One trip 10 years ago changed the way Cody Bingham sees the agriculture industry. To this day, he draws on those experiences when making decisions for the family farm in Jerome, Idaho, and the nation’s sugarbeet industry.
Like many young producers today, before Bingham returned to the farming operation his parents encouraged him to pursue higher education. Little did he realize the quest for knowledge would take him across the ocean for a master’s degree in international food and agribusiness from the Royal Agricultural University in England.
Adventure in education
The Jerome, Idaho, native first attended Utah State University and obtained degrees in both agribusiness and agricultural systems technology. “My thought process was when I finished high school, I would get an education and come back and help expand the family farm,” he says. “The farm was going to get bigger. My dad and I would both be successful there, and then I could transition it to my future children.”
Millie May Photography
FARM DECISIONS: Idaho sugarbeet grower Cody Bingham harvests his 2017 crop. After a study abroad program, the young farmer realizes the impact overseas production and markets have on his bottom line.
Then a unique opportunity presented itself. Utah State offered a joint venture with the Royal Agricultural University, and Bingham signed up for the exchange program.
“It was an opportunity to go overseas and study international agribusiness,” he says. “I would be learning about different ag production systems and how others do business.”
There, Bingham rubbed shoulders with individuals from England, Korea, Colombia, Ecuador and France. The group worked together on projects, which often led to discussions of strategy. “It was an amazing experience to learn how they would use different approaches, based on different governmental systems and different histories, leading them to approach issues and problems in a different way,” he says.
Bring it home
Bingham took his world experience and worked a few years for a large international corporate farm. But in 2010, he returned to the family farm.
The family, also including his wife, Liz, and four boys — Keegan, Oliver, Calvin and Morgan — raises corn, sugarbeets, wheat, alfalfa and carrots for seed. The family incorporates technology and conservation practices. Bingham also oversees plot research with a variety of crops, and is constantly looking for new markets for these products, both domestically and internationally. The couple was recently named one of 10 finalists in the National Outstanding Young Farmer competition.
Millie May Photography
NEW IDEAS: Embracing new technologies and production practices keeps Cody Bingham competitive in a world ag market.
From his international experience, Bingham learned to pay close attention to weather, markets and policy in places like Argentina, Brazil and Australia. “You have to be aware and watching, because what is happening there impacts the price you receive on the farm,” he adds. “Going overseas enabled me to understand other systems and their perspectives — what they are looking at when they see our numbers from the USDA. It is a global system now with almost every commodity. You have to be aware.”
Open your mind
Understanding the global ag market helps more than just on the farm. Bingham engages in the industry, volunteering to lobby Washington, D.C., on behalf of the U.S. sugar industry with the American Sugarbeet Growers Association.
Drawing from his experience with international colleagues shapes his role as a director of the Northside Sugarbeet Growers Association. “You have to be willing to go into meetings with an open mind,” he says. “You must be willing to see the other side. At times, what is good for you may not be good for everyone moving forward. You must listen to new ideas. Some may work out.”
Bingham says young producers should consider an international agriculture trip to broaden their view of the agriculture industry. However, he adds if farmers do not want to travel overseas, they should at least consider traveling outside of their own state.
“Take those opportunities that get you out of your normal system, so that they expose you to something else,” he says. “You may come away with a few new ideas on equipment and farming practices that will change the way you farm in the future.”