JEFF CAPLAN

Jeff Caplan’s Minute of News: Frenzied farmers and headless tractors

Mar 18, 2022, 7:00 PM
Farmers...
Farmers might be getting new technology but that won't take care of all the responsibilities on a farm. (Photo credit: Getty Images)
(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Editor’s note: This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom.

SALT LAKE CITY — A long-awaited tractor has just rolled off the John Deere assembly line for the first time ever. They call it a headless tractor.

While we still wait for truly autonomous self-driving cars, John Deere has developed a $500,000 tractor with no seat, no steering wheel, no pedals, and no farmer.

Programmed properly for those farmers fortunate enough to afford the half-million-dollar price tag, it’ll roam through the crops taking care of business while the farmer sits on the porch and counts his money?

Not a chance.

While this tractor’s been long-awaited, farm equipment breaks, harvesters jam. So there will still be grease monkey work. Tweaking the settings and twisting wrenches on a strange, unfamiliar beast that runs itself.

Look, the last high-tech answer for farmers was a phone app that controls their irrigation system.

But after investing in all the connected equipment, now there’s no water. And with all these digital farm tools, there’s one more job. The farmer also has to be an IT expert.

And what happens if you’re in the middle of the harvest and your internet goes out?

Farming’s never gonna be easy.

For generations, a farmer’s job has been to lurch from crisis to crisis, trying to grow a crop large enough to earn the money to feed his family.

It’s never easy. As the corn reaches for the sky, farmers reach for their wallets, lean on intuition, cuss their misfortunes and bend a knee in prayer.

And it’s never easy.

So when you read about this miraculous self-driving behemoth, or if you see this 14-ton tractor rolling through a field without the farmer on top next fall, don’t think he’s taking a nap.

He’s just somewhere else dealing with another crisis by the sweat of his brow, just trying to get ahead, even if his tractor doesn’t have one.

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Jeff Caplan’s Minute of News: Frenzied farmers and headless tractors