This issue of Today’s Farmer marks the end and a beginning for one of the magazine’s longest-running and most popular features.
Robert Wisner has written grain outlook articles for this publication for more than 40 years, beginning in January 1982. His column’s debut coincided with a redesign of the magazine, which included an overhaul of content. Introducing Dr. Wisner, the editor’s note said, “In an effort to provide our readers with timely marketing information from some of the nation’s best sources, we’ve asked Robert N. Wisner, Iowa State University Extension economist, to prepare a regular feature on crop marketing.”
And he’s been doing that ever since. Until now.
At age 84, Wisner tells me he’s ready to retire from Today’s Farmer. And what a run it’s been. Best I can calculate—since the frequency of publication has shifted through the years—that’s nearly 400 times he’s contributed to our magazine.
Wisner said that a fellow ag economist, the University of Missouri’s Glenn Grimes, got him the MFA gig. Grimes, a professor in MU’s Agricultural Economics Department from 1951 to 1985, had been tapped to provide a regular livestock outlook for Today’s Farmer. He suggested that his Iowa State colleague would make a good source on grain markets.
Their articles appeared adjacent to each other for the next 27 years. Grimes’ final outlook published in February 2009, about the same time he resigned from his professor emeritus status. Ron Plain, who replaced Grimes as livestock economist at MU, took over the column.
Wisner spent 41 years at Iowa State Extension before retiring in December 2007. Three months later, he returned to the college’s Agricultural Marketing Resource Center and stayed for another 10 years. Even as he transitioned to “professor emeritus,” Wisner continued write his Today’s Farmer articles faithfully.
In the early years, Wisner recalls the challenges of providing timely information. “When the USDA reports came out,” he said, “we would get the overall picture from our market news office, but we had to wait for details, such as state crop estimates and crop progress, to come through the mail.”
Over the past four decades, Wisner said his articles have reflected a tremendous evolution in commodity markets, with changes that include increased crop production, drastic price fluctuations, technological advances, government policies and global influences.
He also admits that it’s rewarding to know MFA customers have faithfully followed his column. He was reminded of his somewhat celebrity status during a recent trip to pick up grass seed for his Iowa farm. Wisner asked if he could write a personal check for the purchase. The clerk said, “No problem! I’ve been reading your articles in Today’s Farmer for 40 years.”
As editor, it’s been my pleasure to work with Bob Wisner, and I’m sure readers will miss his contributions to Today’s Farmer. But rest assured, grain market analysis will continue to be part of our content.
Starting with our next issue, the crops outlook column will be written by Ben Brown, senior research associate with MU’s Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute. Brown is a native of Bates County in western Missouri, where he grew up on a diversified row-crop and cattle operation and was active in 4-H and FFA. He holds undergraduate degrees in agricultural economics and agronomy and a master’s in agricultural and applied economics. He joined the Mizzou staff in January 2021.
Ben tells me that the “why” behind his work is what motivates him to connect with producers.
“It’s not what I do or how I do it. My ‘why’ is a future where agriculture is exciting, dynamic and accessible. It’s helping farm managers improve their skills to effectively lead their operation and reach their business objectives in the hope we can turn curiosity into opportunity and opportunity into prosperity.”
That approach fits well with the values of MFA and Today’s Farmer. By publishing market outlooks, our goal is to provide trusted insight that helps farmers understand trends and make informed decisions about the marketing, sale and delivery of their products. We know that having the right information at the right time can help lead to success.
We’re happy to have Ben Brown aboard to share his expert analysis with you. Help us welcome him to Today’s Farmer. Will he have a 40- year run? Only time will tell.
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