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Helping agriculture succeed in rapidly changing environment

–by Teresa Spaeth

Those who may stereotype rural life as slow-moving and resistant to change need only look at the changes in the agriculture economy in the last year to see that change is happening quickly. Rural and urban agribusinesses and producers are needing to adapt deftly to sustain and grow their businesses for the future. Think of these events or changes alone:

  • Volatility in commodity prices
  • Recommended changes to the Renewable Fuel Standards
  • Final passage of a five-year farm bill
  • Propane shortages resulting in record high prices
  • Increases in livestock feed costs

Part of the reason AURI was initially created was to help increase value for commodities during times of extreme low prices. But even as prices have increased, the volatility in agriculture and the continuous need to adjust makes the work AURI is doing just as, if not more, relevant today. Here are some examples of how AURI is helping address these challenges:

Propane shortages:
Interest in using agricultural and woody biomass increases during times of high propane and natural gas shortages, but work happens year-round to better understand this renewable fuel, its advantages and challenges, and the market for it. AURI’s Biomass Feasibility Guide (found on AURI’s website) is just one way that AURI continues to provide information to greenhouses operators, poultry producers, and others who are considering biomass as a heating option.

Increases in livestock costs:
Feed costs are one of the highest inputs for producers, but using the best, most nutritious feed also has a tremendous impact on the prices farmers can get for their animals. AURI is continuously looking at new and alternative feed options, as evidenced by the work on a new alfalfa blend pellet featured on pages 2-3.

Volatility in commodity prices:
One of the important benefits of value-added agriculture—the term that generally refers to manufacturing processes that increase the value of primary agricultural commodities—is to offer enough long-term usage options to create a steady demand, and hopefully therefore steady prices, for commodities. Alternative uses offer more options for commodity uses.

One of our goals at AURI is to be an agile organization that constantly has our eye on the future. We do this in multiple ways, including having teams that watch trends in our core four areas of biobased products, coproducts, food, and renewable energy, and conducting assessments and studies of current and future needs. We constantly evaluate emerging and new opportunities to help create a strong future for agriculture and all of its related industries.