Remove the blinders A recent letter that crossed my desk from an Iowa farmer clamped down on a raw nerve of mine. It struck one of those electrical pathways that reminds me to keep an open mind.

I'm not assaulting one farmer's opinion. In fact I wish more farmers were outspoken on issues, because controversy livens the debate and can be a teacher for those who can listen as well as express. I'm addressing a group that, bottom line, seems to fear change and wants to live in the past.

At issue: organic farming. To paraphrase the letter (which is reprinted in this issue, page 48, and is in response to a story we published on organic standards), it calls organic farming a "fad" and a "fraud," it labels consumers who buy such "inferior" products "suckers" and it defines those who grow them "radicals of the 'green' movement."

This viewpoint is certainly not new. But hold it up to a mirror and you may be able to see how the "green movement" is using such attitudinal banter to its advantage, while spewing some of its own.

As a Midwest farm magazine, we're certainly not proponents of organic farming because, simply put, the technology isn't there to make this practice feed the world, which the reader's letter aptly stated. But we're not opponents of this practice either because we see some Midwest farmers profiting from this niche market.

To succeed in the future of farming, you must deliver what customers want. Although the majority of consumers believe our food supply is safe, there is a growing segment that simply demands organic, for whatever reason, and will pay dearly for it.

The point is, you can love or hate this organic segment or any other value-added niche, but don't ignore the message behind it - growing what consumers want.

Remove the blinders and keep an open mind to exploring niches that may help keep you and your loved ones down on the farm, and in the black.

Merger musings American Home Products has completed the sale of its Cyanamid Ag Products business to BASF. BASF's purchase doubles its crop protection business and moves it up into the world's top three leading manufacturers. And BASF plans to move its global crop protection headquarters from Germany to New Jersey.

CNH (Case New Holland) has sold its Versatile, Genesis and G/70 series 4-wd and 2-wd tractor lines, along with a Canadian manufacturing plant, to Buhler Versatile. Under the agreement, Buhler will supply these tractors to New Holland through October 2001 and will supply tractor parts on an ongoing basis. CNH retained the patented SuperSteer design technology and licensed it to Buhler, and it retained all commercial rights for exclusive distribution of the New Holland Bidirectional TV140 tractor.

Zeneca, in addressing U.S. Justice Department concerns regarding its merger with Novartis (to become Syngenta), plans to sell its acetochlor line of herbicides (Surpass, TopNotch, FulTime) to a yet unnamed major ag chem company.

Optimum Quality Grains has been renamed DuPont Specialty Grains and has been given a new mission to develop more end-use tailored grains and oilseeds. Where Optimum was focused mainly on feed and related livestock environment and quality issues, Specialty Grains will work increasingly with food companies.

Dot.com dealings CyberCrop.com applauded recent passage of the bill making electronic signatures equal in weight to pen-and-ink signed contracts. "The new e-signatures law will make the registration process (for grain transactions) simpler, faster, less onerous and less intrusive for farmers to do business on the Internet," says Scott Deeter, CEO of the company.

A lesson learned With biotech wheat preparing to hit the market in 2003, the U.S. Wheat Association board of directors has declared that the customer comes first. The board plans to develop a system to ensure that global wheat importers will always be able to get non-genetically modified U.S. wheat, if that is what the buyer wants. It strongly urges biotech companies to "ensure customer acceptance prior to commercialization" of biotech wheat.