Day 1 Recap: Ag Issues Forum 2014 - What the World Needs

Thursday, February 27, 2014
Bayer CropScience Ag Issues Forum panel

Greetings from the Marriott Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas!  We had an extremely successful Day One of the 2014 Ag Issues Forum, entitled “What the World Needs.”  We take great pride in hosting this event every year to bring together some of the best minds in the industry to share and discuss the critical issues impacting agriculture today and tomorrow.

We were pleased to welcome back Frank Sesno as our Moderator for the second year in a row.  Frank is the director of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University.  Topics, speakers and panels presented thought-provoking issues and questions on GMO technology, water security, food security and misconceptions about modern agriculture.

David Hollinrake, vice president of Marketing for Bayer CropScience, kicked-off the two-day event with a presentation focused on what the world needs and the role agriculture plays in our future. Hollinrake challenged our perception of agriculture, and communicated how agriculture is sexy, cool, innovative, and cutting-edge. He wrapped up the presentation by stating how current challenges require a new revolution in food production and more brilliant solutions through collaboration.
The next presentation was given by Julie Borlaug, granddaughter of Norman Borlaug, and associate director of external relations for The Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture. She started off with Julie Borlaug during the Keynote Presentationhumanizing her highly influential grandfather, sharing examples of how he inspired her and thousands of others to help growers succeed and help feed people around the world. Borlaug focused on the many misconceptions around the topic of GMOs and the term organic. In the end, she challenged everyone in the room to start communicating about agriculture and biotechnology in a way that is easy and understandable to a wider audience that wants to know where their food comes from. Borlaug emphasized that in order to pick up the slack, we need to emotionally connect with those who may have misconceived perceptions on the safety of our food.

Next up was a panel discussion on efforts to ensure water security.  The panelists included Mitchell Baalman of FDK Partnership, Gary Beck of Hillside Ranch and Dr. Marco Ugarte with MillerCoors.  We learned that 90 percent of the water needed to make beer is used in crop irrigation and how MillerCoors, The Nature Conservancy and barley farm Hillside Ranch collaborated to reduce the amount of water used for barley production, resulting in cost savings to the farm and an increase in yield.  Dr. Ugarte and his fellow panelists talked about the need to work with farmers to implement new technology, yield data, planting data and spraying maps to reduce water use. Baalman shared his story of collaborative and voluntary efforts among farmers in his hometown of Hoxie, Kansas.  Situated above the High Plains aquifer, which is being depleted six times faster than it is being replenished, the Hoxie-area farmers committed to taking 20 percent less water out of the ground over a five- year period that began last year.  

One of the most exciting panels of the day was “Welcome to MY World: Consumers and Growers Seek Blog panelists during Welcome to MY World: Consumers and Growers Seek Common GroundCommon Ground,” a conversation between three bloggers – one mommy blogger, one farm wife blogger and one farmer blogger. Interests were peaked as Sesno asked questions like, “What do your followers want to hear, how are they getting their information, and how should we start communicating with them?” The three panelists―Emily Webel, Annie Schultz and Brian Scott―all agreed that biotechnology is a very hot topic right now, and shared how they each approach the topic with their followers.

Dennis Dimick, Executive editor, Environment for National Geographic shared their exciting plans for their eight month series focused on food and agriculture. Dimick spoke about our growing population and how our need for food is the single biggest threat to the environment that we face today.  

Randy Klotz, executive director of USFRA joined the discussion with Dimick with a show reel for Farmland: The Movie. This moving documentary offers first-hand glimpse into the lives of young farmers and ranchers. The movie connects the audience to these farmers’ stories of their high-risk/high-reward lifestyles. Klotz provided a glimpse into the passion for a way of life that has been passed down from generation to generation, yet still continues to evolve.

In keeping with Bayer’s commitment to feeding a hungry world, Sesno concluded the day’s discussions with a produce donation announcement made in the speakers’ honor to the San Antonio Food Bank. This donation of 1,800 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetable will help provide1,400 meals for people in need in Southwest Texas.

The evening closed with interviews and discussion, as well as a fabulous performance by country music group, Lonestar.  We’re excited to continue the #AgIssues14 conversation today.  Join us by following @Bayer4CropsUS on Twitter and the #AgIssues14 hashtag!


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