World Herald Editorial: Michael Bloomberg has some fence-mending to do with America’s farmers

Editorial: Michael Bloomberg has some fence-mending to do with America’s farmers

· Editorial staff


Michael Bloomberg


That was quite the statement former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg made about farmers. His description was behind the times by only about 3,000 years.

In farming, he told an audience, you just dig a hole, add some dirt and water, and “up comes the corn.” That’s a big contrast with the modern information economy, which demands a higher mental capability, the presidential hopeful asserted.

“You have to have a different skill set,” he said. “You have to have a lot more gray matter.”

In the wake of that pronouncement, Bloomberg has some major fence-mending to do with America’s farmers. Present-day agricultural producers, in reality, are remarkable in their many dimensions — and that includes their mental dexterity.

To be successful in the modern era, a farmer must demonstrate a daunting set of skills. To cite just a few examples, he or she has to be a mechanic, a chemist, a businessperson and an international market analyst.

And increasingly, a technologist.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture explains: “Modern farms and agricultural operations work far differently than those a few decades ago, primarily because of advancements in technology, including sensors, devices, machines and information technology. Today’s agriculture routinely uses sophisticated technologies such as robots, temperature and moisture sensors, aerial images and GPS technology.”

Midlands farmers, indeed, now use their smartphones to check soil conditions, keep tabs on inventory and move center pivots. It’s encouraging to see national news coverage of this impressive precision agriculture. Here are recent headlines from one news service: “Wave of new tech firms targeting farming as weather wars mount.” “Data becomes cash crop for big agriculture.” And “Corn growers on big plots are most tech-savvy farmers.”

Those articles were all from Bloomberg News. Apparently, the former New York City mayor is failing to keep up with the reporting from his own news service.

Nebraska and Iowa offer countless examples of modern agriculture’s technological sophistication. If one wants to talk about impressive software advancement, one need look no further than the Nebraska-based firms that have pioneered world-class technological innovations in 21st-century agriculture. Examples include mobile app developer iNet Solutions Group (acquired by North Dakota-based Myriad Mobile) and Quantified Ag, whose innovative biometric ear tag monitors a range of key health conditions for cattle.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Iowa State University, meanwhile, are world leaders in agricultural research and practical applications here and abroad. And modern agriculture is striking in the tremendous variety of employment opportunities it affords today’s young people, from laboratory bioengineers to climate analysts, food scientists to business managers.

Harvesting votes successfully across our country requires a candidate to understand its people. That includes America’s farmers, in their genuine complexity and achievements.