This summer our family had the opportunity to host a group of Danish farmers. The bus load of men from across Denmark came to America to learn more about risk management, agricultural manufacturing, and production practices. The group was a cross section of family farmers, most with livestock, a few with only crops, and a couple who were organic producers. They had visited the Chicago Board of Trade, John Deere, Pine Lake Ethanol, and came to our farm as they wound down their trip.
After touring the farm, visiting the feedlots, checking out the corn crop, and taking self guided tours around the machine shed, we sat down for a barbecue. Then we started to solve the world’s food problems over a cold one. I had prepared myself to explain and justify the use and safety of biotechnology, but I quickly realized most of our visitors were bigger proponents than me. “I feed GMO soybeans to my broilers (chickens). I just can’t grow them myself. Don’t do what we did. The European Union ignored science and now we are stuck.”
He explained that they had pretty good soils as a whole, not like central Iowa, but generally very productive. Denmark limits nitrogen to rates below the economic optimums. In Europe it’s about 50% less than they used in 1985, plus farmers are restricted from using GMO seed. While land prices and inputs are comparable in price, yields are limited. He said they are competing in a world market, and the regulations put Denmark at a big disadvantage. They had the research but followed the emotional argument.
He then asked, “Do people pay the real cost for organic milk and eggs in America?” I really didn’t know how to respond, but luckily he continued, “Organic products are subsidized in grocery stores so they are cheaper than conventional milk and eggs.” Again he reminded me that America shouldn’t do what Denmark had done. They ignored the real consumer demand for the organic product, which is much lower at real prices.
As we continued our discussion politics came up. They had just had elections and with the various parties, the top vote getters were still forming a coalition for control. “We’ve spent decades trying to get out from the control of government rule (a monarchy until 1849), but they keep adding more rules and laws. We aren’t trusted. Don’t do what we do. “