MORGAN, Minn. — At the Renville/Redwood Counties combined corn growers’ annual meeting on March 22, it was my pleasure to meet up with old friend David Nicolai, University of Minnesota Extension crops educator. 

Said Nicolai, “I’m expanding my role some way, shrinking some duties too.  I’m getting more involved in  mentoring opportunities for local educators; also assisting in keeping the state up to date on the innovative nature of modern agriculture.  I guess that’s a bonus of getting older … with all my years of  teaching and talking with farmers and agribusiness groups, we’re trying to be a multiplier effect in sharing knowledge with others.”

I asked if there is more one-on-one involvement than in his past work.

 “Very likely, particularly with new faculty members,” he responded. “But as I know from past experiences, just making suggestions doesn’t mean everyone accepts your thinking. And with the continual introduction of new crop fungicides and new research inputs, I’m certain my role as an Extension educator will continue.”

 “That means showing up at agricultural events such as the combination meeting tonight of these two county corn grower associations.  And it sounds like Farmfest will be firing up again this year.  We’ve been doing a lot of virtual programming because of Covid-19, but getting back to live audiences and teaching/training where you can have interaction with your audience is always the very best — and particular with farmers, because they always tend to ask that additional question.”

Being a long-time agronomist prognosticator he adds, “The need for continual education and agronomy information isn’t going away, it’s increasing. In fact, farmers are becoming more inquisitive — even demanding knowledge on how to make better decisions.”

I asked Nicolai about his economic forecast for the upcoming year. “Right now, putting the focus on commodity pricing, you’ve got to be encouraged. But that being said, you’ve got to recognize American agriculture now more than ever is being impacted because of worldwide demands for its crop and livestock productions.  We have two new faculty staff members from India, right behind China as the most populated country in the world. They advise us of the growing food needs in their home lands.

 “So a growing function of U.S. agriculture continues to be expanding our exporting ambitions virtually around the world.  Always, weather plays a critical role — especially in South American countries of Brazil and Argentina. Both are very big in soybean and corn production, plus beef production.  And now both countries are very much into exports to these major Asian countries.               

“Hopefully exports going forward will continue to be a major driver of our U.S. ag economy. It’s comforting we’ve had a relatively mild, easy winter here in our Midwest this year. Soil moistures are good and April weather looking favorable as growers move into their spring plantings.”

In closing, Nicolai had this to offer: “Lots of opportunities for trends across America these days. We’ve seen a big increase in home cooking because of this pandemic and that translates into more demand of pork and beef meats.  My mother used to remind me ‘People always have to eat’ and that’s why agriculture will always have a role. She would tell me working in Extension won’t be the richest salary, but you’ll always have a job because people keep on eating.’

“So being involved in agriculture I think is a good place to be now … and perhaps forever. That means more opportunities too — both to educate teachers and to inform the non-farm world about the important role of agriculture. So helping others about this tremendous role of food production and care of our soils is where we need to be.  And we don’t need special political reminders to appreciate that reality!” 

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