Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Telling the Story of Agriculture

By Beverly Flores, North American Media Relations and Communications, John Deere

Agriculture – its’s behind all of our food and much of our clothing, shelter and fuel. And yet, when we talk about any of those we don’t often think about agriculture or all the people involved in producing these daily necessities. National Ag Day is an opportunity to encourage that dialogue and bring together an industry and serve as advocates.

We need storytellers in agriculture—to share our enthusiasm, our energy and our passion for what we do and how we do it. We need to share our stories proactively. We need to take the time and effort to help off-farm consumers connect with our on-farm stories

As a mom of three boys, in my house we often talk about agriculture. We talk about the passion and dedication, the commitment. In fact, a portion of our spring break was spent helping feed cows and checking calves—what a great trip!  But, for the vast majority of consumers they don’t get that same opportunity. They won’t get to see the rancher counting the cows as he throws out the hay- the care and the knowledge behind his actions. They won’t see his lifelong commitment to something bigger than himself. They will, however, see the food and clothing. 

My hope is that we commit to telling just one story more tomorrow than we do today. I encourage you to find your story; to remember when someone asks about their food, they are really asking, “Where did my food come from?” Take your time, paint a picture of enthusiasm, energy and passion for agriculture.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

“THEY” WERE RIGHT!

By Chloe Carson, NPPC Communications Intern

Having grown up on a farm in northwestern Illinois, I am no stranger to the cows, plows and sows commonly associated with the agriculture industry. It should come as no surprise that, after spending summer days riding in tractors with my dad and even studying agricultural communications and public service and administration in agriculture at Iowa State University, I have developed a passion for this industry and the producers who fuel it. What may be surprising, though, is the journey that agriculture has taken me on; a trip of 837 miles to be exact.

You see, I no longer find my days spent taking in views from tractor cabs or filling notebooks with endless diagrams and definitions in the classroom. Instead, I find myself taking in the historic sites and breathtaking views of Washington, D.C., while interning for the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). Now you may be wondering why? Why take an internship, especially in Washington, D.C.? My answer is simple: because “they” were right!

Since my very first day at Iowa State, my professors and mentors told me to pursue internships, go out of my comfort zone and gain experience. While this advice seemed to have value, I was reluctant, to say the least. It wasn’t until I began checking classes off my degree audit, joining clubs and immersing myself in the agriculture industry that I noticed something was still missing: real-life experience. That’s when I applied for a communications internship with NPPC, crossed my fingers and hoped I would get the opportunity to see a new side of agriculture – one beyond the fence rows. Before I knew it, that’s just the opportunity I was given.

While at NPPC, I have gotten to work with some of the most admired professionals in the industry, develop social media-based campaigns and expand my graphic design and writing portfolios even further. In addition, I have witnessed history at the Presidential Inauguration, attended once-in–a-lifetime events such as the 2017 Ag Ball, Cabinet confirmation hearings and panels by the House Committee on Agriculture. In just two short months, NPPC has exceeded my expectations and truly made me realize that “they” were right. Internships and opportunities make a world of difference when it comes to career readiness and industry awareness.

So my advice to other young professionals on this Ag Day 2017 and every day is to celebrate the journey of American agriculture and your own journey. Look to the future with optimism and passion, but also reflect on how you got here, what decisions you made and where your roots in this industry started. Take agriculture beyond the fence rows, tell your story and seize every opportunity!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Food for Life: What’s Your Perspective?

By Isabella Chism, Vice Chair AFBF Women’s Leadership Committee, 2nd VP Indiana Farm Bureau

When I was 10 or even 20 years old I would not have guessed that my interest in math and science was related to agriculture in any way. We think we understand so much until we have a different perspective. I saw math and science as accounting, statistics and research. Then I married a farmer. I got my hands and everything else dirty while learning to drive tractors, raise pigs, plant and harvest corn and soybeans. I learned to watch the weather and crop prices, and calculate income, expenses and payroll. I had never imagined where math and science would have led me had I not experienced it.

Did you know that not all pigs are raised for bacon? Did you know that pig (porcine) heart valves have been used to save lives for over 30 years? I learned that agriculture touches my life every minute of the day and that math and science are used in agriculture every day.

There are so many career choices related to agriculture that you may never have imagined. A florist creates beautiful arrangements with flowers grown on a farm. A trucker hauls food or other items with a biodiesel-fueled semi-truck on a soy-based asphalt road. The corn we grow may be used for corn starch to cook with, to feed animals, for ethanol, whiskey, plastics, soaps or cosmetics to name a few.

The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture website highlights a wealth of information on careers in agriculture. It may be more challenging to find a subject or career not related to agriculture. What’s your perspective on food for life? 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Environmental Sustainability in Agriculture

Editor’s Note:  National Ag Day is proud to post this essay from Miles C. De La Fuente. His essay was selected by his peers to be featured on the Ag Day Blog. We value divergent opinions and recognize the hard work of all our essay contestants.

By Miles C. De La Fuente, Energy Institute High School
With a population of nine billion by the 2050, there are many different problems that must be solved to meet the requirements of a rising global middle-class and making a high quality of life sustainable for the future. In order to meet the agricultural demand of the population, and protect the environment from degradation, smarter farming techniques should be used to make the agricultural industry sustainable in the long-term, but also increase production.
Using more environmentally accountable farming practices that are economically viable for all farmers to use can increase the environmental sustainability of the industry. Practices, such as, rotating the types of crops farmed, planting cover crops to prevent erosion and enhancing soil quality are already popular techniques. (Farming Practices & Management, 2016) Using these techniques, farmers can limit their effects on the environment while also maintaining crop production. This also means, that food will be healthier and without dangerous pesticides. In conclusion, better farming practices are the first step to healthier food and a stable environment. This types of strategies should continue to be employed on a wide scale and should also be adopted by developing countries as soon as possible.
Technology also has a role to play in the use of more accountable farming practices. For example, integrated pest management (IPM) uses biological factors rather than relying on chemical pesticides, and genetically modified food and cattle can increase production and decrease costs. (Key, S., Ma, J. K., & Drake, P. M., 2008) These examples of genetic modification can solve issues in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), making them less susceptible to disease in cramped and overpopulated food-factories. (Natural Resources Conservation Center, 2014) In addition, genetic modification allows for the customization of the crops depending on the needs of the farm. In sum, genetic modification will play a large role in the farming practices of the future and feeding 9 billion people by 2050 and should be adopted globally to combat hunger in developing countries across the world.
Overall, a high population coupled with the growing global middle-class will increase the demand for cheap, healthy food; this demand can only be met by using genetic modification in hand with environmentally sustainable farming practices. Humanity can only achieve sustainability by using technology and doing so with responsibility. However, there is a long journey ahead if we are to build a world without hunger, and it begins here.
References
Key, S., Ma, J. K., & Drake, P. M. (2008, June 01). Genetically modified plants and human
health. Retrieved January 20, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2408621/
R. (2016, December 24). What is Sustainable Farming and Best Sustainable Farming Practices?
United Stated Department of Agriculture (2016, August 22). Farm Practices & Management.
United States Department of Agriculture. (2014, November 20). Natural Resources
Conservation Service. Retrieved January 27, 2017, from https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/plantsanimals/livestock/afo/
Union of Concerned Scientists. (n.d.). Sustainable Agriculture Techniques. Retrieved January 20,

Friday, March 10, 2017

Ag Day is Every Day — For Everyone



By Doris Mold, President of American Agri-Women
         
     March 21 is National Ag Day, and so is the day after and the day after that and — you get the idea. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers produce a safe, affordable and reliable food, fiber and energy supply year-round.
           
     That is something to celebrate. That’s why our organization, American Agri-Women, has launched the “Ag Day365 — Ag Day is Every Day” education and advocacy campaign. #AgDay365 is inspired by and builds on the important connections made on National Ag Day.
           
     Our members, who are farm, ranch and agri-business women from coast-to-coast, are promoting #AgDay365 in meaningful ways through social media, special events and, especially, through conversations with our friends, family members, co-workers and others.    

     We’re looking forward to being part of the celebrations in Washington, D.C., and to hosting a luncheon for the 100 student leaders visiting our nation’s capital for advocacy and Ag Day events. We are going to offer them some special challenges on the theme of AgDay 365. Every voice of every age is important as we educate about agriculture.

     We invite, organizations, producers and consumers to join us this year, with their own personal approach to #AgDay365. Let’s keep the celebrations and conversations going. Learn more at
www.americanagriwomen.org.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Feeding the World Takes Incremental Improvements at the Farm Level

By Tyler Harris
Editor, Nebraska Farmer
Penton Ag

Farmers may not always consider themselves entrepreneurs or innovators, but they play a vital role in driving innovation nonetheless. Every day, producers make agronomic decisions on seed, fertilizer, water, pest management, and soil health, as part of the to meet the food demands of a rising global population, while continually working to improve efficiency, profitability and sustainability.

In his book, 40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World, Howard G. Buffett notes that farmers get approximately 40 seasons in their lifetime – 40 chances to grow a crop. That's why growers have to be innovative, making the most of the information they have to make decisions that bring the highest potential for return on investment.

Technology has a vital role to play here, and more and more entrepreneurs are realizing this – there's a reason parts of the Midwest are referred to as the "Silicon Prairie". In 2016, $3.23 billion was invested in ag tech startups, according to a report from AgFunder.com. Although a decline from a record-breaking $4.6 billion in 2015, this illustrates that investments in technology like remote-sensing, site-specific management, and data management and aggregation services, aren't going away anytime soon.

However, one of the biggest questions is whether or not producers are using this technology. Adoption is hard to measure, and the curve is different for everyone, but a couple trends are consistent. Producers have been quick to adopt and implement technology like GPS guidance and automatic section control. And although producers may be adopting "decision technology" like remote sensing and soil moisture sensors, where they are lagging behind is putting that technology to use in their decision-making.

These technologies don't come with an "easy button" for a quick return on investment, but enhance producers' abilities to make incremental improvements over the long-term through the decisions they make every day. As one agronomist put it recently, the big increases in efficiency and profitability won't be made by doing one thing 100% better, but 100 things 1% better.

As we celebrate National Ag Day, join me in thanking the producers that continually work to improve the efficiency, sustainability and profitability of their operations while helping feed a hungry world.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Farmers, Ranchers and the Food Supply Chain: Share Your Story on National Ag Day

By Mark Biedenfeld, Vice President, Aligned Solutions, CHS

Growing up in rural South Dakota, surrounded by farms and ranches as far as the eye could see, I never gave the food supply chain a second thought. It was intertwined in everything I did—from calving cows to helping with the harvest of the crop—it was our way of life.

You can imagine my concern when I recently read that an astonishing 68 percent of consumers said they don’t know enough about their food and where it comes from, and 21 percent said they’re not at all knowledgeable, yet 92 percent of consumers say it is somewhat or very important to know where their food is coming from.* To me, that’s the perfect invitation for those of us working in agriculture to share everything we know to be good and true about farming. And National Agriculture Day is the perfect opportunity to showcase, educate and celebrate American agriculture.

Companies like CHS, and many others, exist to provide farmers, ranchers and their retailers with products and services they need to raise and market healthy, profitable crops and livestock. In many cases, the local cooperative is one of the largest employers in town.

Recently, CHS took a closer look at the true economic impact that CHS and local cooperatives generate across the country. The study found that CHS’ impact in rural communities supported more than 60,700 jobs directly and indirectly. That means for every job CHS creates itself, there are five more jobs supported in the community.

Having been around cooperatives my entire life I saw first-hand how farming and ranching contributed to my community. From buying equipment at the local dealership to financial support of organizations like 4-H and FFA that encourage young people to start a career in agriculture, all of it contributes to the health and vitality of rural America.

Tomorrow’s farmers are anxious to share their vision for agriculture, and that’s part of the Ag Day celebration too. One hundred students from 46 states will spend National Ag Day (March 21) in Washington, D.C., personally meeting with their elected members of Congress. They are proudly representing the future of farming and the agricultural industry.

Please join me in sharing a farm story with a friend, neighbor or colleague as we celebrate National Ag Day. If you’re lucky enough to know a farmer or rancher, tell them how much you appreciate what they do day in and day out.


















*Source: TraceOne