Goudy: Farmers have to help themselves
Worldwide effort needed
By Janet Kubat Willette
KASSON, Minn. -- About 50 people gathered in Kasson last week to learn more about Focus on Sabbatical.
Some, as they left, were willing to invest in the idea, but others questioned whether reducing commodity production worldwide would raise prices paid to farmers.
Focus on Sabbatical is the brainchild of Ken Goudy, a Canadian. Goudy started a business, Focus on Inputs, to help reduce farmers' input costs. Now, he and his son, Todd, are leading a charge to increase commodity prices.
"We want to get healthy cycles back in agriculture and we'll never do it competing against (farmers in) other countries," Todd Goudy said.
If U.S. farmers reduce acreage one year, other countries will make up the production difference. It's only by working together that farmers can have an impact on prices, he said.
Goudy said he wasn't a joker telling farmers to do something crazy.
"If you're not willing to organize to do something for yourselves, you'll have to continue to suck off the government teat," he said.
"It'll never happen," a farmer said of organizing. Instead, he said, a Brazilian infestation of soybean aphids would help U.S. farmers.
LeRoy Paulson, who lives near Dodge Center, said farmers need to take a page from teachers and state employees, and organize to improve prices.
"Why don't we stop and think?" he asked. "Why should everybody else set the price and we don't?"
"I think farmers need to stop being apathetic," said James Fiebiger, president of Farmers and Merchants State Bank of Blooming Prairie. "This is your livelihood. This is for real."
Farmers need to ask themselves if they believe the government will fund another farm program if the country slips into a serious recession, Fiebiger said.
Goudy claims an 8-billion-bushel shortfall of major grains and oilseeds could double grain prices the year before the reduction, keep prices there for at least two years, provide farmers incentives to work together and give farmers economic strength.
"You guys have no economic strength," Goudy said. "You need to get together to have economic strength."
American farmers have reduced input costs, adopted new technology and increased their production size in attempts to make more money, he said, but it hasn't worked.
"You use new technology, you drive down the price and you have to get bigger," Goudy said. "You guys are making no more profits, but you're profiting everybody else."
Livestock producers may think cheap grain is a boon for them, but Goudy says the low prices are fueling expansion in other countries that could soon drive down meat markets.
"While farmers fight it out to be the lowest-cost producer, who wins in this scenario?" he asked.
The winner gets low land values, low grain prices and low meat prices. Forging relationships with farmers worldwide is the answer, Goudy said.
"Nothing has helped the American farmer except price," he said.
If prices increased, Brazilian farmers would likely quell their expansion in the rainforest, making the American farmer a hero to environmentalists, he said.
"You guys have the opportunity to lay the groundwork for a program that will work," Goudy said. "We need farmers in the U.S. to pick this thing up."