Y2K ‘bug’ may have minor effects

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 11, 1999

Though it’s doubtful the millennium bug will wreak havoc on local agriculture, contingency plans are recommended.

Thursday, November 11, 1999

Though it’s doubtful the millennium bug will wreak havoc on local agriculture, contingency plans are recommended.

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Echoing general advice regarding Y2K, Kendall Langseth of the Freeborn County Extension Service recommends farmers prepare as though they were expecting a winter storm.

&uot;Anything that you have to have working, you should be checking now,&uot; Langseth said. &uot;With the weather, it’s a lot nicer to check it now, rather than Jan. 1 when it’s 20 below.&uot;

Everything that has an embedded chip may be affected, he said.

That’s because when the year 2000 arrives, programs coded with two-digit years may interpret &uot;00&uot; to be 1900, not 2000. The date miscalculations could result in malfunctions, inaccurate information, or shutdowns of computers or electronic equipment.

Businesses and government have spent billions during the past year preparing for the glitch, and report minimal disruptions are expected in the U.S. However, it is not known how well prepared farms are for Jan. 1.

&uot;From the grain drying equipment to everything down to a four-wheeler, anything that is electronically controlled is potentially a problem,&uot; Langseth said.

&uot;For the short-term, ventilation systems are what we’re most worried about,&uot; he continued. &uot;My recommendation at this point is if they have an electronically controlled ventilation system, they should contact their vendor to see if there will be a problem.&uot;

Another concern is the water supply system, Langseth said.

&uot;I haven’t heard of a lot of issues, but their well control equipment may have embedded chips,&uot; Langseth said. &uot;If they’re worried about their water supply, they should have a back-up.&uot;

Although other farm equipment might be affected, like tractors and combines, that isn’t as dire. If such equipment is affected, farmers will have plenty of time to explore all of the options before they need to get out in the fields again.

Langseth also thinks farmers should have a couple weeks of feed on hand in case distributors are bitten by the millennium bug.

Assuring that generators are in proper working order in case of power disruptions is also recommended, Langseth said.

&uot;I wouldn’t plan for any major activity immediately after Jan. 1,&uot; but Langseth also doesn’t expect any major catastrophes either.

Other ag leaders are a bit more cautious.

Any equipment with embedded computer chips that has not been adjusted to take care of the bug could break down, said Wayne Hansen, who has studied the issue for the University of Minnesota Extension Service. He also said there is still uncertainty about what equipment contains those chips.

In particular, owners of pork, poultry and dairy operations are being urged to make sure their climate-control devices will not collapse suddenly on New Year’s Day.

Producers with livestock feeding or milking systems are encouraged to contact manufacturers to find out how they might be affected. The same goes for producers with any kind of environmental control mechanisms in barns or confined feeding operations.

Producers also should prepare to do farm work manually if automated machinery doesn’t work, Hansen said.

Electronic scales, moisture testers, grain drying equipment and crop storage ventilation systems used in grain elevators could be affected, he said.

He does not believe Y2K will cause the devastating problems that some predicted when the issue was first discussed. Nevertheless, he said, there is enough reason to prepare.

”There will be some problems,” he said. ”We know that for a fact. It’s just a matter of how severe they are.”

For more information, contact the Freeborn County Extension office or the INFO-U system at 1-800-525-8636.

A number of web sites also provide information. The Internet site for making Y2K contingency plans on the farm can be found at www.abs.sdstate.edu/ecs/home/y2k.html. Others include the Minnesota Department of Agriculture at www.mda.state.mn.us/DOCS/COMM/y2kpiece.htm and &uot;Y2K and agriculture: Time to act&uot; at www.cfbmc.com/y2k/english.