'Tell me about your shirt'
March 18, 2010 by Cyndi Young
Story Reprinted with Permission from Brownfield Ag News for America
As soon as Bill Buckner, Head of Business Operations for Bayer CropScience in North America stepped up on stage at the recent Bayer CropScience Ag Issues Forum, he stripped off his suit jacket and pulled a t-shirt over the blue business shirt he was wearing. Why in the world would a big-shot at a major global agribusiness company do that? I asked him. The conversation went like this:
Cyndi- Tell me about your shirt.
Bill- Well my shirt says “Ask me why you are not hungry, naked, or itchy.” It’s an outreach program that Crop Life America and Bayer CropScience got started together to better educate not only our own employees but also a cross section of people about modern agriculture and what does agriculture bring to the table and how does it influence daily life. It invites people to ask the questions and it’s up to us to make sure that our employees as well as Crop Life members are educated about the different issues in agriculture. It’s a little play on words but I think it is very meaningful.
Cyndi- Why is that so important? You had the opportunity here today to speak to a wide range of agricultural media and you chose this message to begin.
Bill- Well, I don’t think that we do a very good job across the ag industry promoting what we do. Our mission is being defined by others and we have lost our share of voice. I had the opportunity to be in Washington the past couple of days and talk to people on the Hill and have a meeting with EPA officials including Administrator Jackson. They don’t know a lot about agriculture and what we do. They are defining and creating policies that are far- reaching. They don’t understand the impact of those policies on agriculture. . . So we have people in very powerful positions that don’t know anything about agriculture. It’s up to us. It’s up to you. It’s up to me to go in and create this educational awareness and help them make the best decisions possible as they establish policy for what this administration is asking them to do.
Cyndi- Agriculture is and always has been diversified. But, beyond diversification some would call what we are experiencing and seeing in agriculture today more of a divide than a diversity. With “buzz words” like natural and organic is there a place in agriculture for everyone?
Bill- Absolutely. I don’t have any preconceived notions that Bayer CropScience can provide everything to everybody in terms of what they are requiring or what they are demanding. Farmer’s markets are fantastic. I love them. There is often entertainment value as well as the opportunity to purchase fresh produce and talk to other gardeners and farmers and so forth. Our mission is to feed the world. Farmer’s markets are another outlet. What is happening today is engaging more and more people around the discussion of production agriculture, whether it is very local issues like producing fresh fruits and vegetables for the local grocery stores or it’s something beyond that where we are trying to do our best to feed a growing population around the globe. People are talking about how American agriculture fits in.
Bill Buckner said something – did something – when I asked for his closing comments that I wish every single person in agriculture would do when being interviewed: he called us all to action.
Bill - Thank you for the opportunity and I would just continue to challenge the ag media industry to challenge conventional wisdom; be proactive; help us to tell our message about modern agriculture; be engaged; and look beyond our own regional areas, state to state, county to county – however we look at it to be very active and engaged in it and I think we will be very successful.
The Ag Issues Forum has become a key opportunity for Bayer CropScience to showcase our leadership position in the agriculture market. As in recent years, it preceded the Commodity Classic, the annual convention and trade show of the U.S. corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum industries. During Ag Issues Forum and Commodity Classic, Bayer spokesmen participated in nearly 100 interviews with 35 national, state and regional trade media.
Additional media highlights from the Commodity Classic -