Monday, February 8, 2010

Opportunities Abound for Agriculture

Contributed by Barry Nelson, Manager, Media Relations, John Deere

I just celebrated my 30th year with John Deere and it has been a challenging and rewarding career with a great company. I started in 1980, just before difficult times hit agriculture and I spent my first few years in the field assisting dealers and farmer customers. We came out of the '80s stronger than ever and U.S. agriculture continues to thrive even during the current recession. I firmly believe the farming culture and values of hard work, integrity and personal responsibility are major reasons for success in agriculture, even in this uncertain economy. Farmers are planting, growing, harvesting, and producing food for the world. There is no doubt they are critically important to America’s economic strength and resilience.

I also am extremely positive about the future of agriculture and know that we have many challenges in providing the essential food, fiber, and fuel to a growing world population. Currently, the global population surpasses 6 billion. By 2050, the population is expected to grow to 9 billion people! Our challenge will be to feed this growing population while becoming more efficient with land, water, inputs and all the resources necessary to produce food. We have the resources, the technology, and the know-how to get this done -- better than anyone else in the world!

In addition, there are larger global issues of food sustainability, hunger, and human suffering that impact us all. We, in agriculture, must not only produce high-quality food, but we must also assist third-world countries in developing their sustainable agricultural systems. The recent devastation in Haiti and the recurring drought, instability and hunger issues in Africa are perfect examples of this. Here are a couple of quotes from leaders in our industry.

DuPont's Chair and CEO Ellen Kullman states, "Agriculture is a game-changer that can mitigate multiple global issues - hunger, poverty, environmental degradation, poor nutrition and subsequent effects such as civil unrest."

And, David Everitt, President, Deere & Company , says, "Ignoring this looming (food) productivity challenge or not acting quickly enough has perilous risks that should not be underestimated. At its most basic, it means additional human suffering through hunger and malnutrition. Beyond that, it means widespread social turmoil and unrest that undermine the political stability of large parts of the world – not to mention eroding our own national security."

Now this is quite a challenge and, quite frankly, an urgent call to action for all of us. As a member of the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) and a board member for the Agricultural Council of America (ACA), I have had the tremendous opportunity to meet some of the best communicators and marketers in the agricultural business. As an industry, we should leverage this talent and work together to deliver a clear, focused message about the importance of agriculture. This is even more critical today when there are more challenges from government, rising input costs, limited resources, and volatile commodity prices.

The ACA will host the annual Ag Day event in Washington D.C. on March 18th and will meet to celebrate and promote the importance of agriculture to leaders and influencers in D.C. We believe the public has the opportunity:

Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products

Understand how food and fiber products are produced

Value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy

Acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture, food and fiber industry

Please join us in Washington D.C. to promote this important message or participate locally by having an Ag Day event. There are many promotional ideas and media tools on the Ag Day Web site. Let's circle the wagons and put our expertise together in promoting the importance of agriculture. Our future and our children's future depend on keeping this industry strong and vibrant!