New FIN writer

You'll find a new name on the Farm Industry News masthead. Gil Gullickson joins the FIN staff as senior editor. He will write from a field office in Sioux Falls, SD. A South Dakota native, Gullickson earned an agricultural degree from South Dakota State University and has since written exclusively about agriculture. Over his 17-year professional career, Gullickson has won many honors for his writing and photo skills.

StarLink testing

USDA's Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration recently recommended that all seed corn sold for this year's crop be tested for the presence of the Cry9C protein (StarLink). Seed testing positive for the protein should not be sold for planting purposes and should be redirected for feed or non-food uses.

Bidding battle ends

The world's largest poultry producer, Tyson Foods, reached a deal in early January to buy the world's largest meat processor, IBP Inc. The agreement ended a bidding battle between Tyson and Smithfield Foods, the world's largest hog producer, for the purchase of IBP. In the end, Tyson agreed to buy the Dakota Dunes, SD, processor for $3.2 billion.

BASF buys ExSeed Genetics

The global company BASF will purchase ExSeed Genetics, a plant biotechnology company that has developed value-enhanced grains such as NutriDense. ExSeed Genetics, Owensboro, KY, will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of BASF Plant Science.

Farm income drops

If you felt a financial pinch in 2000, you weren't alone. Farm income dropped from 1999 to 2000 for 75% of the growers in a sample from the Illinois Farm Business Farm Management Program. Average net worth is expected to have declined 7.3% last year, according to Dale Lattz, University of Illinois extension farm management specialist.

Grain farms in 2000 are projected to average $32,414 in net farm income compared with $33,180 in 1999. Lattz noted the 2000 income would have been $16,598 without federal assistance.

Income in both years was still substantially higher than in 1998 when net income averaged $13,827. But remember 1997? The average that year was $50,187.

Avoid sales traps

As the winter winds blow outside, growers often find themselves inside talking to salespeople on the phone or in their homes. If this happens to you, drop the “Minnesota nice” attitude and take your time into your own hands, reports Nancy Lenhart, University of Minnesota extension service.

Don't let salespeople fast-talk you into a sale, she says. If a salesperson on the phone makes you feel uncomfortable or guilty for not buying, interrupt him or her and hang up. If the salesperson is in your home, ask him or her to leave. They are required by law to do so. In addition, most states allow three days to cancel in-home or telephone purchases of $25 or more. Lenhars has a few more suggestions to help you avoid sales troubles:

  • Don't buy something if you're told the sale must be made immediately. Legitimate salespeople give you time to make the decision. They also will provide references if you ask.

  • Don't make impulse decisions. Ask yourself if you need the product or service before meeting with the salesperson.

  • Calculate the true cost of the offer and compare alternatives. Could you make the purchase somewhere else for less money?

  • Read all the paperwork before making a decision. Know what you're signing and keep the paperwork and receipts.

  • Know the company's cancellation policy. “Be leery of a company that won't allow you to get a refund if you're not satisfied,” Lenhart warns.

You will find more information about your rights, companies and products from your state's attorney general's office or the Better Business Bureau.

Part of the solution

“Our position in Kenya is that biotechnology is not a problem. Poverty is.” — Shem Adhola, senior official in the Kenya agriculture ministry, when asked about the development of a genetically engineered sweet potato. The virus-resistant potato is being hailed as a potential solution for food shortages in Kenya.