Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Establishing Common Ground and Leadership to Grow a Climate for Tomorrow


Brett Kaysen, Senior Vice President, Producer and State Engagement, National Pork Board and owner/operator of Kaysen Family Farms 

The word “polarizing” is reaching the point of over-use in our current culture. Politics, parenting, education, energy and more – every decision we make today has the potential to gain loud cheers from some and intense criticism from others. As someone who spent his whole life working on the farm or with farmers, I know debates on agriculture and food production often feel polarizing, too.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

On National Ag Day, farmers and others connected to agriculture are celebrating progress and identifying what we, as an industry, need to do to Grow a Climate for the Future. From my vantage point, the future of agriculture is bright. We can make it even brighter by finding common ground to avoid polarization of food discussions, and by developing leaders now who will take us into the next generation. We can leave a legacy of shared values, including continuous improvement, for our future agriculture industry.

As someone who speaks to U.S. pig farmers and others throughout the food supply chain daily, I know finding agreement about our food is possible. Take animal well-being, for example. Pig farmers and consumers alike believe pigs should be taken care of. We all want and need to breathe clean air. Everyone desires clean, fresh available water that is abundant. We need healthy soils to grow bountiful crops. And we all want to take care of our fellow human beings – no matter their background, education, or difference of opinions.

In the pork industry, we have progress to celebrate and innovation to demonstrate these shared values. Relative to animal well-being on the farm, we are better today in 2022 than we’ve ever been. Our pigs live in 70-degree controlled environments protected from the elements and illness while eating highly nutritious and balanced diets. Precision technology allows farmers to take pig manure – a highly renewable resource – and apply it to fields at the perfect time and rate to make soil as healthy and ready-to-yield as possible. It’s regenerative agriculture at its best.

Recently, we released our first U.S. Pork Industry Sustainability Report, which celebrates on-farm examples of progress and our goals to continue that progress. As an industry, we can elevate these examples to help create an accurate picture of agriculture for those removed from their food systems.

Next month, as we approach Earth Day, the segment of public opinion that says agriculture as bad for people, society and the environment will gain volume and momentum. We must not let this distract from what we know are our successes and opportunities. Instead, we need to demonstrate the leadership the next generation can build upon to confidently address questions while also continuing to find new ways to improve our industry.


I’m a Pork Checkoff employee, pig farmer and a dad. I have the awesome privilege raising pigs on our small-scale farm alongside my 11- and 13-year-old daughters, giving me a front-row seat to the potential the next generation of agriculture. In addition to learning how to give our animals the best care, they also are developing skills to answer hard questions about animal care and do it in a way that connects with consumers. As a result, I believe my girls will grow up to be great pig farmers, but more important, to provide great leadership for agriculture.

The more we engage with people – no matter their views on our industry – the better we can help them feel about what we do on the farm. This is how we diffuse polarizing views about our food, and instead of arguing, focus on a common vision for the future. One where we have cultivated a thriving climate for agriculture.

This blog post is made possible with funding from the Pork Checkoff.


Monday, March 21, 2022

Reaching Educators with Real Sugar Facts 

Using teaching tools to educate future generations and connect them to real sugar’s origin

For the 27,000 Family and Consumer Science (FCS) teachers across the U.S., the topic of sugar frequently comes up in class. Formerly known as home economics, family and consumer science class is a prime opportunity to educate the next generation of consumers about where real sugar comes from and the role it plays in a nutritious, balanced and enjoyable diet. Teachers should have access to accurate information about sugar to correct the misperceptions of their students, who are largely influenced by misinformation on social media.

Telling Real Sugar’s Story to the Next Generation

Students are becoming increasingly interested in where their food comes from and how to eat a balanced diet.  At the Sugar Association, we ensure our materials connect students to the agricultural roots of real sugar and give educators the tools to empower students to understand their diet and how a balanced lifestyle includes real sugar in moderation. 

All of our resources are grounded in science and equipped with references to support the facts. Providing educators, including those in FCS, homeschool programs, 4-H, extension programs and more, with free science-based educational materials that help tell real sugar’s story is one of our priorities at the Sugar Association. From coloring books to myth-busting fact sheets, offered in English and Spanish, our materials are being used across the country! 

Connecting with Educators

Participating in national and regional educator conferences and workshops provides the opportunity to meet with educators one-on-one to answer their questions, share our real sugar resources and identify additional needs. The audience at these conferences includes traditional educators, like FCS professionals, as well as those who teach in other settings. For example, the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) audience includes teachers as well as high-school aged leaders, public health professionals, 4-H leaders, and extension professionals who teach adult courses.


Thursday, March 17, 2022

Formulating Feed Diets to Improve Nutrient Uptake, Reduce Environmental Footprint

By: Paul Davis, Ph.D., director of quality, animal food safety and education, American Feed Industry Association


I recently had the privilege of presenting to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 98th annual Agricultural Outlook Forum on the ways the feed industry is working toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions on farms. Being the son of a career USDA veterinary medical officer, a fifth-generation farmer and the first person from the American Feed Industry Association invited to present at the forum, this opportunity was indeed special. It gave me the opportunity to share how established animal nutrition concepts, as well as new feed technologies, could be part of the path to less environmental impacts from animal agriculture, if certain regulatory roadblocks are cleared.

As I gathered my thoughts for this presentation, I reflected on my former animal nutrition professors’ and mentors’ advice: do not discard established concepts in favor of flashier, yet unproven strategies. The feed industry is and will continue to be sustainable in several manners.

First, let’s look at some established concepts in animal nutrition. The ingredients that are included in a feed diet (or “ration” as we call it in the industry), how they are combined with respect to the amounts, proportions and ratios, how they are presented to the animals and how they may be enhanced with technologies, both established and novel, can increase animals’ nutrient utilization and thus decrease environmental impact.

Put simply, we endeavor for more of the feed ration to be ingested, digested and metabolized by the animal to turn into nutritious foods that people can eat.

When formulating a ration, we choose ingredients often from the creation of a primary product or process outside of the animal agriculture industry (e.g., dried distillers grains), otherwise known as coproducts, which can improve nutrient utilization. In doing so, we can divert materials destined for landfills and “upcycle” them into animal feeds, using more of what was grown or mined for food production, increasing efficiency and decreasing environmental impact.

Likewise, when ingredients with higher bioavailability are selected (e.g., selenomethionine), more of the nutrients can be utilized by the animal, lowering nutrient excretion. In some instances, animal food nutritionists and formulators can choose ingredients based on content of a specific nutrient into a specific application, an example being high-lysine corn included in a growing swine diet. Targeted inclusions such as these increase the utilization and decrease nutrient loss due to ‘over formulation.’

Further, the ways and means in which the chosen ingredients are processed and combined affect their utilization and efficiency, something which, at first blush, seems simple, such as particle size, but has a great impact on digestibility. Adhering to optimum particle sizes for ingredients for each species and livestock class can greatly reduce nutrient waste. In addition, some nutrients, minerals in particular, can have an antagonistic or binding effect on each other. Responsible, sustainable formulation accounts for these and helps ensure that antagonisms are not inherently created. I have known of feed formulations that contained molybdenum (included to help prevent copper toxicity in sheep) and added copper. This combination pretty well assures that the added copper will be excreted into the environment as a copper-thiomolybdate, something in which animal nutritionists are cognizant.

Once a ration has been formulated and compounded, its delivery and presentation to the animal also has bearing on its final efficiency of use. Nutrients from feed that are wasted prior to ingestion have no chance of being utilized; likened to spilling gasoline on the ground as you try to fill your vehicle’s fuel tank. Great care is taken to ensure on-farm feeders are adjusted properly to ensure proper feed flow, minimize waste and allow for the optimum height. Likewise, there should be adequate feeder space when self-feeding animals, and feeding frequency and amounts should allow for optimum production. It truly takes a village in animal agriculture!

Finally, the U.S. feed industry is blessed with a wide variety of feed additives that help improve nutrient utilization and production efficiency. We often take their safety and efficacy for granted. As part of being a good steward of feed resources, feed additives should be included in rations where appropriate.  There are instances of up to 10% efficiency being gained from the inclusion of one feed additive, and while there is no guarantee of a cumulative effect, at times, using multiple feed additives pays dividends. Even with the advances that we have enjoyed, it seems feed additives remain a new frontier. 

We have many talented nutritionists, veterinarians and other scientists across the U.S. working tirelessly to discover or create new efficacious feed additives to improve production and/or reduce enteric methane emissions in livestock. However, their efforts seem to reach a regulatory bottleneck in the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process and are further hampered by the inability to make label claims regarding production, except in the realm of medicated feed additives, which are regulated as drugs. Other countries, such as Brazil and some across Europe, have embraced these feed additives with environmental benefits, putting U.S. farmers and ranchers at a disadvantage globally.

In order to advance animal agriculture and continue to produce meat, milk and eggs more efficiently and sustainably, the industry desperately needs more expedient approvals of feed ingredients and a broader pathway for label claims. Imagine what the next great feed additive could do for improving production and reducing environmental impact.


Sunday, March 13, 2022

 

Public-Private Partnership Protects Pork Producers



NPPC worked with USDA and the World Health Organization for Animal Health (OIE) to recognize the islands of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as a “protection zone” which would allow the United States to maintain its current animal health status.  


A foreign animal disease (FAD) in this country would wreak havoc on the livestock industry — killing animals, cutting production, increasing food prices and costing jobs. That’s why the organizations that represent the various species have worked so hard to keep FADs at bay. This year on Ag Day, the pork industry would like to shine a light on efforts pork producers have prepared to respond to a FAD, helping keep the U.S. pork industry free of African Swine Fever (ASF).

But they haven’t done it alone. In its ongoing efforts to prevent and prepare for an outbreak of ASF, the U.S. pork industry has collaborated with federal agencies, a public-private partnership critical to winning a fight against any FAD.

Pork producers’ concerns about ASF had been rising even before the pig-only disease began spreading through China in 2018. Fears were heightened last summer with the detection of the highly transmissible disease — which is no threat to human health or food safety — in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the first time in 40 years ASF had been in the Western Hemisphere.

When ASF was confirmed on the island of Hispaniola, just 750 miles from the U.S. mainland, the pork industry prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to move quickly to isolate it. The agency provided the Dominican Republic and Haiti with testing support, laboratory equipment, training laboratory personnel, personal protective equipment, and aid for response and mitigation measures.

USDA also asked the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) to recognize the neighboring islands of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as a “protection zone.” The OIE designation allows the United States to maintain its current animal health status and, as an ASF-free country, continue exporting pork should an ASF case be detected in either U.S. territory.

Most importantly, the pork industry encouraged USDA to provide $500 million for keeping ASF out of the United States, an unprecedented move in terms of the amount dedicated to one animal disease and getting the funds upfront — before it gets to the U.S. shores.

In addition to USDA, the pork industry is working with the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) to stop the spread of ASF, getting CBP to increase efforts to intercept illegal boat traffic from Hispaniola to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and to conduct thorough inspections at all U.S. borders and ports of entry.

While USDA and CBP put practices into action, the National Pork Producers Council — representing America’s 60,000 pork producers — asked Congress for funding to help those agencies do their jobs, convincing lawmakers to approve $635 million in emergency funding for USDA’s Agricultural Quarantine Inspection program, including for 720 new CBP agricultural inspectors. Congress also provided $30 million for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, which provides disease surveillance and diagnostic support, and $20 million for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to hire more staff for its Veterinary Services, which would handle controlling, depopulating and disposing of animals if there were an ASF outbreak in the United States.

That collaboration has helped keep the U.S. pork industry free of ASF and has better prepared pork producers and government officials to respond to any FAD.


Thursday, March 3, 2022

GMOs: What are they and why are they important for farmers and consumers?

 









By Jeanne Tuttle

National Ag Day is a time to recognize the farmers, producers, associations, businesses and universities that contribute to agriculture. It’s also a time to think about the tools farmers use to sustainably meet the demands of a growing world.

One of those tools is GMOs, or genetically modified organisms.  But what exactly does it mean when a plant is genetically modified (GM)?  Knowing what GMOs are, and why they are used, is key to making the best decisions when feeding your family.

When thinking about GMOs, it is helpful to remember that scientists are focused on finding ways to help farmers manage the many challenges of producing food — from pests and disease to drought and erosion. Scientists rely on many old and new techniques to develop the best seeds for farmers. The GMO process is just one of many techniques that can be used, along with others, to create specific seed products for farmers.

What is a GMO?

According to the World Health Organization, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are organisms in which the genetic material (i.e., DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. Genetic modification allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another. In the case of food, crop seed can be genetically modified, which results in genetically modified food.

What does that mean? In short, GM is a process in which scientists transfer beneficial traits from one plant to another to achieve the desired improvement. When scientists find a trait that could be beneficial, they make a copy of the desired gene and put it in the plant’s DNA.

Why is GM needed in agriculture?

1.   Environmental stewardship:

  • When farmers use genetically modified crops that are resistant to herbicides, they can use a small amount of herbicide to control weeds, without killing the crops. When farmers use herbicides instead of tilling to control weeds, it helps protect from soil erosion and keep nutrients and moisture in the soil.
  • Crops can be modified to use water more efficiently, reducing water usage during dry periods or droughts. 

2.    Plant health:

Environmental stewardship and plant health are key in farmers producing more food with fewer resources. For example, below is a diagram that represents corn yield vs. population in the United States in 1975 vs. 2018. 

Corn Yield vs. Population in the Unites States in 1975 vs. 2018

 

U.S. Population

U.S. Average Corn Yield

1975

216 million

75 bushels per acre

2018

327.1 million

175 bushels per acre


Though the statistics above are from the United States alone, our U.S. farmers help feed the world. According to the U.S. Farm Bureau Federation, one U.S. farm feeds 166 people annually in the United States and abroad. The global population is expected to increase by 2.2 billion by 2050, which means the world’s farmers will have to grow about 70% more food than what is now produced.

And here’s the thing: The population is growing, but resources are not. The amount of land and water are not increasing, yet farmers are tasked with producing enough food and fiber to meet the needs of a growing world, with the same, or fewer, amount of resources.

Where can I learn more?


GM food is a hot topic, and there’s more information and questions than I can cover here. As with all topics, I recommend doing your research and not just using friends’ recommendations to make the best decision for your family.

Below are some resources that I have found helpful when trying to learn more about GM food and making the best decision when purchasing food for my family.

  • “OMG, GMOs!”: Bill Nye (yes, the science guy) has a great podcast called Science Rules! In this episode, Bill and his guests dive in and cover all things GMO-related.
  • GMO Answers: GMO Answers is an initiative committed to responding to your questions about how food is grown. Its goal is to make information about GMOs in food and agriculture easier to access and understand.


About me: I have a passion for telling the story of people who feed the growing world.  I hope you will read more of my blogs on here or follow me on LinkedIn.

 

 

Monday, February 28, 2022

 

This essay is a merit winner in the 2022 Ag Day Essay Contest.  Visit www.agday.org for more details on National Ag Day.


Makenna Stundebeck

Salisbury, Missouri

Howard Buffett said, “The challenge is clear; we have to conserve and improve the soil we have, and we need to turn dirt into soil wherever people need to grow food” (Buffett). The question is, is there a compromise between increasing the bottom line and being good stewards of the land? Farmers have the daunting task of keeping their farms afloat, while maintaining a stable, and healthy environment for future generations. As farmers and innovative thinkers in the agriculture industry, it is our responsibility to be constantly researching methods to preserve the Earth while providing for the ever-growing population. Whether it is through cover crops, the usage of buffer zones, or by reducing chemical application, farmers must always take into account tactics to preserve the Earth’s soil, water, and air.

No one is closer to the land than a farmer. The livelihoods of farmers depend on their ability to use the land, therefore, it is in the farmer’s best interest to help protect the land because they rely on it. One way that farmers protect the Earth’s soil is through cover crops. Cover crops are grown to protect and enrich the soil and make sure that the soil is healthy by putting nutrients back into it. The use of cover crops has also been shown to increase crop yields, therefore, farmers can grow more food and feed more people.

Farmers are also proactive gatekeepers of the earth’s water resources, through the usage of buffer zones. With buffer zones, farmers plant strips of vegetation between fields and bodies of water, such as streams and lakes. These plants keep soil in place, and soil out of the water source. Buffer zones also act as a filter for water that flows from the field to the waterway. This is important because clean water is a necessity for farmers, their land and families.

Lastly, farmers are positive stewards of the air. Farmers breathe the same air that is around their crops, so they are mindful about chemicals they spray. Many farmers conduct soil tests on their land so that they are only applying the amount of nutrients needed for what they are planning to grow. This requires farmers to constantly regulate chemical usage, which allows them to be aware of the chemicals they spray on crops to ensure toxins are not released into the air.

Agriculture is an industry that is at the root of the American Enterprise system. It is an industry that continues to evolve and grow, because feeding the world is not a job that will become obsolete. Farmers are stewards of the soil, water, and air, and continuously work to preserve the land for future generations.

 


Thursday, February 24, 2022

 We Understand Growing

Contributed by Growmark

In agriculture, we understand growing. We put seed in the ground each spring, full of the promise of a bountiful harvest. We nurture plants with fertilizer and water, and do our best to protect them from pests. We pray for enough (but not too much) rain and enough (but not too much) warmth. In the fall, we enjoy the reward for our labors and prepare to start all over again the next year. 
While the corn and soybeans grown on my family farm only grow for a single season, we make careful efforts to sustain and preserve both the land and our core values on an ongoing basis. A Greek proverb states “A society grows great when men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in.” We are grateful to past generations for their foresight and vision to create agriculture as we know it today and realize the responsibility we have to future generations.

GROWMARK is also committed to sustainability. Through our endure program, we look at a wide range of practices, from actions as simple as recycling office paper all the way up to helping farmers create whole-farm plans based on the 4R’s of nutrient management. Maintaining the viability of agriculture is important, and we don’t take that responsibility lightly.

The GROWMARK Foundation supports a wide range of organizations committed to the future of agriculture. We work closely with 4-H, FFA, Agriculture in the Classroom, and Farm Bureau Young Leaders to educate and encourage youth, and our scholarship program identifies and rewards individuals studying for careers in the industry. Partnerships with industry groups including the Global Farmer Network, the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, and land grant university research efforts help ensure current, factual information about agriculture is shared with people both within and outside of the industry.

“Growing a Climate for Tomorrow” might be the theme of this year’s National Ag Day, but those of us in agriculture know that growing for tomorrow happens each and every day.


Tuesday, February 22, 2022

 

This essay is a merit winner in the 2022 Ag Day Essay Contest.  Visit www.agday.org for more details on National Ag Day.


Rebekah Vague
Ellsworth, Kansas


In the last century, agriculture has become more advanced in the ability to produce food for humanity through improving technology and having a passionate workforce. Agriculture holds the key for advancement in the world climate of today and tomorrow. Enthusiasts will build vital food chains, increase technology, educate consumers, and advance health and nutrition like never before over the next 50 years.

Food value chains help contribute to the economic growth of American agriculture while benefiting consumers. These chains help build alliances between farmers and supply chain partners in order to distribute food and products across all consumer venues and build trust between agriculturists and consumers.

Technology has played an impactful role in modernizing agriculture. Specifically, the GPS advancement has allowed farmers to increase efficiency in planting crops. Drone technology can help farmers take soil tests and spray fertilizer. According to Global Market Insights, the drone market for agriculture will surpass $1 billion by the year 2024. Technology use among agriculturalists will continue to grow.

Agriculturalists have increased global consumer interests by improving food quality. Consumers are looking for natural and safe food options. According to Linkage, “4 out of 10 Americans think it is important to be reassured that their food is produced naturally and 52% have reported their interest in knowing where their food is produced has increased in the last year.”

Health and wellness has driven consumers' food buying habits. According to Food Dive, the coronavirus pandemic has caused people to consume foods that benefit their immunity, metabolism, and mental state. Research from ADMs Outside Voice states that 77% of consumers want to do more to stay healthy. Many manufacturers have stayed in tune with what consumers want. The pandemic shifted consumers' food habits to buying and consuming plant based products. ADM stated that 18% of United States consumers purchased their first plant based protein products during this time, and research found that 92% of these consumers will continue to purchase these products.

At just around 2 million farms in the United States, farmers are the proudest stewards of the Earths natural resources. In the last 100 years, while working with conservationists, farmers have learned how to conserve topsoil by using cover crops and how to protect natural water resources through following proper spraying and pesticide practices.

With changing agricultural techniques, farmers are better able to feed the world's growing population. The average United States farmer annually feeds 166 people, both foregin and domestic. By 2050, the world's population is expected to increase to 2.2 billion people. This indicates that farmers must increase production by 70%. American farmers may have a big challenge ahead of them however, American agriculture can grow a climate for tomorrow.


Friday, February 18, 2022

 


2022 National Ag Day Essay Contest Winners Announced


The Agriculture Council of America (ACA) has announced the 2022 National Ag Day video and written essay winners.  The winners were chosen based on the theme:  American Agriculture: Growing a Climate for Tomorrow.  Entrants chose to either write an essay or create a video.  

 “CHS has long supported rural youth education and leadership programs and we are proud to give this year’s essay contest winners a platform that lets them share their ideas with a broader audience,” says Annette Degnan, CHS Inc., director, Marketing Communications, and Agriculture Council of America board member.

The national written essay winner, Haden Coleman of Trinity, Texas, receives a $1,000 prize and will read his winning essay at the virtual Ag Day event on March 22, 2022. The contest also named two merit winners who receive $100 and blog posts featuring their essays. They are Rebekah Vague of Ellsworth, Kansas, and Makenna Stundebeck of Salisbury, Missouri.  This year’s video essay winner, Kenna Mullins of Oxford, Pennsylvania, wins a $1,000 prize.  The winning entries can be viewed online at https://www.agday.org/2022-contest-winners. 

The Ag Day Essay Contest is sponsored by CHS Inc., National Association of Farm Broadcasting and Farm Progress.

Founded in 1973, National Ag Day encourages every American to understand how food and fiber products are produced; appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products; value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy and acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture, food and fiber industry.

Learn more and register for events at agday.org.

 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

 

Agriculture Council of America Announces 2022 National Ag Day Date & Theme

The Agriculture Council of America (ACA) will host National Agriculture Day on March 22, 2022. This will mark the 49th anniversary of National Ag Day which is celebrated in classrooms and communities across the country. The theme for National Ag Day 2022 is “Growing a Climate for Tomorrow.”

On March 22, 2022, the ACA will host a virtual Ag Day event and events in Washington, DC.  Additionally, the ACA will bring approximately 100 college students to Washington “virtually” to deliver the message of Ag Day to the Hill.  A core leadership team of college students will attend events in DC.  Another exciting feature of Ag Day 2022 is the Celebration of Modern Agriculture on the Mall, March 21-22. 

 These events honor National Agriculture Day and mark a nationwide effort to tell the true story of American agriculture and remind citizens that agriculture is a part of all of us. Many agricultural associations, corporations, students and government organizations involved in agriculture are expected to participate.

National Ag Day is organized by the Agriculture Council of America. The ACA is a nonprofit organization composed of leaders in the agricultural, food and fiber community, dedicating its efforts to increasing the public's awareness of agriculture's role in modern society.

The National Ag Day program encourages every American to: 

  • Understand how food and fiber products are produced
  • Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products
  • Value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy
  • Acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture, food and fiber industry

In addition to the events on March 22, the ACA will once again feature the Ag Day Essay Contest. The winning essay will be presented on National Ag Day. 

Sponsorship opportunities for Ag Day 2022 are available.  Visit www.agday.org for more information on National Ag Day.