As we look forward to a new year of continued prosperity in the agriculture sector despite the outcome of the current political arena, let us pause to reflect upon the organization that is most responsible for the current status of the American farmer.

It's unfortunate that the NFO never stood to see the day that the fruit of their labors produced such a bountiful harvest.

The American farmer is better off today than at any time in history; all of which is due to the unheralded effort of the National Farmers Organization.

After years of blood, sweat, and tears, there is no doubt in my mind as to who should be given the credit. Who else could have possibly sacrificed as much for so little; only to see the next generation of farmers living on easy street?

Farmers today are subsidized, compensated, and prioritized at a guaranteed level of income far beyond that of most any other similar government supported entity. Just the food stamp program alone is a guaranteed of yet better days to come, but add to that disaster payments, land conservation payments, and you have the foundation of the most successful business in the nation. Farming is now the envy of energy, manufacturing, and international trading. Food is now the gold standard of the world!

Farming has moved from that of high risk, labor intense, and low income to that of wealth, prestige and security. It was the NFO that pushed the envelope and brought it to this new high level of enviable decorum.

It was the NFO that introduced the philosophy of "risk management" that went on to become the primary marketing tool of all successful farm market planning. Today it is the primary gauge of all agricultural financing, and is considered the benchmark for determining all management decisions. That's not a bad eulogy for an organization that is now dead, but it represents only a small cog in the wheel that drove this organization.

Cost of production plus a reasonable profit wasn't too much to ask for furnishing a guaranteed supply of raw material for an industry that fed the nation. Without a constant supply of livestock, the meat packing industry would he pretty vulnerable. Though some have integrated, none are self-sufficient.

And if it hadn't been for the NFO that supply would still be in question. It was the NFO that exerted enough pressure, made enough noise, and drafted enough marketing plans to get the attention of Washington. Their demands were introduced into a farm bill that addressed the inequities of pricing commodities. Value finally became a consideration in determining parity and fairness for all parties involved. No longer was it just he with the biggest stick that made a profit.

Before the NFO, agricultural policy was nothing more than making sure America had cheap food, regardless of the consequences of the American farmer. Occasionally, there was limited emergency relief offered as a token of appreciation. But, here again, it was more about keeping the food pipeline full than it was about the farmers bottom line. A good example was that of the dairy "buy-out" program that did nothing more than cull the herd of non-productive units.

The House Agriculture committee has always been more concerned about feeding the poor than it was about the poor farmer. As long as farmers were willing to value a way of life higher than a complete return on investment, Washington was willing to take it all in strides.

It wasn't until the NFO put out the battle cry that enough is enough – and the farmer's plight was to be taken serious. As he stood there all alone with nothing more than the American flag as his backdrop, and his pride, honor and faith as his source of strength, he joined forces with his neighbor to stand up and fight for everything he believed. It was undeniably the greatest show of strength to ever come forth in our entire industrialized world.

It was  a  measurable battle that benefited every farmer in America. If you're a successful farmer, there is a good chance that you owe a debt of gratitude for those that gave up everything for you! Farms were lost, neighborhoods were destroyed, and even blood was shed just for you! Winning the battle didn't put much in their pocket, but it filled every com crib and locker plant in the country, so that you could enjoy the fruits of their battle.

Don't take this for granted! Collective bargaining is the cornerstone of every piece of agricultural legislation that is introduced in Washington. The NFO has left its mark on agriculture forever, and will be remembered for making the sacrifices so that you will never have to suffer. They suffered, that you might enjoy the fruits of their labor.  Please remember this when you put your next livestock marketing plan together and contract at a price that will guarantee you a profit.

A tarnished NFO image needs to be shined-up, so with this message going to every corner of the country, I hope that a legend of this magnitude will not continue to go unnoticed and unappreciated.

Thank you NFO!

(more insightful stories written by Ken Knight)

Ken E. Knight is the author of the “Knightro Report”, a nationally syndicated livestock-marketing column, which is featured in this publication on a regular basis. Mr. Knight is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a major BS Degree in Meat and Animal Science and a minor in Communications. In addition to being a professional auctioneer, public speaker and livestock judge, he brings many years of corporate level meat and livestock market management and expertise to the industry for which he now serves as an independent voice of shared knowledge and experience.


For more in-depth information regarding the topics that have been touched upon in this report, Knightro conducts livestock marketing seminars on a regular basis. To schedule a seminar, auction, judging, or speaking engagement, please contact Ken Knight, Knightro, W11911 County Road FF,  River  Falls,  WI 54022,  phone  toll free 1-877-KNIGTRO, phone 715-262-8480,  fax 715-262-8480, e-mail [email protected]t; or contact the Midwest Farm & Livestock Directory at [email protected].