On Nov. 19 at Farm Bureau’s State Convention I had the pleasure of meeting Shayne Isane, FB State Director from District VII (deep in the northwest corner of Minnesota).  Badger is his home town (Roseau County). 

Isane was a candidate for state president and thus my reason for our visit. The 94 voting delegates elected Wright County dairy farmer Dan Glessing as president.  However my conversation with Shayne that morning provided some interesting commentary.

I asked Isane in view of all the road bumps, what are his thoughts about the future of U.S. agriculture?

“Being a farmer, you need to be optimistic,” he replied. “We wouldn’t be in this business if we weren’t positive about the future. I’m a second generation farmer. My grandfather immigrated from Norway when he was 15.  I’m now 54 and farming has been good for me. You quickly learn the value of friendship; the importance of building confidence; and the need of vigor, sharing and team work. Yes, my involvement in FFA definitely helped springboard me into leadership ambitions. The role of this new generation will be critical to the future of agriculture.”

“My son Devyn is 34,” Isane continued. “He’s an electrical lineman. My daughter, Danielle, 32, works as a cosmotologist in California. I farm together with my brother  and a nephew just graduated from North Dakota State University and now joined into our Isane Farms Inc. farming operation. We are beef (cows and calves), corn, soybeans, spring wheat, alfalfa and this crop called perrenial rye grass which we grow for grass seed for lawns, golf courses and such. We don’t raise hogs … only beef cows from which we feed out their offspring each season.

“Our farm today consists of almost 6,000 acres including pasture acres. We’ve got mostly Black Angus cattle, a very popular breed right now. But also have some Red Angus and some Charolais. We run about 300 cows.”

 “You have to be positive,” stressed Isane. “Our job is growing food for America, so it’s our duty and opportunity to help feed America. That’s the beauty of farming … we can customize our work to accommodate what people need.”

“Yes, I understand today’s housewives want to know more about the origins of the foods they buy; but that hasn’t changed our focus. Keeping them aware their food comes from farmers is important to us. Let’s be honest … their nutritional well-being is also our well-being. We need to cultivate that relationship.”

“I say without a doubt the generation of farmers we have on the ground today are the best generation ever produced. And if, or when my son and daughter they too will be part of the best generation.”

Isane admits it was dang dry in his part of Minnesota this 2021 season. “Our crops suffered. We had very low yields; our pastures dried; but we’ve survived these weather crunches and we’re now looking forward to a great 2022 season. We’ll be much the same on crop acres, but might expand spring wheat acres. Wheat prices have been good and look okay into this new season also. And I’m optimistic about the future of Minnesota Farm Bureau too. Sure, some challenges — especially on input costs for the next season. Agriculture gets attacked from different directions. But it’s Farm Bureau’s unity that keeps us strong. And that’s why I think Farm Bureau is vital to the future of agriculture in Minnesota.”

“Yes, I could throw some stones on this current American administration,” Isane continued. “Farm Bureau simply hasn’t had White House access with this president. When Trump was president he did pay attention to agriculture — perhaps surprising for a New York City real estate magnet. But he sensed the critical importance of farmers feeding America and other countries.”

“I admit, we farmers tend to be somewhat independent. Yes, we appreciate the importance of federal crop insurance. But we want to contribute too. It’s always a delicate balance. So as we advocate for agriculture we also need recognize consumer interest too. But too much regulation stifles our ambitions … and usually becomes costly to all taxpayers.”

I asked Isane if he thinks America’s farmers are favored in the political mainstream. 

“That’s why the story of American agriculture needs to be told across our nation,” he replied. “Yes, Farm Bureau diligently works to build relationships at both the state capitol and in D.C. However, farmers should be tuned to the population centers also. That’s where the votes are. We’re vastly outnumbered, so building connections with the metro populations is vital too.

“Many positive things keep happening in agriculture,” stressed Isane. “It’s a good story for everyone — including the younger generations and women too. Farm Bureau is highly regarded. We know people respect our organization and they look to us for leadership. Regardless of political party, we strive for good relationship with both parties. Our Farm Bureau theory … we support those who support agriculture. We may not always agree. It’s a slippery slope out there.  Staying tuned to issues mattering most to farmers is just common sense to me.”

So there you are. Isane admits being a bit bummed about the election; but concedes, “I had good competition and Dan will do a good job. We’re a strong organization. That’s what really counts.”

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