Monday, March 23, 2015

Events Hosted to Celebrate National Ag Day

Several agriculturally-focused organizations held events in the nation’s capitol in conjunction with Ag Day 2015. On March 17, 2015, Sara Wyant, President of Agri-Pulse, led a discussion on Farm to Fork Politics: Unleashing Innovation in Agriculture. Panelists included:
  • The Honorable Rodney Davis, R-IL, Chair of the House Committee on Agriculture's Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research Subcommittee
  • Bill Horan, Farmer and Chairman
  • Paul Sauder, CEO, Sauder's Eggs
  • David Fischhoff, Chief Scientist, Climate Corporation
  • Ronnie Green, Vice President, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska
Following the panel discussion, guests at the event were treated to a special video tribute for Ambassador and former Agriculture Secretary Clayton Yeutter. The honoree received a standing ovation. Yeutter, a renowned trade experts and University of Nebraska alumnus, has made a $2.5 million leadership gift commitment to establish an international trade and finance institute at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

On Ag Day, the National Wheat Foundation hosted a Bagel Breakfast & Briefing on Innovation and the future of agriculture. Industry experts discussed important issues, including: biotechnology, sustainability, big data, research and advancements in modern agriculture.

In addition, a selection of photographs featuring women working in their various roles in agriculture, taken by Marji Guyler-Alaniz, President and Founder of FarmHer, was featured at the USDA. Marji Guyler-Alaniz is a native of Urbandale, Iowa, and has spent nearly two years documenting the important role that women play in agriculture throughout the U.S. for her long-term FarmHer project.

USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden hosted a Google Hangout with Dr. Linda Young, Chief Mathematical Statistician and Director of Research and Development of USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, and Marji Guyler-Alaniz for a celebration of women farmers and ranchers.

The Next Generation of Leaders

Nearly 100 students representing 4-H, AFA, FFA and Student NAMA convened in Washington, DC to share the message of American Agriculture with legislators.

After a day and a half 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, DC.

The student activities are sponsored by Farm Credit and CHS, Inc.

2015 Mix & Mingle Luncheon

Speaking at the National Ag Day Mix and Mingle Luncheon was Congressman Mike Conaway from Texas. Congressman Conaway is Chairman of the House Ag Committee. He is currently serving his sixth term in the U.S. House of Representatives and represents 29 counties in Texas' 11th congressional district, including the cities of Midland, Odessa and San Angelo. In addition to his responsibilities on the House Ag Committee, he serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He is a deputy Republican whip, a position he has held since the 112th Congress.

Orion Samuelson, WGN Radio and This Week in Agribusiness, emceed the luncheon in the Cannon Caucus Room at which the Outstanding Young Farmer award winners were recognized. The Outstanding Young Farmer program began in the 1940s. The first Outstanding Young Farmer National Congress was held under the sponsorship of John Deere in1977 in Bismarck, ND.

Outstanding Young Farmers in attendance at Ag Day activities were: President of Outstanding Young Farmers, Jeff Thomsen and his wife, Elaine; Brian and Jennifer Harbage; Scott and Alissa Ferry; Christian and Julie Richard; and Patrick Zimmerer.

Leaders Celebrate National Ag Day with Dinner at the USDA

The USDA Whitten Building Patio was decked out on March 18, 2015, for the annual Celebration of Agriculture Dinner. Over 150 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.

The event kicked off with Sue McCrum, American Agri-Women, who presented Orion Samuelson, WGN Radio and This Week in Agribusiness, with the Veritas Award. The Award is presented by American Agri-Women to the person or persons who have given public witness to "the pursuit of truth" in accordance with the principles enunciated in the AAW Statement of Philosophy.

Following the award presentation, Samuelson introduced the Outstanding Young Farmers in attendance: Jeff and Elaine Thomsen; Brian and Jennifer Harbage; Scott and Alissa Ferry; Christian and Julie Richard; and Patrick Zimmerer.

Special guest for the evening was Michael Scuse, Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services. Prior to this position, Scuse served as Deputy Under Secret. Prior to this position, Scuse served as Deputy Under Secretary for the FFAS mission area from 2009 to 2011 with primary responsibility over our domestic programs.

Winners of this year's video and essay contest were honored. Each winner receives $1,000. The theme of the contest which was open to young adults, 9th through 12th grade, was “Agriculture. Sustaining Future Generations.” The contest is sponsored by: CHS with support from the National Association of Farm Broadcasting, the National Agri-Marketing Association and Penton Farm Progress. The winning video essay was produced by Harshin Sanjanwala from Madison, Mississippi and can be viewed on the Ag Day web site. Annette Degnan, CHS, Inc., presented  the written essay contest winner, Theresa Seibel from Roanoke, Virginia, with her check and Seibel read her essay at the dinner.

The dinner also featured the presentation of the Charles Eastin Distinguished Service Award, which honors an outstanding individual who stands out as an advocate for accurate communications between rural and urban audiences. This year’s winner was Dennis Pennington with the Michigan State University Extension, Colin Woodall, National Cattlemen's Beef Association presented the award.

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

Monday, March 9, 2015

Most of Us Have a #HungerStory

by Tricia Beal, CEO, Farm Journal Foundation

Agriculture has a different face and different meaning to different people. But an important lesson that I have learned over the years is that almost everyone has a personal story related to hunger. I have seen this clearly through the best part of my job: working with bright, talented, farmers, ranchers, and university students across the United States. Agriculture, nutrition, and hunger alleviation ultimately take center stage in our conversations, and this quickly turns to our own personal hunger stories, or those of people we know. Through all these experiences, an important lesson I have learned is to never make assumptions because I have met people who I never imagined could have directly experienced hunger themselves.

My personal #HungerStory is taking place today in urban St. Louis where I live with my family. Like many cities in the U.S., St. Louis has a significant population of homeless veterans and heartbreakingly, hunger is a central challenge for this population. Seeds of hope are blooming here with many excellent organizations, such as the St. Patrick Center, stepping up to create holistic programs that empower people to build more secure lives through vocational programs, social services and housing. These models of change should be shouted from the rooftops because they are making real and meaningful impact.

The Farm Journal Foundation created the infographic below to show the different faces of hunger and the impact of poor nutrition. When you look across the diversity of hunger, it is clear that it manifests differently in people’s lives, with a range of devastating results. Though the underlying causes vary, the outcome is still the same—diminished lives and communities.

Over the next decade, we are going to see more urbanized populations, a growing middle class, and increased diversification of diets. As leaders in agriculture, it is our role to make sure that the agricultural value chain adapts to meet the world’s evolving nutritional needs.

This year will be an important crossroad for hunger and agricultural development policy, including Congressional consideration of the Global Food Security Act and Child Nutrition Reauthorization. I am proud that Farm Journal Foundation will be bringing both farmers and future leaders to Washington, D.C. on Ag Day to share the impact of hunger and tell agriculture’s story.

Please take the opportunity that National Ag Day provides each of us to speak out about agriculture’s unique responsibility of nourishing our dynamic, growing world. We invite you to join us in sharing your personal experience using #HungerStory.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Agriculture: The Next Generation

by Tracy Zeorian, U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc.

Just think, Jen, if it hadn’t been for harvest, you would be just like the other kids in your class”. I said this after Jenna (#2 of four daughters) and I had been having a conversation about kids involved in a satellite Ag class. Our rural school has three kids involved in this class this year. Three out of 200.

You could be like the majority of the kids who think their food comes from the grocery store”. She shook her head in agreement. To make this an even more interesting thought, we live in a rural community surrounded by corn, soybeans and farmyards. If it’s hard for kids growing up surrounded by the industry, what must it be like for those who don’t even know what a kernel of corn looks like? I hate to admit it, but if our kids hadn’t been involved with our custom harvesting industry, they would be in the same situation as their peers. We don’t farm and haven’t had farming in our immediate family for several generations.

Jenna’s generation of students are now teaching your children. Most of them knew nothing about agriculture when they graduated. Saying we need to educate children begins with educating our teachers. A teacher is no different than anyone else. It’s easier to educate others if you have the experience and the background. What about time? Do our teachers have the time needed to add Ag curriculum to their already full day? Are they too busy teaching students what is necessary to pass state standard tests? Do they have the necessary and up-to-date curriculum IF they have the time? Is there funding within the districts to purchase the curriculum?

It’s so easy to say we need to educate our next generation.

Do I believe it’s necessary? Absolutely! The same generation of young adults who are our educators are also our leaders. The further removed from the farm, the more difficult it will be for them to understand the importance of agriculture. Agriculture is what feeds us, what clothes us and what keeps America, America. My concern is this – what happens when the farms of today are no longer? Are we ready to pay the higher cost of imported foods which we will have no idea of how they were planted, grown or harvested?

Agriculture education needs to come from the people who love it, who have a passion for what they do and can share their story. Please…tell YOUR story! Tell it to anyone and everyone who will listen. Make a difference and don’t assume someone else will do it.