiercely independent farmers and ranchers in our community. However, life presents ups and downs, and it’s OK to ask for help. It really is. Share this blog post to help spread the word and raise awareness.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Farm Progress.


MIDDAY Midwest Digest, April 29, 2019

More rain, and possibly some snow in areas, is coming this week, as farmers are trying to get 2019 crops in the ground.

Do you need a measles booster? If you were vaccinated before 1968, the CDC says yes.

Trade negotiations resume this week with China.

Indiana farm leaders are remembering former U.S. Senator Richard Lugar.


Photo: lamyai/Getty Images

5 Trending Headlines: Ag gag back in court; PLUS: Store your meds right

It seems the ag gag law debate is back. Will it prevail or perish in Iowa courts? Plus, how's your cowherd shedding hair and why does it matter? Stay tuned for more details in the slideshow.

Farmer share of food dollar declines

USDA ERS Food dollar 2017.USDA_.jpg

For every dollar American consumers spend on food, U.S. farmers and ranchers earn just 14.6 cents, according to a report released recently by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service (ERS).

This value for 2017 marks a 17% decline since 2011 and is the smallest portion of the American food dollar farmers have received since USDA began reporting these data in 1993. The remaining 85.4 cents cover off-farm costs, including processing, wholesaling, distribution, marketing and retailing.

“Even though family farmers and ranchers are more productive today than they have ever been, they’re taking home a smaller and smaller portion of the American food dollar,” National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson said.

Since the previous year, farm production costs per food dollar remained constant at 7.8 cents in 2017 and are still at their lowest level since 2002. Foodservice costs per food dollar rose to 36.7 cents in 2017, increasing for the ninth consecutive year since 2008, when these costs were 29.0 cents. Food packaging costs were 2.3 cents in 2017, an all-time low since the beginning of this series; packaging costs were recorded at their highest level of 4.2 cents in 2002.

Although 2017 was the sixth consecutive year the farm share dropped, the decline was smaller than in 2016 (4.5%) and 2015 (9.9%). Unlike in the previous two years, average prices received by U.S. farmers went up in 2017, as measured by the Producer Price Index for farm products.

The decline in farm share also coincides with six consecutive years of increases in the share of the food dollar going to the foodservice industry. Increases in food-away-from-home spending by consumers drives down the farm share of the food dollar. “Farmers receive a smaller percentage from eating-out expenditures because food makes up a smaller share of total costs due to restaurants’ added costs for preparing and serving meals,” ERS said.

Johnson said the data don’t paint the full picture of the farm economy, “but when considered in the context of depressed commodity prices, plummeting incomes, rising input costs and deteriorating credit conditions, it is certainly clear that we are in the midst of an agricultural financial crisis.”

Johnson added, “Conditions for farmers have been eroding since 2011, and there’s only so much longer they can hold on. Many have already made the heartbreaking decision to close up shop; in just the past five years, the United States lost upwards of 70,000 farm operations. As a country with a growing population and growing nutritional needs, we can’t afford to lose many more. We sincerely hope this startling report will open policy-makers’ eyes to the financial challenges family farmers and ranchers endure on a daily basis and convince them to provide the support they so desperately need.”

Food dollar 2017.USDA_.jpg

This dollar bill shows the farm and marketing cost split in a typical $1 food purchase. The farm share of the food dollar is the share received by farmers from the sales of raw food commodities. The marketing share is the remainder accruing to food supply chain industries involved in all post-farm activities that culminate in final market food dollar sales.