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Resolve to evolve in the new year

Like many Americans, I will make New Year’s resolutions as 2019 nears. My hectic full-time-working-mom lifestyle leaves little room for exercising more, eating well or getting organized, and I resolve to do better. But, like most Americans, I know I’ll likely break those resolutions within a few months.

The key to keeping resolutions is not necessarily discipline and willpower, according to a New York Times article published about this time last year. Rather, those who focus on positive motivations have more success. Reflecting on what you’re grateful for. Taking pride in small achievements. Collaborating with others. Realizing the benefits of making changes in your life.

In late November, MFA Incorporated held its annual meeting with the theme, “Empower Change.” The word, “empower,” is, well, powerful. It means giving someone authority to take control or making someone stronger and more confident.

The agriculture industry deals with change every day. But there’s a huge difference between change that is done to us and change we are empowered to make ourselves. That message was emphasized by the annual meeting’s featured speaker, Andrew McCrea, a farmer from Maysville, Mo., and award-winning farm broadcaster and author. When changes are beyond our control, he said, they are often a source of stress and worry. Changes we initiate ourselves, on the other hand, can be exhilarating and motivating.

This past year has certainly brought its share of changes beyond our control. Weather hurt row-crop and hay production. Commodity prices remained low while production costs kept climbing. Trade disputes disrupted markets.

Going into 2019, many uncertainties remain in agriculture. In fact, the outlook can be downright disheartening. USDA predicts farm income to be the third-lowest level in a decade, behind 2016 and 2009, and 13 percent lower than 2017. That trend is taking a dire toll, with an alarming rise in depression, bankruptcies and suicide among farmers.

As my husband and I often tell our kids, you can’t control anyone or anything around you—the only thing you have complete control over is yourself. With that in mind, let’s resolve to evolve in the new year ahead. Sure, eating healthier, losing weight and exercising more can bring personal growth, but consider resolutions to grow your farm, too.

Embrace Technology—Expand your tech toolbox to get more efficient with inputs and logistics, reduce labor and stress, improve productivity and make sound management decisions.

Consider Conservation—As the story on page 12 illustrates, conservation practices can help farmers make better use of unproductive land while earning money from government programs. These practices can help crop inputs go further, improve soil health and provide wildlife habitat among other benefits.

Focus on Marketing—Marketing matters, for both crops and livestock. Look for ways to manage risk with purposeful marketing strategies and lock in profits when possible.

Ask for Help—I know. Farmers are independent beings. But don’t be afraid to use the expertise and assistance available at your local MFA, USDA and Extension offices or even your neighbors. Farmers can—and should—rely on each other for support in challenging times.

Share Your Story—Improving the public image of farmers benefits the entire industry. Speak up and tell your story. Consumers are increasingly conscious about where their food comes from, and taking the time to engage with the public through social media or other avenues can help educate the non-farming population.

 Try Something New—If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. I’m sure you’ve heard that before, but it’s true. Talk with your MFA specialists about new products, practices and services. Attend farm shows and producer meetings. Read farm magazines and websites. Look for alternative ways to boost farm income. Some things may work, some may not, but you won’t know unless you try.

Stay Positive—Attitude goes a long way toward success, especially when changes and challenges are involved. Get past the negativity and take pride in being part of the greatest industry in the world.

Why should you consider making such changes? Well, McCrea told our annual meeting audience that’s the wrong question to ask. Instead, he said, ask “Why not?” Why not try something new? Why not collaborate with others? Why not share my story? With that shift in mindset, change becomes empowering, and amazing things happen.

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