Day 2 Recap: Ag Issues Forum 2014 - What the World Needs

Friday, February 28, 2014
Bayer CropScience Ag Issues Forum speaker

It was another action packed day at the Marriott Riverwalk in San Antonio for day two of the 2014 Ag Issues Forum, an event Bayer CropScience hosts each year to bring together the brightest minds in agriculture to discuss the issues and challenges we face as an industry.

Our moderator, Frank Sesno, opened the day with a panel discussion titled, “How Today’s Farmer CEOs are Reshaping Modern Ag.”  Panelists included Bruce “Onion Man” Frasier, owner of Dixondale Farms, Jeremy Jack, partner at Silent Shade Planting Company and recipient of the Bayer Crop Science 2013 Young Farmer Sustainability Award, and Chad Leman, co-owner of Leman Farms.

Topics of discussion included new technology that requires heavy capital investment, as well as the lack of skilled and reliable labor.  Leman said, “the image of the farm is pretty antiquated and I’m not sure urban kids understand the potential that’s there.”

Ag Issues Forum

The “Farmer CEOs” discussed the everyday challenges they face running their farms, including training the next generation, new regulations, the public’s perception of farming, and weight of responsibility. They also discussed the importance of recording everything they do to help them track efficiencies and responsibilities. An intriguing question was asked by Jeff VanderWerff of the Ag Chat Foundation directed towards Chad Leman. He asked how he balanced the challenging farm-life work ethic with being a young man with family and friends. Leman’s response was simple, “When you grow up a son of a farmer, it’s your way of life.”

The farmers taught us that running and owning a farm is not fun and games, and in order to keep up with ever-evolving technologies, agribusinesses and farms are going to need young, tech-savvy men and women who are willing to take on a challenging, high-end job.

The second panel, The Buzz on Bees: An Update on Pollinators, focused on bee health and how collaboration will drive results, “The Buzz on Bees: An Update on Pollinators”. The panelists included Laurie Adams, executive director of Pollinator Partnership, Dr. Troy Anderson, assistant professor at The Virginia Tech Department of Entomology, and Don Parker, integrated pest management at National Cotton Council. Each panelist was able to discuss their background and how each of them and their colleagues are researching solutions to improve the health of honey bees.

Adams stressed collaboration among organizations in order to come up with recommendations for beekeepers. Parker stressed that science must lead the conversation, not personal opinion or politics. All three panelists agreed that stressors on honey bee population trace back to a variety of sources that include parasites, bacterial diseases, poor nutrition, genetics and pesticides.

Dr. Lowell Catlett, Dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at New Mexico State University, gave a very interesting and colorful talk titled, Agriculture – What the World Needs Now – More Than Ever. Catlett was one of the most dynamic speakers of the event, using creative body language, tones and humor to engage the audience on a very serious topic.  Marcy Tessman tweeted, “Lowell Catlett might just be the most entertaining economist ever.”

Catlett posed a question to the audience, challenging our thoughts on why technology is welcome in medicine, education and transportation, but not in food.  He spoke about technology and why it is absolutely critical in feeding a growing population.  He suggested that the future of farming is in DIT diagnostics on livestock and plants and that we use advanced technology to step beyond precision agriculture into prescription agriculture.  Catlett said, “Get ready for a revolution.  Embrace technology, build systems and change the world.”

The last talk and panel discussion was given by Bayer CropScience U.S. executives, Jim Blome, president and CEO, Inci Dannenberg, vice president of Commercial Operations and David Hollinrake, vice president of Marketing.  The discussion was heavily focused on the critical issue of a continued trend towards fewer students pursuing degrees in STEM.

Bayer CropScience makes a significant effort to help reverse this trend with several education, training and development programs, including Making Science Make Sense, the Commercial Excellence Leadership Program and the Graduate Recruitment and Development Program.  

Blome, Dannenberg and Hollinrake also spoke about being proud of devoting their careers to the advancement of agriculture and feeding a hungry planet.  Blome said that people who work in agriculture should carefully and thoughtfully prepare talking points so they are prepared when they get asked the tough questions by the general public who are influenced by sensationalism and misconceptions in the media.Meet Bryan Boll of Crookston, MN recipient of the 2014 Young Farmer Sustainablility Award from Bayer CropScience. Each year, Bayer recognizes an agricultural producer age 40 or under who demonstrates entrepreneurial initiative and new approaches to farming, sustainability efforts and economic stability

After all panels and presentations were concluded for the day, the highly-anticipated announcement of the Young Farmer Sustainability Award winner was made. Jeremy Jack passed the torch off to Bryan Boll of Minnesota. Bryan was much appreciative, and shared an entertaining story with the audience about the award giving him an opportunity to get out of his comfort zone at the farm and communicate with others about his passion for feeding the world. Big congratulations to Bryan!

Ag Issues Forum 2014 was the best one yet, it was buzzing all throughout the Riverwalk! Great conversations, learnings and talking points came from all panelists and participants. We are especially proud of the conversation that was happening via Twitter, as #AgIssues14 gained over 6M impressions and reached over 500,000 people. We appreciate everyone’s involvement and dedication and we are already looking forward to next year in Arizona! We will be sticking around for Commodity Classic, so make sure to visit Booth’s 4101 and 4100 if you are still in town.

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