Friday, September 30, 2011

Day 6 - part 2

I forgot to post one thought that deserves a post of its own.  Irrigation is needed in some areas, but is rare. If a farmer wants to irrigated and can get the permits it is very expensive. Below are the costs for farmers.
German farmers pay 1.8€ per mm hectare for just the water, they pay 2.5€ per hectacre for all the costs involved.  How much are they paying per acre foot in U.S. dollars? How much for just the water and for all costs? No cheating, you must show your work.
By the way, this is a picture of the Oder river, on the other side is Poland.

Day 6 - Friday, September 30

Today we started at the LBV in Potsdam, which is a state organization of the DVB. Similar to CFB's relationship with AFBF. The state of Brandenburg is the same size as Maryland with 14 counties. They grow wheat, rye, potatoes, sugar beets and are unique in having many privatized collective farms following reunification.  While the average farm size is oly 250 hectacres, 60% of the farms are more than 1,000 hectacres.  The LBV have 12 state staff.  They work to control state regulations, provide information on various commodities and provide the association administration.
We then went to the RBB, a semen collection and breeding facility.  Breeding livestock is heavily regulated by law in Germany.  As a producer you must have a permit in order to breed livestock. We were given a tour of the facility. The staff is particularly proud of a holstein dairy bull name Lonar that has sold more than 680,000 units of semen world wide, over 100,000 in the U.S.
The RBB also has a growing facility where it will purchase, or raise for a commission, breeding beef and dairy cattle. They have auctions throughout the year where breeders and farmers come to purchase some of the top livestock in Germany.
We then toured a research farm that is unique to the Brandenburg state.  Because of reunification and the unique nature of the area, the privatly owned farm conducts government funded research and education of dairy, beef, pigs and sheep. 
Prior to reunification it was a government collective farm. The funding is from ag profit (70%) and government contracts (20%) to fund the research and education.  The farm educates veterinary and agriculture students, has 1040 hectacres in 23 villages, with a minimal average field size of 7.9 hectacres. The main part of the farm is livestock production and biogas research.  They have one of the first and most widely used biogas research plant.  They farm is also doing a vast amount of research on environmental impacts and feeding research for environmental emissions. 
We ended the evening with some traditional kaffee und kuchen, or coffee and cake at a village on our way back to the hotel.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Day 5 - Thursday, September 29

We packed our bags and were picked up first thing this morning, traveling east to Bradenburg.  
Our first visit was to the Oder swamp; Germany's largest polder of 140,000 hectares of land that is at sea level. The farmers have a complex system of canals and 40 pump stations which must pump the water into the Oder river.  We saw three pumps that were built in 1885 and could pump 180,000 liters per second.  We were shown a presentation on the flooding that would occur if the dike, which is 6 meters high, were breached.  Within 48 hours the entire 140,000 hectacres would be under water from 3-5 meters.   
We then went to a small goat farm (17.5 hectares) that is milking 100 goats.  The farmer  produces and sells milk, cheeses and ice cream on the farm.  He does not use antibiotics because it is too expensive versus the value of a goat.  
Finally we were given an extensive tour and discussion at a milk, feed and soil and testing station.  They are a membership organization which completes the safety and quality testing required by the government.  They currently are the only testing station approved by the government, but that will be expanded to others in 2013.  The members of the group have expanded the services to also include coordination for animal ID and consulting services. The farmers pay 18€ per cow annually, with an additional 10€ per cow being subsidized by the government.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Day 4 - Wednesday, September 28

We started the morning by meeting Guido Seedler with the German Cooperatives Federation (DGRV). It is a political association that represents the interest of those within cooperative systems.  This is not limited to the cooperative farms, but also includes ag marketing coops, banks and industrial, which includes varoius craftsman.
Within ag the association represents  834 supply and marketing cooperatives, including diaries, processing,   livestock and meat. The average size of their cooperative farm members is 1,500 hectares that generate  42 billion euro annually.  The cooperative members account for 66% of the milk produced, 50% of the cash crop, 33% of the pigs, 33% of exports, 33% of the wine on only 9% of the agricultural land. The DGRV is located in a beatuifully architectured building near the U.S. Embassy and the Brandenburg Gate. The Brandenburg Gate is one of the most well known structures in Germany and Europe. It was the gate to the Prussian empire, has survived many wars and was in 'no man's land' during the cold war. It was near the Berlin wall, so someone would have been putting themselves in harms way if they were where we were standing prior to the wall coming down.
We had a good discussion about a word we've been hearing repeatedly in Berlin: Sustainability.  The word has many different definitions, depending on who you speak with.  Mr. Seedler defined it as part social standards, ecological standards and profitability.  He felt that if you do not include profitability, then sustainability is typically only a marketing program.  We also talked about Germany's energy situation, having just decided to abandon nuclear energy.  He explained that one of the most frustrating pieces of this decision is that their is no open discussion, no debate, no pros and cons. The only thing you hear is cons.
We then had some free time to explore Berlin and shop.
In the afternoon we met with their head of public relations for DVB.  Their current campaign is on freezing the sale of ag land for development.  They lose 95 hectares per day to development. This is partially because of their law; if one hectacre is used for a road, then one hectacre must be set aside for nature.  You cannot touch this land or allow grazing or timber production. I cannot picture a time when our members would be willing to cede their property rights to preserve farm land.
Finally, we attended Grummet Fest which is similar to a program AFBF does where they invited the staff of the members of parliament to their office for food, drink and time to socialize.  It was well attended and we had the opportunity to meet many people who work for parliament and in the partys. 

Day 3 - Tuesday, September 27

We met first thing with the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection.  They shared with us their structure, how they spend their budget and some statistical information on German agriculture.   Their focus however is mainly on the area of consumer protection, which seems to be very prevalent within the German government.  They not only focus on the safety of the product or its health or environmental benefits, they look at the process on how it was created.  This can lead to new products being derailed for non-scientific reasons and once you are started down that path it is difficult to retrace your steps.
We then toured the Reichstag where the German parliament meets to discuss laws and scrutinize the government.  The buidling has a facinating and rich history of war, separation and reunification.  There are over a million bullet holes in the building with much of the destruction being left to help reconnect to the tattered past.  The architecture is also amazing as new features were added after reunification to update the building and carry a message of transparency in government.
We followed the tour by meeting with the Foreign Ag Service at the U.S. Embassy.  There we were breifed on trade with the EU and Germany.  We also talked about hot topics like GMOs and cloning.  We also talked about the recent German ban on nuclear energy.  It surprised us to learn that one third of their corn silage production is used to produce methane for energy production.
In the evening we had dinner at a traditional Rhineland restaurant and watched some soccer with Thomas Huschle, Vice President of the German Rural Youth Association. Which is much like our YFR program, but it adds other rural trades to their membership.  They are the official youth program of the DVB.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Day 2 - Monday, September 26

We started the day at the DVB, which is a farmers organizaiton similar to Farm Bureau.  The DVB staff were holding their weekly staff meeting to discuss current issues, DVB political decisions and activities.
We then met with the CDU (largest party, conservative), FDP (3rd largest party, conservative) and the green party (furthest left, and newest, fastest growing party).  We gained a better understanding of the complicated German political system, which mixes mulitple paty control, with a parliament government. And, talked about various agricultural issuess, such as animal housing standards, animal welfare, direct payments to farmers and genetically enhanced crops, to name a few.  We had the opportunity to have lunch with Dr. Born, the General Secretary (Executive Director) of the DVB and learn more about their governance.  It is very similar to our Farm Bureau structure, with an emphasis on local farmer input.  However, their political system is vastly different and requires a different kind of lobbying.  When a bill is introduced from the government it can be amended, but not killed.  So some consensus must be met on the issue.  Dr. Bond also told us about people wanting to get into agriculture can enter an apprecticeship like program, where they gain practical knowlege on the farm at the same time they do classwork.  Then they go on to the university if they wish.  There are appriximately 50% of the workforce going into agriculture, that does not come from a farm. I enjoyed a traditional German dish of ground pork wrapped and cooked in cabbage with potatoes.
We spend the afternoon with Tiffanie Stephani, who works for the DBV in the Brussels office.  She works on policy issues dealing with the EU and its legal authority.  She gave us a better understanding of CAP or the Common Agricultural Policy which is the EU subsidy program.  In order to particicpate as a farmer you must meet 19 different environmental and production standards.  The EU has decoupled payments in recent years, tying the subsidy to the amount of land owned rather than a production based standard.  In the EU, 40% of farmers income is being derived from subsidies, with approximately 10% less than that coming from direct payments. The interesting thing is that high direct payments and subsidies has helped increase production.  The EU has become a self-sufficient agricultural state, and measures its self-sufficiency annuall. Finally, like in America, there are fewer farmers today, they too are producing more food and fiber than there were 10, 20 or more years ago.
We ended the day with some free time, which several of us chose to go to the Neues Museum. The museum has a vast collection of Egyptian and papyrus artifacts.  It also has the second most beautiful woman in the world (first is reserved for Garin), Queen Nefertiti.  It was one of the most stunning things I have ever seen.  The bust of Nefertiti was in pristine condition, despite being over 3350 years old.  AND, it was only a scupltors model for making other replications.

Day 1 - Sunday, September 25

I left the US (Omaha) on Saturday at 10:40 am changing planes in Chicago, and then Newark, where I met the other three McCloy fellows.  Shane Otley a hay and cattle producer from eastern Oregon, Katherine Harrison a goat producer and packer from Ohio (near Columbus) and Tracy Grondine from AFBF.We landed after 8 am in Berlin, quickly got our bags and went through customs.  Brigitte Wenzel from Deutscher Bauernverband (DBV) met us at the airport and invited us to her home for a German breakfast and shepherded us around town for some sight seeing throughout the day.  We did a boat tour along the river in Berlin, seeing several sights, got to see a section of the wall and tour a new building/exhibit that was just opened.  The building was the main interchange between the east and west prior to reunificattion, known as the "Palace of Tears" for the heart wrenching moments where families living in the West Germany and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) had to part ways.  We also got to see the Berlin marathon which we were told is the 5th best marathon in the world and a runner from Kenya broke the world record.  It is facinating to see the runners at a pace for 26 miles that is probably faster than I can sprint.  We ended the day with a home cooked meal and beer at Brigitte's home, with her daughter Marta.