Spoke to Owners of 400 Large Farming Operations and ...

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Yesterday I gave a 30 minute talk about Y2K to a little over 400 owners of large farming operations. Below is a bullet summary of the results.

* Almost all responded that they had heard of Y2K. * Over 2/3's responded that computers were now critical to their operations. (At least from an efficiency perspective; many noted that without their systems, their ability to produce would have to be cut back) * Every single person there responded that they felt Y2K would not impact them in any way. * After the talk, I had 21 come up to me and want more information. These were truly concerned.

Just a note, I had one guy actually respond during the presentation with a loud "bullxxxx".

-- Greg Sugg (gregsugg@bbnp.com), January 08, 1999


Good point. From the farming perspective, the on the farm computers are for efficiency. They help farmers make money, but don't keep the plants growing. As long as seed, fuel and fertilizer is available, the farmers of the US will produce far more than enough food for the population of this country.

-- Paul Davis (davisp1953@yahoo.com), January 08, 1999.

And as long as I have food, water, heat and electric, I'll be ok, too.

-- Bill (bill@microsoft.com), January 08, 1999.

I have a friend who is an editor for the USDA and sends me copies of materials and letters going out to farmers re y2k . The USDA has warned farmers about embedded chips in their large equipment. So they should know by now that they have trouble. They have also been told in a "don't panic the troops" way that they should stock up on supplies, perhaps have a garden, etc. I also know a fellow who went to John Deere to find out what might be in his large tractor re chips. John Deere told him he would have to bring it in and they would "search it and replace any chips". The price would be $1200. A kid followed the farmer out to his truck, told him that he had just completed college course and that his machine had one chip. Told him where it was and how to get it out and to go to the local computer place and buy a compliant or non date chip. He did this and the chip cost less than $3. He is now helping his neighbors do the same.

-- Judith (JHaral2197@aol.com), January 08, 1999.

I posted several months ago about farming and Y2k on a farming forum and was SHOUTED off the forum. I have visited a few times since and the attitude isn't much better. Think about this - if you have a hog confinement near you, you will probably have MAJOR groundwater contamination if the electricity fails. Most of these confinements have computers running everything from the environment to the amount of feed to controlling the waste from the hogs. If the waste isn't controlled, it will spill wherever it wants and will eventually get into the creeks, lakes, rivers and groundwater.

I am a computer consultant and teach part-time at a community college in rural america and my students are usually adults that either farm, grew up on a farm or relatives farm or are in a related occupation. I haven't gotten anywhere with these students in informing them about Y2k, so I have quit unless a student asks about it.

We also farm, but more like a couple of generations ago with a self-sustaining farm (we are also laughed at locally). Since we bought draft horses, we are in better shape than any of the locals to weather Y2k.

-- beckie (sunshine_horses@yahoo.com), January 08, 1999.

"Good point. From the farming perspective, the on the farm computers are for efficiency. They help farmers make money, but don't keep the plants growing. As long as seed, fuel and fertilizer is available, the farmers of the US will produce far more than enough food for the population of this country." Gollleee, Paul -- didn't your own words tip you off to something? "As long as seed, fuel and ferilizer is available...." These are not small considerations. Major crop seed comes from Brazil, for pete's sake...fuel depends on trucks and electricity and Saudi Arabia and Venezuela and Chevron...fertilizer, likewise, is petrochemical.

And, once the crops have grown, there is the machine harvest, machine sorting and cleaning, machine packing, trucking, shipping, and distributing.....

Surely, Paul, you HAVE to see beyond the obvious....

Anita E.

-- Anita Evangelista (ale@townsqr.com), January 08, 1999.

Paul's position is very typical of the pollyannas. Because they can take each y2k related disaster concern and examine it BY ITSELF, they conclude No Big Problem. Their understanding of Systems and Complexity Theory is abysmal.

As this thing unfolds, its interesting to note that it is becoming a real psychological problem with people. Their minds will not allow them to study the big picture for very long, because if they do their beliefs are shattered. The denial is becoming total.

-- a (a@a.a), January 08, 1999.

a, your comments may have some bearing on an observation that I have made. A few days ago, I started a thread inviting folks to basically make an argument for the opposite of what they believe is coming with Y2K. So, for instance, I came up with the best argument that I could make that Y2K was not going to be a big deal, even though in reality I believe its going to be TEOTWAWKI. Other doomers did the same (though one wimped out with "divine intervention"), as did middle-of-the-roaders (who generally presented an optimistic and pessimistic argument). But only one hardcore optimist -- JBD, who invoked Murphy's Law -- came through with any kind of argument that Y2K could be really bad.

I think that you may be on to something, that hardcore Y2K optimists have some kind of "mental block" to the effect that not only do they not believe that Y2K is going to be really bad, but they cannot even envision such a thing, because its just too horrible for them to want to think about.

-- Jack (jsprat@eld.net), January 08, 1999.

Keep in mind that at the same time I'm seeing this attitude at the meeting, we currently have two projects going on repairing database apps for farming operations. One raises 10,000 acres of seed grains. (Wheat and soybeans) The other is a commercial grain buyer that recently put in a new system. They paid $11,000 for it and it's not compliant. The software company that sold it to them won't refund their money and told them to go to court if they don't like it. As you know, you can't sue someone halfway across the country over $11,000 and hope to come out ahead, even if you are right.

We also found a third operation that supplies a huge amount of produce to a chain of over 500 grocery stores. They receive their orders in at night by modem, and have a database that tracks the orders. All of it, including the incoming orders system, is non compliant. The guy told us to get lost. I offered to help them for free. He still says I'm crazy. Who knows, maybe I am!

-- Greg Sugg (gregsugg@bbnp.com), January 08, 1999.


If you can show someone in that concerned group of 21 that it's worth it to do a Y2k checkup, and to remediate one noncompliant system, then you'll have someone to help convince one or two of the other 20. Then three or four to convince more, and so on. Do you know them well enough to figure out who might be most receptive?

-- No Spam Please (anon@ymous.com), January 08, 1999.

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