Horan offers ag insights during trip to Turkey
Calhoun County farmer spoke to farmers from six nations
Calhoun County farmer Bill Horan recently met with farmers from six nations not far from the war torn border of Turkey and Syria.
At the request of the U.S. State Department, Horan attended the third annual Agriculture and Food Policy Conference in Adana, Turkey, for three days last week.
There, he talked about a wide range of agricultural topics with farmers from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
”Everybody I met there was really friendly,” he said.
He also learned the Turkish perspective on the problems at the Syrian border. He said that while many Americans may view Kurdish fighters as America’s allies, many Turks view the Kurdish fighters at the eastern half of the border as terrorists. Horan said the Turkish government’s plan to create a 30 mile buffer between their country and the Kurds is supported by many Turks.
Adana is a city of about 1.75 million people in southwestern Turkey, and it is far from the current fighting. Horan said he did not see any military activity, but he did notice some strict security precautions.
”Every store, every hotel, everywhere you go, you have to go through a metal detector,” he said. ”That’s the kind of security they live with everywhere.”
Poverty and wealth exist side by side in Turkey. Horan said he saw a Mercedes-Benz going down the street behind a horse cart.
Horan flew into Turkey on Nov. 4. He landed in Istanbul, then took a flight to Adana. Upon arriving there, he was surprised to find that the city of nearly 2 million people had an airport terminal about the size of the one at Fort Dodge Regional Airport.
The conference was held from Nov. 5 to Nov. 7. A large portion of the conference was about finding ways to establish better agricultural and food policy, according to Horan.
Farmers in Turkey raise corn, nuts, fruits, wheat, olives, cattle and sheep. While their products are like those of American farmers, the Turkish farmers raise their crops and livestock under conditions that are very different from those of their American counterparts.
According to Horan, the Turkish government sets commodity prices.
”The government tells them what their corn price is,” he said.
The producers he spoke with were impressed with the idea that free market forces, like activity on the Chicago Board of Trade, determine commodity prices in the United States.
Those producers were even more impressed by the fact that American farmers have a say in farm policy, Horan said. The idea of farmers visiting officials in the national capital to provide input and theofficials going to farm areas to learn more was almost unheard of among those producers, he said.
He described the approach to farm policy in Turkey and surrounding countries as ”very top down.”
The idea that Horan can dictate what happens to his farm property after his death also impressed the farmers at the gathering. He said in that region of the world, people do not have wills like Americans do.
Horan found that Turkish farms have very little on-site storage for harvested crops.
He also learned that export costs for Turkish farmers are low. He said everywhere in that country farms are relatively close to ports on the Mediterranean Sea or the Black Sea. Farmers in the American Midwest, however, have to pay to get their commodities sent to a port for export.
Horan returned to the United States on Nov. 8.