Friday, April 4, 2014

Celebration of Ag Dinner a Great Success

The USDA Whitten Building Patio was decked out on March 25, 2014, for the annual Celebration of Agriculture Dinner. Nearly 175 people were seated for a delicious dinner featuring pork provided by the National Pork Producers Council and prepared by the esteemed Mark Salter of Robert Morris Inn.

Beloved agricultural broadcaster Orion Samuelson, WGN Radio, This Week In Agribusiness, emceed the event. Deputy U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden expressed her appreciation of American agriculture and remarked upon the installation of Dr. Norman Borlaug’s statue in the National Statuary Hall earlier that day.

Dr. Borlaug developed high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties that greatly increased food security for Mexico, Pakistan and India. He is known as “the father of the Green Revolution,” and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his research and contributions to agriculture.

The 2014 written and video essay contest winners were also both recognized during the dinner. This year’s essay theme was “American Agriculture: 365 Sunrises and 7 Billion Mouths to Feed.” The winner of the written essay contest was Clara Knipp from Tipton, Mo. Brackston McKnight from Jacksonville, Texas, won the video essay contest.

The Ag Day essay contest was sponsored by CHS, Inc., High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal, National Association of Farm Broadcasting, National Agri-Marketing Association, Country Living Association, Farm Progress Companies and McCormick Company.

Lindsay McQueen, Union/Jackson County, Ill. Farm Bureaus, accepted the Charles Eastin Award during the dinner. This prestigious honor recognizes individuals who stand out as advocates for accurate communication between rural and urban audiences.

This festive evening was a fitting and lively tribute to the importance of American agriculture and its vibrant future.

Students Emphasize Importance of Ag in D.C.

Nearly 100 students representing 4-H, AFA, FFA and Student NAMA convened in our nation’s capitol to share the message of American agriculture with legislators.

After a day of message training, students took advantage of opportunities to meet face to face with Congressional leaders from their home states and share their views and aspirations.

The student delegates also enjoyed a tour of Washington, D.C., and an exclusive screening of the documentary, "FARMLAND—The Education of a Tradition."

Industry Events Hosted to Celebrate National Ag Day

Several agriculturally-focused organizations held events in the nation’s capitol in conjunction with Ag Day 2014. On March 24, 2014, Sara Wyant, President of Agri-Pulse, led a discussion with USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden at the Hart Senate Office Building.

More than 400 people gathered for this annual event that also doubled this year as a celebration of Agri-Pulse’s 10th anniversary.

On March 25, 2014, a dedication ceremony was held to install the Dr. Norman Borlaug statue in the National Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill. The U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance also hosted a panel to discuss issues facing “The Next Generation of America’s Farmers and Ranchers.”

Two documentaries that tell the story of American agriculture were also screened during this year’s Ag Day celebration. “The Great American Wheat Harvest” was shown on March 25 and “FARMLAND” debuted on March 26.

Mix & Mingle Luncheon Draws Leaders

After more than 100 student delegates visited Congressional leaders and discussed the importance of American agriculture, they joined their colleagues in the Russell Caucus Room for the Ag Day Mix & Mingle Luncheon.

Orion Samuelson, WGN Radio, emceed the event at which the Outstanding Young Farmer award winners were recognized and U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) spoke to luncheon guests about the remarkable contributions of American agriculture to our nation’s economy and culture.

The Outstanding Young Farmer program was initiated in the 1940's. John Deere sponsored the first Outstanding Young Farmer National Congress in 1977 in Bismarck, N.D.

This year’s Outstanding Young Farmer honorees were: Patrick Zimmerer, Wyo.; Christian and Julie Richard, La.; Ali and Scott Ferry, Mich; Jennifer and Brian Harbage, Ohio.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

National Ag Day and the Road Less Traveled

Submitted by Barry Nelson, John Deere

Now that the weather is finally warming up, I went out for a long ride on my road bike, a carbon fiber Specialized Roubaix! This is my preferred aerobic exercise to get my heart rate up while alleviating the pain in a sore knee! On this particular route, I’m able to get outside the city and onto less traveled country roads. It was a gorgeous, sunny day for a thought-provoking ride as I whirred past many of the farm fields in the area. This was quite a relief from the long winter we experienced this year. I was searching for a blog topic for the National Ag Day website and had one of those “ah-ha” moments on mile 6. The light bulb in my brain went from a dull flicker to a bright glow!

 I was thinking about all the talented farm men and women I’ve met this past year at many of the farm shows, producer seminars, and special events. When you hear the personal stories from these farmers about how and why they farm, the challenges for their businesses, and the commitment and enthusiasm they have for farming and their land, there can be no stronger advocates for the importance of agriculture to this nation. I wish every American could hear some of their personal stories.

Even with many of the commodity groups, ag companies, and special interest groups advocating on behalf of their farm constituents, many in the city are not getting the message. These folks are further removed from the farm, and some of our messaging has been very logical, technical, and scientific. We need to do a better job of communicating on a more personal level to urban grocery shoppers who only want to provide safe and nutritious food for their families.

The U.S. Farmer and Rancher Alliance (USFRA) has done extensive research on the appropriate messaging when communicating to an urban audience.  Their website has many great ideas for resonating more effectively with this important audience. 

We are all on a challenging journey taking a road less traveled, which reminds me of the famous poem by Robert Frost. But we are also traveling on new roads, and there are many misconceptions about how we produce the food, fiber, and fuel for the world’s population.

Farmers and ranchers must be able to provide enough safe, nutritious food for a growing population that will reach 9 billion by the year 2045. The producers must be able to do this with about the same amount of land and less water. They must be efficient, with more precise use of seed, fertilizer, and crop care products. And they must do this sustainably, protecting the land and preserving their farms for future generations.

The challenge remains, however, to communicate directly with consumers in large cities. How can a farmer have some personal face-to-face interaction with the end user of their food products? Fewer and fewer consumers understand the challenges of providing the food they eat every day.

One solution is to more effectively use social media to communicate and have personal interaction with more residents in the city. I met some wonderful socially engaged farmers and ranchers who are already doing this. They have very professional websites and blogs and are reaching out individually to food experts and consumers. They are personally engaged in promoting the strengths of agriculture in the United States. 

But all of this takes time, and we don’t have much of that to go around. Personally, I will be challenging   myself to communicate better and continue to weave this important message into the presentations I make to groups who want to know more about agriculture. As ag communicators, we could all be part of the solution to more effectively communicate the challenges, hard work, and expertise needed to raise crops and livestock in today’s complicated world.

Social media is opening up many new ways to communicate directly with an audience. Imagine if, in the future, before someone goes to a store or restaurant, they could use Facetime to contact a local producer to ask questions about how they raise their crops and animals. Face-to-face, personal interaction builds trust and credibility. 

My opinion of social media is evolving because this new media will allow farmers and ranchers to reach their customers and develop relationships like never before.

So, although I’ve been more conservative on the use of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, I’m on a personal mission to better understand social media. This has been my less-traveled road, but an increasingly more important road that will help us reach more of the consumers we ultimately serve. In the meantime, I am busy trying to understand Ning, Yammer, Vlogging, and Widgets while creating a Tag Cloud! I’m very fortunate to have found the road less traveled in agriculture because that has made all the difference in my career and personal life.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Bridging the Gap Between Farm and Fork, 365 Days A Year

Submitted by David B. Schmidt, International Food Information Council, Alliance to Feed the Future

What happens to the crops and livestock farmers and ranchers grow between the time they are harvested and the time they arrive as food on our tables? How do products like eggs, cereal and ketchup arrive to our homes ready to eat and stay that way until we make them part of our meals?

Those of us working in the farming and food sectors may take the answers to questions like these for granted. We understand the amount of labor that goes into both producing food from the land and preparing it for transportation, how to properly store it and what goes into the quick preparation of healthful meals.

When the Alliance to Feed the Future began preparing curricula about today’s food for teachers of elementary and middle school students, we knew the space between farm and fork is one about which most people outside our industry simply don’t have good, reliable information. For this reason, our K-8 resources, available free online, use fun activities and engaging graphics to focus on three essential steps leading to every American meal: production, processing and transportation.

The marvels of modern agriculture go far beyond the farm. We have endless choices for delicious and diverse cuisine 365 days a year thanks to farmers and ranchers around the world and the many others who help their bounty make it to our plates.  Advancements at every link in the food chain have allowed us to eat healthfully while spending less time and money getting our meals to the point of consumption.

Ag Day is all about celebrating the success that modern food production has been able to achieve with technology and hard work, while showing real images and impacts of today’s farms to the wider world.

We are proud to be one of many Ag Day partners empowering teachers to share the story of what happens on America’s farms and ranches—and beyond.

David Schmidt is President & CEO of the International Food Information Council, which coordinates the Alliance to Feed the Future.

The Alliance to Feed the Future is an umbrella network made up of 121 scientific societies, universities, industry and commodity groups that are working to raise awareness and improve understanding of the benefits and necessity of modern food production and technology in order to meet global demand.

For more information about the Alliance and to access its farm to fork educational curricula, visit

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Shining Faces. Shining Futures.

Submitted by Jessie Headrick, CHS Inc. and the CHS Foundation

What happens when you gather 175 promising young farmers and ranchers from across the country for an in-depth exploration of issues facing agriculture and rural America?

You feel a rush of energy from the passion that ignites their conversations. You’re amazed by the intensity of their curiosity as they learn new ways to manage their operations. And you’re moved by the pride you hear in their voices as they talk about carrying on the legacy of their family farm.

Every fall, a new crop of progressive, business-minded producers gathers at the CHS New Leaders Forum, held in conjunction with the CHS Annual Meeting. Most arrive reserved and a bit tentative, but in a few short hours, they’re talking shop with each other like they’ve been friends for years.

These new leaders discuss their common challenges, of course, but mostly they zero in on upside opportunities that will keep their operations sustainable for future generations. They eagerly reach out to shake the hands of trusted partners that will help them stay relevant in the marketplace. They open up and ask more questions as they learn how a strong cooperative system gives them the closer connections they crave. And they smile as they celebrate the success of a global Fortune 100 company that they actually own and have a voice in — knowing it exists for the singular purpose of helping them grow.

CHS is proud to be a long-time supporter of National Ag Day and a leading force in developing rural leaders and building vibrant communities.