I farm in a partnership with a younger brother. We own 1400 acres, rent an additional 3000 acres from family and 230 acres from others. We produce mainly durum wheat and lesser amounts of hard red spring wheat, barley, high oleic sunflowers, pinto beans, navy beans, flax, and field peas.
We rotate crops and rotate weed control practices to obtain maximum benefits with minimal herbicide use. We also use mulch tillage practices, and continue to explore zone tillage options. We use crop scouting as a means to target controls to specific problem areas.
The Durum Education Research and Marketing committee of Dakota Growers Pasta Company were involved in this project, specifically in developing the questionnaire. Also the chairman of the company board of directors was extensively involved in the questionnaire development as was Mark Winkelman from Precision Marketing, the survey conductor.
Terry Gregoire from the NDSU Extension Service assisted in the questionnaire development and other aspects of the project.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
No means was available to measure the impact of our efforts to educate durum producers about agriculture practices which lead to production of higher quality durum wheat. The project goals were: 1) design and conduct a survey of producers, 2) use information gained to improve future seminars with an emphasis on sustainable practices and 3) use information to strengthen company positions in the marketplace.
We employed Precision Marketing to conduct a survey of producers. Extensive time and effort went into developing a survey. A major concern was expressed by the company board of directors as to impacts of a lengthy survey on producers. Much time and effort was spent to keep the survey as short as possible but still extract the useful information for computations and analysis. Survey length almost became a barrier to project completion. We were finally able to work it out and had few complaints from producers. The surveyor (Precision Marketing) was very impressed with the level of survey participation. We learned a number of things, some were not surprising and others were.
Percent kernel hard and vitreous was named as the most important quality factor. This factor is related to crop rotation. Producers in the west said the best quality was obtained by planting durum following sunflowers. In the east producers named edible beans as the previous year crop that resulted in the best quality durum wheat. Perhaps in future seminars we need to include program topics on growing these crops as they relate to the quality impacts on the following year durum crop.
The survey identified that some confusion exists as to the definition of “minimum standards” for the company. However, a change in delivery practices by the company that involves participating country elevators is helping to substantially reduce this confusion. Older producers said they preferred the seminar setting to obtain information. As per the younger producers, we may need to investigate electronic information transfer to meet their needs.
A strong message was sent by producers that variety selection was extremely important to the success of obtaining quality durum. Yet there are few varieties to choose from. The DERM committee interprets this grower response as a need for increased emphasis on variety research and development. We are pursuing al options. We have received preliminary commitment from the company board of directors for funding of a significant effort in variety development as a result of our efforts. We are excited to begin.
Producers named harvesting durum at higher moisture levels and using bin aeration as the second most frequent practice to achieve quality durum. Information regarding this practice should be given emphasis in future seminars.
Finally three out of every four growers named a production practice they have changed or plan to change in response to concerns about the environment. This is a strong indicator of the acceptance level of sustainable production practices. This identified response is extremely important in maintaining a company image to the public. It is also a significant factor for use by the company sales department as they visit with customers and potential customers.
1) Met in small groups with company representative. Developed all inclusive survey.
2) Met with the DERM committee to refine and target survey questions
3) Surveyors developed first draft of survey
4) Met with company board of directors chairman to further refine and target questions.
5) Surveyor modified questionnaire.
6) Met with DERM committee and bard of directors chairman to role play and pre-test questionnaire
7) Surveyor formulated the final questionnaire and began implementation
8) Mid-task report to DERM committee March 21, 1996 by Precision Marketing representative
9) Survey completed and report prepared and presented April, 1996
10) Results discussed with Extension Specialist
11) Results discussed at DERM meeting July, 1996. Met with company sales representative and discussed strategies. July 30th sales representative no longer with the company.
12) Final thoughts for report post harvest of DERM committee meeting November 15, 1996
Strategies for implementation:
1) Obtain home page on North Dakota Agriculture Department web site on the internet.
2) Passed motion to approach resolution committee for a one percent check off on divided checks for variety research and development
3) Gained support from company president for him to contact Monsanto and other holders of biotechnology rights regarding technology access/partnerships for variety development.
4) Met with North Dakota Agriculture coalition to ask support for general fund commitment for additional durum wheat development
5) Developed presentation for district meetings regarding grant survey results
6) Discussed seminars for 1997. Perhaps inviting the company sales manager to be on the program would help to focus attention on using survey information to strengthen company position in the marketplace.
If given another opportunity to survey growers I would like to ask more questions about contractual arrangements. Changes in the government farm program have greater risk impacts on producers. I believe opportunities exist to design a contractual arrangement that reduces risk for producers and provides a number of benefits for customers. I hope to investigate this area in more detail. However, having more information from the producer would be helpful in convincing the rest of the food chain members that this possibility exists.
We developed a news release that was widely distributed. We also plan to discuss project results at the district and annual meetings of the company. We expect attendance to exceed seven hundred producers. In addition the NDSU Extension director has seen the survey results and plans to use some of the findings to improve information delivery methods. We hope to work with the company sales department to refine the survey results into a customer friendly format for wide distribution. We also hope to work with the North Dakota Agriculture Department to enhance North Dakota’s image as a supplier of quality value added food products from farmers. A good place to start would be a web site on the internet.