Farmers Present Case for Immigration Reform

The Partnership for a New American Economy and the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform released a report Tuesday entitled “No Longer Home Grown: How Labor Shortages are Increasing America’s Reliance on Imported Fresh Produce and Slowing U.S. Economic Growth.”

The report found that the share of fresh fruits and vegetables imported and consumed by American families has grown by almost 80 percent in recent years and that while fresh produce consumption in the United States has grown, production levels have been near stagnant or declining.

pnae“American consumers want fresh U.S grown fruits and vegetables, but our farmers don’t have the labor force available to meet that demand,” said John Feinblatt, Chairman of the Partnership for a New American Economy. “We need to pass immigration reform now, so our food remains homegrown and our economy strong.”

American Farm Bureau FederationThe report is part of the #iFarmImmigration campaign launched last month by the American Farm Bureau Federation and more than 70 other agriculture organizations. “On the issue of farm labor, we have a growing amount of evidence that all points in the same direction: Farmers and consumers both need responsible immigration reform,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman.

Four farmers representing different areas of the country appeared at the National Press Club Tuesday morning to talk about the report’s findings and present the “Farmers’ Case for Immigration Reform.”

immigration-farmThe panel included (left to right) Chalmers Carr from South Carolina, Mary Kraft of Colorado, Russell Boening of Texas, and Carlos Castaneda from California.

Russell, who is a state director with the Texas Farm Bureau, says the current H2A system doesn’t work. “On our operation – a full time farm, dairy, beef operation – it hasn’t worked for us at all because of needing full time workers,” he said. “We need some type of new worker visa program that would work for us who need full time people.”

Listen to or download comments each farmer made after the Press Club appearance:
Chalmers Carr – Titan Farms, South Carolina
Mary Kraft - Badger Creek Farm and Quail Ridge Dairy, Colorado
Russell Boening - Loma Vista Farms & Boening Brothers Dairy, Texas
Carlos Castaneda – Castaneda & Sons, California

Photo album from Press Club event

Grassley and Ag Reject Japan’s TPP Offer

grassley-headSenator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) took time between votes today to join with several agricultural organizations and voice strong opposition to Japan’s negotiating position in the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership to exclude a number of agricultural products as part of a final agreement.

“Japan seems to believe that they’re entitled to keep five sacred agriculture products off the table,” said Grassley, who said he just spoke with US Trade Representative Michael Froman this morning about the issue, stressing that when Japan agreed to join the negotiations they knew everything had to be on the table. “We’ve got to hold their feet to the fire.”

“The third largest country in the world can’t make protectionist moves like that without it having a ripple effect,” he added.

The five broad agricultural product categories that Japan wants to exempt from the TPP agreement are pork and beef, wheat and barley, rice and starch, dairy, and sugar. Participating in a conference call with Grassley today were representatives from the National Pork Producers Council,
American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Oilseed Processors Association, and the National Association of Wheat Growers Association. All of them and more are strongly urging the administration to reject Japan’s offer.

Listen to the press conference here: Ag Groups Reject Japan's TPP Offer

Farm Bureau Kicks Off ‘Our Food Link’ Program

ourFoodLinkLogoFarmer and rancher members of Farm Bureau from around the country officially kicked off the organization’s new “Our Food Link” program in conjunction with a conference for state leaders of Women’s Leadership and Promotion & Education programs.

“Our Food Link is a year-round program that county and state Farm Bureaus use to provide consumers of all ages and backgrounds with information about today’s agriculture,” explained Terry Gilbert, a Kentucky farmer and chair of the American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee (AFBWLC).

“People want to know where their food comes from and who is growing or raising it,” Gilbert said. “Helping people connect with sources of clothing, food, shelter and energy in their communities is the foundation of this multi-faced new program,” she said.

ourFoodLink-1Our Food Link activities range from outreach at supermarkets or farmers’ markets to hosting interactive booths at community events, speaking with lawmakers and neighbors about food and visiting classrooms to help students understand agricultural topics. Other program ideas include: an Adopt-a-Farmer program, fun runs, garden projects and “Zest ’n Zing” or other foodie events. Our Food Link activities may also include the collection of food and monetary donations for Ronald McDonald House Charities or other charities.

About 15 Farm Bureau members shopped for and donated food to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Washington, D.C., this week. The connection between Farm Bureau and Ronald McDonald House Charities was forged in the mid-1990s. Since then, Farm Bureau members have donated more than $3 million in food and monetary contributions to Ronald McDonald Houses and other charities.

The Our Food Link planning toolkit and publicity tools may be downloaded here.

President Signs Farm Bill in Michigan

fb-sign-farmer-1A young Michigan cherry farmer had the honor of introducing the president of the United States prior to signing of the new farm bill at Michigan State University Friday.

“On behalf of farmers across Michigan, I want to say thank you Congress for passing a great farm bill,” said Ben LaCross, former American Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher chairman. “Under the previous farm bill, my cherries were not eligible for crop insurance. This farm bill strengthens crop insurance and gives farmers like me the tools we need to survive a weather disaster.”

fb-signing“Despite its name, the farm bill is not just about helping farmers,” President Obama told the small crowd invited for the signing. “Secretary Vilsack calls it a jobs bill, an innovation bill, an infrastructure bill, a research bill, a conservation bill. It’s like a Swiss Army knife.”

Vilsack was among those who joined the president as he signed the bill, along with Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and others.

Listen to the president’s speech here: President Obama farm bill signing

What do you think of the new farm bill? Which part is most important to you? Tell us in this week’s ZimmPoll.

Climate Corp Adopts Data Privacy Standards

The Climate CorporationThe Climate Corporation today announced principles and commitments related to data use and privacy published on-line in a Guiding Principles on Data and Privacy statement.

climate-corp-friedberg“The application of data science in agriculture is relatively new, and with the development of new technologies comes some level of uncertainty about its potential implications. In our experience, farmers are more likely to embrace new technologies that will drive the evolution of agricultural production when they have certainty about the use, privacy and control of the data they personally generate on their own farms,” said David Friedberg, CEO of The Climate Corporation.

The Climate Corporation, which was acquired by Monsanto in October 2013, also announced the formation of an Open Agriculture Data Alliance (OADA). The alliance will be comprised of “providers and farmers to act as an independent body that will ensure that different platforms share common interoperability, common data formats, and security and privacy standards.”

Climate Corporation held a call with reporters on Friday to talk about the announcement: Climate Corporation media call

Since privacy of agricultural data is becoming a big concern for farmers and ranchers, the American Farm Bureau Federation adopted specific policies this year on that issue. AFBF president Bob Stallman issued a statement on the Climate Corporation announcement saying they are “encouraged that agribusinesses are taking our clear policy position into consideration” noting that “the company is working to address some of the concerns about data privacy, security and ownership expressed by our members.”

Farm Bill Could be Final This Week

fb-2014Agricultural groups hailed passage of the compromise farm bill by the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday and look forward to swift action in the Senate.

National Corn Growers Association
President Martin Barbre of Illinois observed the floor vote from the House gallery while visiting the Capitol. “This legislation provides an adequate and flexible farm safety net, as well as a strong federal crop insurance program,” said Barbre. “More importantly, farmers need the certainty of a new five-year law, and we are happy to see this legislation includes many reforms we’ve supported and stressed over the years, reforms that make sense both for farmers and taxpayers.”

American Farm Bureau Federation president Bob Stallman says the bill includes many Farm Bureau-supported provisions, including risk management for fruit and vegetable farmers and support for livestock farmers during disasters. “It is imperative that all of agriculture unify behind this farm bill, for the good of the whole of American agriculture, consumers, our hard-working farm and ranch families and the rural communities they support,” he said, referring to livestock interests opposed to the bill.

The House vote was 251-166 and many voted for the bill even though it did not contain everything they wanted, like Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN). “The report before us today represents a compromise – I know this is rare in Washington but that’s what’s needed to actually get something done around this place,” said Peterson on the floor, noting he was not completely pleased with the dairy title or the commodity title. Rep. Collin Peterson during Farm Bill debate

Most of the 166 members who voted against the did so because of cuts to the nutrition program, which were far less severe than the original House bill, but some like Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) also had a few farm program concerns, particularly crop insurance and cotton. “We’ve got a domestic cotton program that’s gotten us into trouble with Brazil,” said Kind. “This bill does not fix that cotton problem and now it’s up to Brazil whether they want to level economic sanctions against us.” Rep. Ron Kind during Farm Bill debate

Farmers in the SOTU

sotu-2014It is rare for agriculture to even be mentioned in a State of the Union address, but President Obama brought attention to the hardworking farmers of our country in the opening minute of SOTU 2014.

“A farmer prepared for the spring after the strongest five-year stretch of farm exports in our history,” said the president, with a split screen image of a farmer in a corn field to accompany his words. It was one the examples President Obama used of “citizens, who make the state of our union strong.”

The word farmer was mentioned a second time in the SOTU as the president quoted the governor of Kentucky about the importance of health care coverage to the people of his state.

Agricultural organizations noted the president’s comments on immigration reform, tax reform, trade promotion authority, and energy security. “The American Farm Bureau Federation welcomes President Obama’s call in his State of the Union address for Congress to pass immigration reform,” said president Bob Stallman. “Many farmers rely on an immigrant labor force, and, without reform, growers will begin to plant less labor-intensive crops or go off shore.”

“It was great to hear President Obama talk about the importance of an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy policy,” commented National Corn Growers President Martin Barbre. “And you can’t have such a policy without biofuels. So, we call on his Administration to back away from its irresponsible proposal to reduce the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

Both NCGA and AFBF were also pleased to hear President Obama mention the need for improving waterways and ports. “We’ll need Congress to protect more than three million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer,” said the president.

Young Farmers and Ranchers Win Big During AFBF

afbf-14-yfr-awards-generalEarlier this week during the 95th American Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Convention the Young Farmers & Ranchers Achievement Award, Discussion Meet and Excellence in Agriculture competitions were announced.

The Achievement Award recognizes young farmers and ranchers who have excelled in their farming or ranching operations and exhibit superior leadership abilities. Participants are evaluated on a combination of their agricultural operation’s growth and financial progress, Farm Bureau leadership and leadership outside of Farm Bureau.

Brandon and Katherine Whitt of Tennessee won the Achievement Award. They are the winners of either a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado or 2014 GMC Sierra. The Whitts will also receive paid registration to attend the 2014 AFBF YF&R Leadership Conference in Virginia Beach, Va., in February.

The Discussion Meet simulates a committee meeting in which active discussion and participation are expected. Participants are evaluated on their ability to exchange ideas and information on a predetermined topic.

Nathan Prill of Michigan won the Discussion Meet. He will have his choice of either a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado or a 2014 GMC Sierra, plus free registration to the 2014 AFBF YF&R Leadership Conference.

The Excellence in Agriculture Award recognizes young farmers and ranchers who do not derive the majority of their income from an agricultural operation, but who actively contribute and grow through their involvement in agriculture, their leadership ability and participation in Farm Bureau and other organizations.

Linda McClanahan of Kentucky won the Excellence in Agriculture Award. She will receive her choice of either a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado or 2014 GMC Sierra, plus free registration to the 2014 AFBF YF&R Leadership Conference.

Check out photos from AFBF Convention here: 2014 AFBF Convention Photos

Ethanol Policy Important to Illinois FB

ilfb-guebertNew Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert took an active role in the policy development session at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting this week in San Antonio.

“I’ve always enjoyed policy and being a part of Illinois Farm Bureau and the policy making decisions,” said Guebert, who was elected to replace Phillip Nelson as president of the organization last year. “We have a tremendous grassroots organization and it’s always been a pleasure to be a part of that process and carry what is important to Illinois farmers to the American Farm Bureau.”

Guebert says one of the big issues for Illinois farmers is ethanol and maintaining a strong Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). “Midwest farmers have worked so hard and so long to get those standards where they are today,” he said. “It’s just difficult for us to understand why we’re being forced to rollback those standards.”

Farm Bureau delegates voted
to reaffirm “their support for the renewable fuels standard and approved a policy supporting renewable fuels tax incentives for the production of biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol and installation of blender pumps” – proposals put forth by Illinois Farm Bureau.

Other big issues for Illinois at the AFBF meeting were ag data and dairy policy.

You can hear all of Chuck’s interview with Richard here: Interview with Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert
2014 AFBF Convention Photos

Partnership For Farming Entrepreneurs

afbf-14-ladanThe American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and The Georgetown University McDonough School of Business Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI) recently announced a partnership to help strengthen rural America. The multi-year collaboration will address solutions to building greater economic opportunity and security for those who live in rural communities, starting with a program involving the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative to advance rural entrepreneurship.

Chuck spoke with Ladan Manteghi, Executive Director of Global Social Enterprise Initiative at Georgetown University, about the collaboration.

“The purpose of the Rural Entrepreneurship Initiative is really to help provide resources to anyone who has an idea for a new business or who have a entrepreneurial spirit and be able to strengthen the economic security of rural America.”

“Farmers are considered the original entrepreneurs and we believe that is the case. But often times there are two components to this. Farmers have ideas beyond whats in the farm gate. We want to be able to provide the tools and resources necessary to bring those ideas to market. Second, there are a lot of people in rural America who aren’t farmers and want the opportunity to build economic security and financial opportunity and need these resources as well.”

Ladan also shared hopes for a future collaboration with USDA. During the AFBF Convention Sec. of Agriculture Vilsack said, “It creates a sense of entrepreneurship so that you have investors and entrepreneurs looking for opportunities to start businesses in rural areas. The program dovetails with what we are doing at USDA– trying to educate investment banks and investors about the opportunities to invest in rural opportunities.”

AFBF President Bob Stallman said, “Our partnership with Georgetown is dedicated to giving them and other leaders in rural communities nationwide both a forum and the practical means to brainstorm, strategize and bring their inspirations to fruition and, ultimately, strengthen their communities.”

Components of the program will include:

Rural innovation challenge to provide an opportunity for rural entrepreneurs to showcase their ideas and business ventures in a collegial, yet competitive environment, and to receive mentoring and recognition
National summit on rural entrepreneurship that convenes thought leaders in rural economic development, public policy, and entrepreneurship to discuss barriers and solutions to increased business development in rural areas.
An online rural innovation hub that highlights stories of rural entrepreneurs’ experiences, learning, and successes, and serves as a virtual meeting place for individuals to share information.
Training workshops and webinars that give business tools and guidance in areas such as market research, concept and product development, pitch development and fundraising techniques, marketing, and more.

Listen to Chuck’s interview with Ladan here: Interview with Ladan Manteghi

2014 AFBF Convention Photos

Sharing the Farmers Voice Through Music

afbf-14-wesleyAttendees of the 2014 American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Convention had the opportunity to hear music from James Wesley. Chuck had a chance to chat with him following the concert and James admitted that he was surprised at how many farmers and ranchers were there to take part in the annual convention. A true testament to AFBF members commitment to the organization.

James Wesley grew up in a small town in Southeast Kansas and seemed to always have an itch to get out. You might recognize his song “Thank A Farmer.” Growing up in a farming community James shared that he truly understands how hard it is to be a farmer. James said he has a big heart for farmers nationwide and for those who serve in our country’s military.

James said it was his sophomore year in college when he got the bug for country music. He had been singing for wedding and birthdays in the area, but then sent a demo into Nashville in 1994. Got a record deal and pursued that for nearly ten years. He shared with Chuck that family was his priority and moved back home with his wife. Now his kids are grown and he is back in Nashville to continue his career in country music.

He shared that he excited to start working with the National FFA Convention in the future in an effort to raise money for members who can’t afford a FFA Jacket.

Listen to Chuck’s interview with James here: Interview with James Wesley

2014 AFBF Convention Photos

New YF&R Chair Elected

afbf-14-carterJake Carter from McDonough, GA has been elected the new Chairman for the American Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee. He takes over in February and will serve for one year. This honor will also allow him to serve one-term on the AFBF Board of Directors.

Carter graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in business management. He then returned to the farm and began transforming the former dairy operation into a 320-acre agritourism site. It is now known as Southern Belle Farm and he operates it alongside his wife, Jennifer. The farm offers u-pick strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, a corn maze and educational school tours year round.

Carter is passionate about connecting with consumers, especially those who have been misled about what farming is all about.

“We need to put a face on farming and show people what we do how, how we do it and why,” Carter said. “We enjoy giving people a sense of where their food comes from. That’s not an option for most farmers and ranchers, but there are other ways to connect, like social media.”

As YF&R Chair, he said the committee is dedicated to Farm Bureau’s grassroots structure will really focus on turning big ideas into action.

Chuck caught up with him and he shared what was on the political plate for 2014 and what opportunities are out there for young farmers nationwide.

Listen to Chuck’s interview with Jake here: Interview with Jake Carter

2014 AFBF Convention Photos

Overcome Adversity to Become a Strong Leader

afbf-14-mcchrystalRetired four-star general and former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Stan McChrystal, gave the keynote address at the closing session of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) Convention. Overcoming adversity both in the military and as civilians was his focus and how important that is in becoming a strong leader.

“When an organization is small it learns very quickly. Over time it continues to learn, but not as fast and it starts to level out,” said McChrystal. “But our society continues to change and the weight of that change has sped up. This leads to a gap that I like to call the adaptability gap.”

He shared the military’s struggle to escape the adaptability gap after tragic events. Including after September 11th. He attributes the combination of team work and cooperation for the military’s ability to adapt to change.

“The best teams that I’ve ever been in, and I’ve been in a lot, are just people like all of us,” McChrystal said. “They have the same hopes, fears, strengths and weaknesses, but when they come together something magical happens and that’s leadership.”

Listen to an excerpt from Gen. McChrystal’s address here: Gen. Stan McChrystal Keynote Address

2014 AFBF Convention Photos

AFBF Sets Policy for 2014

AFBF DelegatesVoting delegates to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 95th annual meeting concluded this week by approving resolutions that will provide the organization with its marching orders in 2014 on unfinished business like the farm bill and immigration, as well as setting policy on new issues such as drones and agricultural data.

“Congress is still haggling over dairy policy, but for the most part, they are very close to completing a five-year farm bill,” said AFBF president Bob Stallman. The Farm Bureau delegates reaffirmed policy supporting changes to the dairy safety net, including margin insurance programs.

When it comes to drones, delegates adopted new policy that supports the use of unmanned aircraft systems for commercial agricultural, forestry and other natural resource purposes. They also supported the requirement for drone users to gain the consent of the landowners, if operating below navigable airspace However, delegates opposed federal agencies’ use of drones for regulatory enforcement, litigation or natural resource inventory surveys.

Delegates approved new policy supporting the protection of proprietary data collected from farmers and maintaining that such data should remain their property. Delegates also voted to support efforts to educate farmers regarding the benefits and risks of collaborative data collection systems. They also approved policy stating that farmers should be compensated if companies market their propriety information, and that farmers should have the right to sell their proprietary data to another producer, such as in the case of a land sale. Delegates voted to oppose farmers’ data being held in a clearinghouse or database by any entity subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Stallman closing Press Conference

Not-so-beardless Duck Dynasty Brother at AFBF

afbf-robertsonHe’s been called the “beardless brother” of the Robertson clan, but he had a full face of fur at the Farm Bureau meeting this week, albeit not quite the ZZ Top look the other “Duck Dynasty” males sport.

As the newest member of the “Duck Dynasty” cast, Alan Robertson told thousands of farmers and ranchers that his reason for joining the family’s television series after three seasons on A&E was to show America what a “real home” looked like and to have a larger platform to spread his message about “the kingdom of God.” The former pastor said his family’s motto is “Faith, Family, Ducks.”

Robertson believes the reason Duck Dynasty is so popular is that viewers want shows that demonstrate the Christian family values that Americans need and are missing today.

“Something ordinary to us and probably to you [farmers] like working hard all day and coming home to have dinner around a table at night has become extraordinary to people in the 21st century,” said Robertson. “That’s what the kingdom of God is – having a place called home.”

Listen to an excerpt from Alan’s comments here: Duck Dynasty brother at AFBF

2014 AFBF Convention Photos

AFBF Voting Delegates Make Policy

Florida Farm Bureau DelegationThe annual meeting of the voting delegates of the American Farm Bureau Federation is underway here in San Antonio, TX. This is grass roots at its finest.

Throughout the day the delegates will work through the AFBF policy book making changes and perhaps adding new policy positions. Each one is placed on very large screens so everyone can easily read the proposals and see the changes as they are made and voted on. Of course there is discussion but the process moves pretty quickly.

I spoke with Florida Farm Bureau President John Hoblick who sits on the AFBF board. In my interview he walks us through the process and talks about the policies of highest importance to Florida farmers and ranchers. I worked for Florida Farm Bureau once upon a time. It is where I got my start in agricultural communications! John is pictured with the FFBF delegation.

You can listen to my interview with John here: Interview with John Hoblick
2014 AFBF Convention Photos

United Soybean Board Tackles Weed Resistance

Bob HaselwoodBob Haselwood, Kansas soybean farmer, is the Vice Chairman of the United Soybean Board (USB) and Chuck met up with him during the 2014 American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Convention to see what we can see from USB in the upcoming year.

Bob shared that their main focus during AFBF is to talk with farmers about weed resistance. USB recently helped fund a joint project working with 16 state universities to increase education and communication with farmers about weed resistance.

“Today we have charts on the different chemicals and how they relate to one another. We also want to make sure they are using the right rate at the right time. We are trying to take a proactive stance over weed resistance.”

USB is staying on top of the use of technology and has launched Growers can utilize this quick reference point on their phones, tablets and computers.

Looking into the future Bob says he is optimistic about the 2014 soybean crop. He also discussed their support of the bio-diesel industry.

You can listen to my interview with Bob here or watch it below: Interview with Bob Haselwood

2014 AFBF Convention Photos

Bridging the Gap Between Farmers and Consumers

USFRADelegates of the 2014 American Farm Bureau Federation Convention are a few of the lucky ones who get a sneak peak of the Farmland film. Directed by James Moll, USFRA is a huge sponsor of the documentary that takes you into the lives of farmers and ranchers across the county.

Randy Krotz, U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) talks about their support of the movie, Farmland.

“Farmland is the generational story of agriculture. The movement of a farm through a generation like we are all used to in agriculture. It’s a great look at beginning to understand the issues around agriculture and the separation between consumers and farmers that has happened over the last five or six generations.”

Randy is honest and knows an 80-minute film won’t change the minds of all viewers, but he hopes it will open their hearts and minds to new ideas and give a better understanding about the food they eat that is different then what they have been exposed to in the past.

USFRA continues to advocates for the entire agriculture community through their Food Dialogues that are held across the country. These events bring together differing opinions and provide a place for questions to be asked and experts to answer them. Their next Food Dialogue event is scheduled for next month at the USDA Ag Outlook Conference in Washington, D.C.

You can listen to Chucks interview with Randy here or watch it below: Interview with Randy Krotz

2014 AFBF Convention Photos

Ag Secretary Vilsack Speaks to AFBF

Secretary of Agriculture Tom VilsackThis morning’s general session at the American Farm Bureau Federation Convention featured a speech by our U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Yes, he spoke about the farm bill and the need for Congress to pass a new one. Interestingly, he also told us a personal story about being an orphan. Through his adopted father’s side of the family he’s three generations removed from the farm. It was an inspiring story which started with him trying to come up with a one word description of agriculture. He says that it was that great grandfather farmer who was successful enough to raise a family that included children who either farmed or became successful in other businesses. In his grandfather’s case it was the brewing business, then in his father’s case it was real estate and then he became an attorney and ultimately U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. The word he came up with is Freedom. He drew applause during the telling of the story which obviously means a lot to him on a personal level.

You can listen to Secretary Vilsack’s speech here: Sec. Vilsack Speech

Immediately after his speech Sec. Vilsack spoke with the media and you can listen to it here: Sec. Vilsack Press Conference
2014 AFBF Convention Photos

Ensuring Accessibility to Biotechnology

afbf-14-5Ensuring access to biotechnology was the topic Biotechnology Industry Organization’s (BIO), Dr. Cathleen Enright, presented on during the 2014 American Farm Bureau Federation convention this week in San Antonio.

Cathleen is the Executive VP for Food and Agriculture at BIO. Her presentation focused on the need to advocate on behalf of biotech in light of challenges from activists and others. She also drove home the point that farmers and ranchers need to have access to this technology.

“The current climate is challenging as I’m sure you are aware. There is a lot of opposition that has come on the last couple of years. Folks are making very good use of social media with an online presence. Our industry hasn’t done a very good job of that. These folks had an agenda and they did a really good job of making their case. We just weren’t there. Now we are with GMO Answers. It is one piece of a multi-pronged strategy that we have to pay full attention to and invest in.”

Cathleen stated that GMO’s are the only technology that allows us to make multi-year gains in a single season. She added that this means profitability for famers and the ability to meet the world’s food demand and feed 9 billion people by 2050.

Remember there has not been any scientific study proving there is any negative impact from GMO’s. She reminds us that it’s simply a gene of known sequence and function that produces a trait in a crop that is of known function and structure. There is no mystery.

The first step to opening that dialogue is acknowledging people’s skepticism about food made with GM ingredients.

“We have great stories that are not being heard because we are not believed,” she said. “Only when our audiences understand we are listening to them will they listen to us.”

Last year BIO launched the GMO Answers website, through which they invite anyone to ask any question about biotechnology. And ask people did. From July through December, 626 questions were posed and 404 were answered. Another 100-plus are in the process of being answered. Also during this time, there were more than 120,000 visits to the site and more than 526,000 page views, with visitors spending more than 5 minutes on the site on average. These questions are answered by independent, third-party experts.

BIO is hitting the road with GMO Answers and collaborating with many other organizations to help educate the public about biotech. Cathleen explains that this technology isn’t going away, but we do need to speak out and explain it.

Listen to the complete audio from ag media’s interview with Dr. Enright here: Interview with Cathleen Enright

2014 AFBF Convention Photos