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In the race to automate, let’s not forget the human touch of farming.

March 1, 2019

2 Min Read
Landscape reflected in shiny dairy truck driving on highway
LOSERS OF AUTOMATION: It is estimated that millions of truck-driving jobs will be lost in the next 10 years as self-driving cars and trucks start hitting the road. kozmoat98/Getty Images

I had a great view at the recent New York Farm Show. My booth was just a few feet away from Boumatic autonomous feed pushers, Lely and GEA robotic milkers, and other goodies that would make any techie feel giddy.

It’s my favorite spot in the entire show — and one that attracts big crowds.

I love technology. It’s made my life easier and I feel I’m much more productive because of it.

It’s no secret that technology is now a huge part of agriculture. Farmers need it and embrace these great tools, like robotic milkers, variable-rate planters and many, many other things. But there is a dark side to embracing all this technology.

Driving on my way up to Syracuse, I plugged my smartphone into my car jack and listened to a podcast by 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. If you don’t know who he is, Yang is running for president on a platform of giving each person $1,000 a month, something he calls the “Freedom Dividend.” The idea is that putting money in every person’s wallet, no questions asked, will help take the sting off the coming automation of jobs from artificial intelligence and better technologies.

Goldman Sachs predicts trucker job losses of 25,000 per month as self-driving rigs start rolling out. The McKinsey Global Institute put out a report of possibly 1.5 million trucking jobs being lost in the next 10 years.

Related:Temper expectations for high-speed internet on farm

Now, as a farmer, you’re probably asking yourself, why should I care? Well, what Yang and others are bringing up is something we should all be thinking about.

Automation, jobs and human touch
Automation through artificial intelligence, self-driving cars and trucks, and a whole bunch of automated farm technologies, is happening now. This is all exciting stuff, but it’s also putting someone out of a job.

That’s not to say that automation is a bad thing. Finding workers is difficult. Finding good workers is very difficult. And the government continues doing nothing about the country’s immigration system. So, you can see why automation is appealing. And hey, the technology is cool.

But as much as these technologies can save money and time, I worry about taking away the human element, the human touch, from the farm.

Many of today’s farmers learned the value of hard work from working on a farm alongside their mom or dad. I hope there are jobs left for them in the future.

As much as technology will make farms more efficient and able to grow more from less, we’ll still need that farm owner there to make the decisions.

Farmers are much more interesting to talk to than robots!

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