The man who recorded the history of Missouri agriculture by the numbers for almost forty years is calling it a career at the end f the week. Gene Danekas has been the director of the national agricultural statistics service Missouri field office for 38 years, keeping records of the number of farmers, the numbers of livestock, fowl, swine—in more recent years, fish raised by farmers, honey..”It’s hard to manage something if you can’t measure it,” he says.
He and his staff have issued forecasts of harvest yields. When he started there were no CAFOs. Corn was not turned into ethanol. And Missouri had thousands of pig farmers.
The statistics also show the advent and growing popularity of sophisticated herbicides and genetically modified seeds, a trend that he hopes continues. “Monsanto says it will,” he observes.
He says fewer farmers are working fewer acres and that the risks have increased. He recalls in the 70s when farmers spent two dollars to earn three. Today they spend three dollars in hopes of making four.
Danekas left the family farm and turned to statistics because he felt farming didn’t have much of a future. Today he thinks it has a strong future and thinks the number of young people getting into it will continue to increase.