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The Case for Pheasants - Solutions

January 22, 2017 by

The Case for Pheasants – Solutions

This, the 5th article in the Case for Pheasants Series, attempts to uncover some large gaps and conflicts which ultimately will turn out to be opportunities.

Before we get started, let me just quickly say, that from what I believe, there isn’t much that cannot be solved with a little more sales, marketing or education.  In fact education and understanding can most likely bridge a multitude of gaps and conflicts that exist on the landscape today.

Gap/Conflict Area #1 – Whose the Shareholder?

I’ve worked in corporate America.  I’ve worked on the farm.  I’ve learned the importance of the shareholder in relation to the end objective and how much influence they have.  Many Big Ag companies have shareholders that own stock in the companies.  Ultimately the reason for the existence of the company is to return value to the shareholder.  While much farmland is privately owned there is another shareholder involved.  The taxpayer.  The federal and state governments are some of the agencies that represent this shareholder in this endeavor.  Simply put the tax payer needs a planet to live on and they are entitled to some things like clean air and water, and safe affordable food, to name a few.  The taxpayer subsidizes crop insurance and conservation programs like CRP, via the government, to insure these things are realized.  The Gap?  Both large agriculture company shareholders and federal taxpayers are far removed from the land.  Out of sight out of mind.  The closer we can bring these major shareholders to the land and to the associated issues the better the decision making and problem solving.

Gap/Conflict Area #2 – Dispel Myths and Examine Motives

“We won’t be able to feed the world by 2050!”  Who came up with this?  This is brilliant marketing.  What’s the solution?  Produce more!  The SEC warns unsuspecting buyers of stocks to beware of forward looking statements such as these.  Trying to feed the world at the demise of the ground under our feet does not seem sustainable nor prudent.  Increases in local water sources with loading of pollutants while record crop production drives prices down does not seem too sustainable or profitable.  The dust bowl days were driven by high prices leading to increased land conversion which produced record crops which lead to low prices and ultimately birthed conservation to heal both the land and the economy.

Gap/Conflict Area #3 – Whose Missing?

Over the last 15 years I have run across numerous farmers/landowners and producers that will have nothing to do with receiving payments from federally funded conservation programs.  My concern is that the number of producers with this mindset is larger than anyone really knows. Today, most all conservation programs are voluntary and nobody goes out to meet the producer and knocks on their door and says “Hey, let me show you how these wonderful programs can help make your farm more profitably”.  While there are many individuals and organizations having good impacts today, the “Producer Space” remains a huge gap in the system.  The list goes on.  Absentee landowners are many who have handed over the reins or their land to the producer who makes the highest bid.  That producer may be one of thousands that produce on our lands but does not own it.  This creates what I call “Short time horizon management syndrome”.  The caring and management of the land is just not the same as that by a producer that owns their ground.  We need to uncover ALL the actors that control the land, its management and its impacts.

Gap/Conflict Area #4 – Whose Gonna Pay For This?

Well someone had to say it right!  Remember the Fram Oil Filter commercial?  Look no further than the Des Moines Waterworks (DMWW) case or the Gulf Hypoxia Dead Zone issue to see the impact of our productivity.   In the case of “Pay me now or pay me later” you will begin to become familiar with the term “Externalization of costs”.  In the case of DMWW, the high cost of cleaning out the nitrates from the cities drinking water, to make it safe, is an externalization of costs from the 3 upstream counties on the Raccoon River.  When those counties go looking for whom to send the bill to, who do you think they are looking for?

Gap/Conflict Area #5 – Let’s stop this foolishness.  Conservation Pays!

We got Crop insurance money paying producers to drag disks thought cattails to keep the ground eligible and then we got conservation dollars paying that same producer to leave it alone or restore it.  Many would like to see conservation tied to crop insurance for this very reason and a host of others.  The federal taxpayer should not be paying to create the problem and the fix it too.  Both crop insurance and financial lending are tied to the land and also to risk management.  Conservation can play a major role in reducing risk for insurers and lenders as well as reducing the bill for the taxpayers.

Gap/Conflict Area #6 – Get the Government Out.

Consider privatizing conservation.  Federal crop insurance is sold by private insurers and is widely accepted by many is not most all producers.  Oddly enough the same producers that will have no hand in enrolling in or receiving money from and federally run conservation programs like CRP.  The private entities that sell crop insurance work well in the producer space and are run much more professionally and proactively than the government agencies are able.  Seems like one hell of a risk mitigation strategy to tie the farm mortgage, crop insurance and conservation programs together.  The private sector has demonstrated its ability to excel in areas that the government is not designed to perform in.

Gap/Conflict Area #7 – Bring the Dollars Back and Put Them to Work.

In South Dakota, the Tourism Department spends a sizable amount of money in out of state marketing to attract hunters (Tourists) to the state each year.  Advertising and marketing can cost a fortune and does.  We have learned that the fewer the birds the fewer the hunters and the more advertising required.  A better use of funding , as my business has found, is to redirect advertising dollars into habitat and conservation.  This leads to increased pheasant numbers which has always led to hunter increases.  More importantly this sustainable model leads to a higher returning visitor rate so you don’t need to spend/advertise to get next year’s visitor. 

Gap/Conflict Area #8 – What’s in Your Wallet?

The proper balance of management is the areas of rural land use can grow revenues in both the private and public sectors as well as reducing taxpayer burden.  

Posted in: UGUIDE News, South Dakota Pheasant Outlook, Conservation, Habitat Management, The Case For Pheasants Series

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