The Future of Farming in Region 8

February 16, 2005 – Posted at 4:29 p.m. CST

JONESBORO -- Farming has been a solid industry in Region 8 for hundreds of years, but over time farmers have had to adapt. Today, technology is replacing some of the smaller farming operations and big business is working its way into agriculture.

With President Bush's plan to cut farming subsidiaries, most agriculture related businesses and farmers are waiting to see how things will be this year, and what that could mean for the future.

"It's big business in Arkansas and it's our biggest employer in the state," said Craighead County Extension Agent Steve Culp, "About 20% of our jobs are actually directly, or indirectly come from agriculture."

Farmers gathered at the ASU Fowler Center Wednesday for the 2005 agribusiness Conference. One of the topics on hand, the future of farming.

"If you look long term, there's a great future in agriculture," said Bob Stallman, President of the American Farm Bureau Federation, "When you look at the technology that's coming down the pipe, you look at all of the need and demand for products and food, fuel, fiber also for food, I think there's going to be tremendous opportunity, that does not mean the structure of agriculture is not going to change."

It's safe to say that farming is very different, even from five years ago. These days modern technology can make a big difference in basic day-to-day operations.

"There's no state in the mid south that approaches the value of agriculture per capta as Arkansas does, so it is very important," said Culp, "A lot of people don't realize the impact, when farmers have a good year, the state economy is good."

And as for the image of farming, it's looking good so far.

"I think we've moved away from the barn yards and the chickens and the hogs and all of that. But the bottom line is U.S. citizens really don't understand what we do in modern production agriculture," Stallman.

And even with budget cuts, the industry will always have a steady supply and demand.

"The problem is most growers need those farm program payments just to pay the bills. So for the short term there's kind of a concern, but long term, we're going to need food production. Our country's growing, the world population is growing," said Culp.

Other topics discussed at the agribusiness conference included trade policy, precision agriculture, farm business legal issues and commodity specific market information.