Ag Issues Forum 2013: Day 2 Highlights

Friday, March 1, 2013
Bayer Annual Ag Issues Forum sign

On Wednesday we wrapped up the second and final day of our 8th Annual Ag Issues Forum, an invitation-only event bringing together agribusiness, thought leaders and key media to foster conversation and share insight into issues impacting agriculture.

Key Takeaways from Day 2 of Ag Issues Forum 2013:

The Honey Bee: Understanding the Critical Relationship Between Bees, Agriculture, Food and Our Environment

David Epstein, Ph.D., Entomologist, USDA Office of Pest Management Policy

David Westervelt, Assistant Chief, Bureau of Plant and Apiary Inspection, State of Florida

Dr. David Epstein, an entomologist for the USDA Office of Pest Management Policy (OPMP), and David Westervelt, an Apiary Inspection Assistant Chief for the State of Florida, discussed the importance of bees in agriculture, food and our environment. We learned there are 2.5 million colonies of bees in the U.S., all of which are  needed and directly impact our lives. Honey bees pollinate many of the crops that we consume on a daily basis including almonds, apples, melons, alfalfa seed, plum, avocado, blueberry, cherries, vegetable seeds, pears and more. We also rely on honey bees for soybeans and even the clothes we wear through cotton pollination. This important process also has an economic impact, as pollination can contribute $29 billion to U.S. farm income. We need honey bees so much that they have become essentially like "domesticated livestock" and don't really exist in the wild. Honey bee losses may be from genetics, hive management, poor nutrition, poor management practices, drought, etc. We need to continue to nurture and maintain the lifespan of these important creatures through continuing research on breeding, genetics, and sharing important best management practices through advisory committees, panels and continuing discussions.

Fresh Perspectives on the Future of Farming

Craig Ratajczyk, CEO, Illinois Soybean Association

Keith Lane, Senior Vice President - Agribusiness, Farm Credit Mid-America

Greg Duerksen, President, Kincannon & Reed

During this panel discussion, we looked at how to prepare for the future of agriculture now. We know that the future of farming is going to look different and be different than today – it has to – but what will it look like and how will we prepare? These three industry leaders are already preparing for the future and helping the industry do so as well.

Greg Duerksen, President of Kincannon & Reed, discussed farming talent, how we can attract the next generation of farmers and what those farmers’ expectations are. The grower is now the CEO, and some of these farming positions are $300,000-a-year jobs. Duerksen said, “There is lots of capital available for farming, and the talent to manage is what is lacking.” We need to continue to educate and train this next generation of talent and seek technically competent businesspeople who build and lead teams because it’s not the same as our predecessors experienced. “Individuals choose career paths for a combination of money, vision, values and challenge, so crop farming has to compare favorably to the alternatives in all of these.”

Keith Lane, Senior Vice President-Agribusiness for Farm Credit Mid-America, took another interesting approach discussing what we can expect from a financial standpoint on the farm. The 2012 drought, volatile commodity prices and global economies are now shaping lenders’ perspectives on the future of farming. Lane noted that we need to look at the future of farming in areas of specialization, volatility and capital access. From a business standpoint Lane said, “You can have [a] big farm that's still small business.” Lane also agreed with Duerksen’s previous comments noting, “In order to continue having a successful operation and business, we need to expand our employee outreach to other educated youth aside from the small pool of farm kids.”

“The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) has a mission to ensure Illinois soy is the highest quality, most dependable, sustainable and competitive in the global marketplace,” said Craig Ratajczyk, the CEO of ISA. Ratajczyk said that the topics we are looking at today, such as the “grower in the boardroom,” go hand-in-hand with ISA’s future development of their board of directors and it takes all of us involved determining how to operate more efficiently and productively. “People and ag businesses need to start thinking out of the box, and adopt new technologies,” stated Ratajczyk, “Like the head of any type of Fortune 500 company, [growers] have to understand the inputs and outputs and how to become a good leader.”

Grower Panel: Doing Things Differently – Diversification for a New World

Bill Horan, COO, Horan BioProduction, Rockwell City, Iowa

Eddie Adams, Adams Farm Properties, Senath, Mo.

Dee Dee Darden, Farmer & Owner, Darden’s Country Store, Smithfield, Va.

John Shepherd, Tri-County Grain Farms, Blackstone, Va., 2012 Young Farmer Sustainability Award Winner

Dee Dee Darden, from Smithfield, Va. noted that we need to “bring the sexy back to farming,” which became the hit quote of the day. Darden’s point was that in order to inform a growing and diverse population on modern agriculture, we need to get the growers and producers more involved in telling the agriculture story to the public through increased communication skills and putting a face to the farmer. “It’s a hard sell to farmers, but ag advocacy is just as important as farming itself,” said Darden. Darden and her family started this education outreach right on the family farm, where they invite kids onto the farm to learn about agriculture and where their food comes from.

John Shepherd, a young farmer from Smithfield, Va. and 2012 recipient of our Young Farmer Sustainability Award, added to the discussion noting that a lot of the public is misguided in their opinion of modern ag, such as GMOs. Shepherd stated, “If we can move towards educating people about these things and how they are saving us through making farming more sustainable, then we are on the right track.”

Eddie Adams, a sustainable cotton farmer from Senath, Mo., said we need to continue to look into new technologies to be sustainable, as well as continue to educate the public on the sustainable practices currently being implemented on the farm. “Sustainability and efficiency are the key to our survival as we need to provide food, fuel and fiber for an increasingly growing population,” said Adams.

Bill Horan brought an interesting perspective as COO of an Iowa-based company that produces human pharmaceuticals for biotech companies using a variety of plant platforms. Horan stated, “Anytime that we have the opportunity to talk with media, it’s good for the industry to educate others on modern ag.” Horan added about feeding a growing population, “We hear in the mass media about 2 billion people coming in 2050; however, the important number is the 2 billion middle class incomes. This audience will be requiring meat, and we have to produce this meat which will change everything we have done in ag up to this point. How producers and companies are going to strategically do this is the next wave of understanding.”

2013 Young Farmer Sustainability Award Winner – Jeremy Jack

We congratulated and crowned Jeremy Jack as our 2013 Young Farmer Sustainability Award Winner! A video highlighting Jack’s family farm and their sustainable practices was shown to the audience. Jack and his family business, Silent Shade Planting Co., farm 8,500 acres in the Mississippi Delta. Silent Shade produces corn, soybeans, cotton, rice and wheat and collaborates with state environmental and water quality organizations to operate a demonstration farm designed to reclaim water and reduce runoff from irrigation and storm water. We learned that the system ultimately will reduce groundwater withdrawals and increase aquatic habitat, waterfowl areas and shorebird use.

Follow @Bayer4CropsUS and #AgIssues13 on Twitter to read tweets about the conference.  Check out photos from the event on AgWired. Have questions about any of the presentations? Tweet us or leave a comment below!


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