Tag Archives: farming

Farmers swarming to buy used 40-year-old tractors

Buy dumb! The market for used 40-year-old tractors is booming, due to the “smart” but expensive-to-repair designs of modern computer-based tractors.

Tractors manufactured in the late 1970s and 1980s are some of the hottest items in farm auctions across the Midwest these days — and it’s not because they’re antiques. Cost-conscious farmers are looking for bargains, and tractors from that era are well-built and totally functional, and aren’t as complicated or expensive to repair as more recent models that run on sophisticated software.

“It’s a trend that’s been building. It’s been interesting in the last couple years, which have been difficult for ag, to see the trend accelerate,” said Greg Peterson, the founder of Machinery Pete, a farm equipment data company in Rochester with a website and TV show. “There’s an affinity factor if you grew up around these tractors, but it goes way beyond that,” Peterson said. “These things, they’re basically bulletproof. You can put 15,000 hours on it and if something breaks you can just replace it.”

Because of the computer software built into the new machines, a farmer can no longer fix it himself. He must call in a service truck, at high cost with long wait times. This extra cost is on top of the high cost to buy the new tractor, which cost a lot more than the used machines.

I predict that the cost for used tractors is going to continue to rise, until some smart entrepreneur realizes the market possibilities, and begins making new tractors without the bells and whistles.

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Successfully growing crops in the desert using salt water and solar power.

Successfully growing crops in the desert using salt water and solar power.

The heart of the SFP concept is a specially designed greenhouse. At one end, salt water is trickled over a gridlike curtain so that the prevailing wind blows the resulting cool, moist air over the plants inside. This cooling effect allowed the Qatar facility to grow three crops per year, even in the scorching summer. At the other end of the greenhouse is a network of pipes with cold seawater running through them. Some of the moisture in the air condenses on the pipes and is collected, providing a source of fresh water.

One of the surprising side effects of such a seawater greenhouse, seen during early experiments, is that cool moist air leaking out of it encourages other plants to grow spontaneously outside. The Qatar plant took advantage of that effect to grow crops around the greenhouse, including barley and salad rocket (arugula), as well as useful desert plants. The pilot plant accentuated this exterior cooling with more “evaporative hedges” that reduced air temperatures by up to 10°C. “It was surprising how little encouragement the external crops needed,” says SFP chief Joakim Hauge.

The technology development here is wonderful, but it is unclear from the article whether these crops would be competitive on the open market with ordinary farm crops. The cost for this operation is not outlined.

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Scientists push for monitoring network to collect environmental and socioeconomic data from around the world

What could go wrong? Scientists push for a monitoring network to collect environmental and socioeconomic data from around the world.

Sandy Andelman, an ecologist with Conservation International in Arlington, Virginia, discussed her work setting up a pilot project that began two years ago in southern Tanzania. In addition to basic environmental data about soils, nutrients and land cover, the project tracks agricultural practices. It also incorporates data about income, health and education that is maintained by the government. Andelman says that all the data she collects can be broken down to the level of individual households, and that initial results from the project have already prompted the Tanzanian government to adjust the way it zones agricultural land in the area. [emphasis mine]

Lord help the farmers whose lives will be tracked by this network.

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“Freedom Dies With Each Paper Cut”

“Freedom dies with each paper cut.”

Recently, the USDA inspectors show up and pull our workers out of the fields for hours of questions (while we still are paying them). They inspect our houses. Several items just not up to code say these inspectors in an accusatory and snide tone. Threw a stack of regulations literally 8 inches high, small type, saying we are responsible to know and to account for each and every one.

Now we treat our workers very well, but we treat them like men, not children. The house was “messy.” My goodness, we need to hire a maid! The screen door was not exactly square with the frame by an 1/8th of an inch. Well many folks around here live in older homes that have settled. The list goes on, but no item was such that our workers thought there was a problem. The worst part is we were treated like criminals. We are awaiting our fine for our failing to memorize every federal regulation applicable to us.

My dad is 67 and told the feds that he was out of farming due to this ridiculous bureaucracy and storm trooper treatment. Their arrogant reply, “well the law lets us inspect your land and homes one year after you have left farming, so you can’t keep us off your land next year either.”

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