As we wind down 2023, it’s safe to say that it was a pretty exciting year! There were definitely some highs and lows, and each day brought new challenges to all of us.
Let’s take a look back at some of agriculture’s exciting 2023 news and breakthroughs with a quick disclaimer: Agriculture is a huge industry and there are new things happening constantly! This is just a few of the interesting and important things that happened in 2023.
At the beginning of the year, the first agriculture-specific satellite was launched. Seven ag-focused satellites are planned to be launched by 2026 to gather data on crop monitoring, yield prediction, soil moisture, biomass levels, and more. In other exciting technology news, at the 2023 American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention, John Deere announced that farmers and independent mechanics would be able to repair equipment on their own. This made huge strides as “right to repair” continues to be a hot topic — since that announcement, Farm Bureau has signed memorandums of understanding (MOUs) on “right to repair” with Case IH, New Holland, AGCO, and Kubota.
As the year went on, we saw the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) programs like ChatGPT. These programs still have a lot to learn about agriculture, and there is clear room for improvement. Who knows how much AI could affect ag in upcoming years. Any New Years predictions?
You also might remember how early on this year, egg prices were eggs-traordinarily high. Due to inflation, rising input costs, and reduced supply due to avian influenza, prices rose to a record high.
U.S. ag continued to prioritize sustainability in 2023. In April, the USDA’s Climate-Smart program got started. $3.1 billion was budgeted to be spent on projects and incentives for ag producers to adopt climate-mitigating practices.
Also in April, John Deere also announced that they are aiming to produce at least one fully electric autonomous tractor by 2026. Monarch Tractor has already released one commercially, and New Holland debuted one this past summer.
@thefarmbabe The first autonomous, data driven, battery operated tractor… you don’t even necessarily need someone in the drivers seat! Impressive tech from Monarch Tractor! www.monarchtractor.com #ev#innovativeagriculture#tractorlovers#monarchtractor ♬ original sound – The Farm Babe
In a sad but notable verdict reached in May, California’s Proposition 12 was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Prop 12 forbids the in-state sale of pork that comes from breeding hogs that are “confined in a cruel manner.” While only 1 percent of U.S. pigs are raised in California, 13 percent of American pork is consumed there. Unfortunately, Prop 12 being upheld means that states that sell pork into California must also comply with Proposition 12, even though they did not vote for it. This is widely expected to increase costs for pork producers (and consumers) moving forward.
June saw regulatory changes to gene editing on fruits and vegetables. The Environmental Protection Agency increased oversight of some gene-edited crops and added to the workload and waiting time for those in the produce industry. This will add to the cost and amount of time it will take to develop gene-edited produce moving forward.
In July, the Women in Agriculture Act was introduced, prioritizing research for agriculture machinery and equipment designed to be used by women and creating a fund set aside for childcare facilities in rural areas. The number of women in ag is growing, but the majority of tools are designed and manufactured for the average height, strength, and body type of a man. This act provides some potential to increase the safety of farm women everywhere.
In October, aquaculture grabbed Congress’ attention. Legislators introduced the Science-based Equitable Aquaculture Food (SEAfood) Act. This act would foster and encourage more offshore aquaculture development.
November brought the continuation of the farm bill through 2024. The farm bill was rightfully at the forefront of ag news this year. Since there was no new farm bill, we’ll keep hearing more about it moving forward.
The issue of how to label plant-based “meat” products was brought to congress. U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) reintroduced the Real Marketing Edible Artificials Truthfully Act, also known as the Real MEAT Act. This legislation would clarify the definition of beef and pork for labeling purposes and require that alternative (plant-based) proteins would display the word “imitation” on their packaging.
In early December, Wayne Hsuing, the co-founder of animal extremist group Direct Action Everywhere, was sentenced to 90 days in prison for trespassing on farms in 2018 and 2019. This justice is good news for animal ag, but unfortunately, it will also draw attention to the “activist” cause. Protecting agriculture against extremists isn’t a new battle for ag, but it is one that will likely continue for years to come.
Whew! A lot happened in 2023, and this is just a tiny portion of it. Some people are probably glad to be done with 2023, but even they could recognize that it was a noteworthy year. Between the focus on the farm bill and the new legislation that could affect ag, as well as new technologies and hot topics in ag like activists and right to repair, there was a lot of ag in the news. This is a trend we’re likely to see continuing into 2024.
Hopefully 2024 brings new technology, new breakthroughs, and agriculture being seen in a positive light!
Michelle Miller, the “Farm Babe,” is an internationally recognized keynote speaker, writer, and social media influencer and travels full time to advocate for agriculture. She comes from an Iowa-based row crop and livestock farming background and now resides on a timber farm in North Central Florida.