Talk at coffee shops and in barn lots when neighbors drop by waiting for the fog to lift before combining this fall have often turned to stories about who is trying to rent ground away from whom, and how much someone else would pay to grab the ground away from his neighbor for next year.
We posed a similar question to the Profit Planners panel for the November issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer and Prairie Farmer.
In that scenario, the son wanted to go knock on doors in counties where yields were poor and see if landowners would consider a change. The father knew it wasn't ethical, but was hesitating about what to tell his son.
"My answer was very short and to the point," says Chris Parker, one of the panelists. He recently retired after 31 years as an Extension ag educator with Purdue University. "I've dealt with this question many times over the years from both sides of the fence. To me it boils down to one simple answer: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
That puts things in proper perspective, Parker believes. Taking advantage of other farmers, especially one down on their luck, isn't what agriculture should be about.
Holly Spangler, editor of Prairie Farmer, wrote an article this summer about a farm family trying to expand to make room for the next generation by entering into the brewing business. Her cover story and spread brought a firestorm of angry replies from readers.
Some thought the farmers were wrong in raising crops and producing alcohol. A few even insulted Spangler for writing such a story. At the end of the day, it was the ugly response, not the fact that people disagreed, that frustrated Spangler.
"We're better than that in agriculture," she wrote in response. "We can disagree, but we don't have to call each other names and threaten one another."
I related to that because there are farmers in Indiana who are raising hops or doing other things for the expanding craft brewery business in Indiana. I've hesitated to write their stories for the very thing that happened in Illinois- angry response from other readers.
Given the nature of the response, bullying and not allowing for any other views, I'll probably go ahead and write those stories this winter. There is something wrong with agriculture if we can't be tolerant of what one another is doing, as long as it is legal, without resorting to making idle or not so idle threats and name calling.
It applies to the family getting in the whiskey business in Illinois. It applies to those who would undercut their neighbor by offering more cash rent or currying favor with another farmer's landowner behind the person's back. Somewhere it has to stop. Somewhere there has to be a return to a spirit of cooperation in agriculture. Now is a good time to start.