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.