Commodity Classic heated up a cold Florida night last week when the Peterson Brothers took center stage during the Evening of Entertainment. The family farmers, whose “I’m Farming and I Grow It” video went viral last spring, accepted honors from event sponsor Monsanto for their work to promote the image of modern agriculture.
The brothers, who have created a series of YouTube videos parodying trendy songs, brought farmers into the tech spotlight, with their version of the party anthem gaining more than eight million views. Combining their youthful, fun-loving spirit with their passion for agriculture, these young men pushed family farmers into the national spotlight.
The air outside may have been unseasonably cold, but the brothers sparked warm enthusiasm in the crowd. Leading by example, the Peterson Brothers showed that farmers can effectively use social media to start a dialogue that gets consumers excited too.
Want to join the movement to get a conversation rolling about farming? Click here to learn about innovative programs offered by the National Corn Growers Association that can help you get started.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack gave a sequester day speech at the 2013 Commodity Classic in Orlando on Friday.
“On this day in particular, it’s great to be outside of Washington,” Vilsack said. “Frankly, I have to apologize to all of you. This is crazy what is happening. In a functioning democracy this shouldn’t happen.”
Vilsack told corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum farmers that USDA furlough notices will be sent out next week and there will be some offices where people “simply aren’t there.”
A highlight of the general session of Commodity Classic is moderator Mark Mayfield’s “visit with the Presidents.” Left to right are Mayfield, Terry Swanson, National Sorghum Producers; Erik Younggren, National Association of Wheat Growers; Pam Johnson, National Corn Growers Association and Danny Murphy, American Soybean Association.
The commodity presidents segment with Mayfield has become a tradition – but it’s the first time a woman has ever shared the stage. Not likely to be the last as Pam has proven to be a strong and outspoken leader for the agriculture industry.
“You need to overcome the tug of people against you as you reach for high goals.” – General George S. Patton
In the quiet after the storm we call Commodity Classic it I had a few thoughts, other than sleep, that might be worth sharing. First, I hope everyone who participated feels good about making the time and being a part of the process.
Being a leader isn’t easy but it definitely has its moments. And Classic is a shining moment where the power of a grassroots organization and how it operates is on full display.
It seems that at every Classic from the sessions of Corn Congress to the great slate of speakers one clear theme emerges. It did so with a redundancy that was more remarkable than ever at the 2010 event. Growers talked about it in the hallways and speaker after speaker told growers that the industry is under attack from several quarters by food elitists, animal rightists, select environmental groups, and even unnecessary government regulation.
Although these efforts are backed by few they are a loud minority that often have deep pockets, a friendly media willing to hand them the microphone with little analysis or editing, and a zealotry and singleness of purpose that is as remarkable as it is disturbing.
Normally reticent, hard working farmers need to respond at every opportunity and that will mean carving out some time every week to tell your story. So tell it to anyone that will listen…from the local Lion’s Club or Rotary to the vast reaches of Social Media space the battle is on.
As General George S. Patton said, “A pint of sweat saves a gallon of blood.” With the thin margins in agriculture today there is little blood to lose and farmers are no strangers to sweat.
Perhaps author scientist Dr. Jay Lehr said it best during the general session at Commodity Classic when he challenged farmers to devote an hour a week to present Ag’s message and save their profession.
In the interest of morale in the industry I also want to point out that some people get it and these voices can also help us in our efforts to educate the masses. Bill Gates of Microsoft fame is a good example. In a recent article he said:
“Whenever I read about farming, I’m reminded how tough it is. Between the weather, weeds, viruses, insects and other pests, farming is a constant struggle, always posing new challenges. A city boy like me can think of it as putting a seed in the ground and waiting for nice stuff to grow. Wrong.”
You don’t have to be an expert to be an advocate. Just tell your story and when you see things like Gate’s comment store them away for later use.
The opening of the trade show is the real “official” start to the Commodity Classic and that happened Thursday afternoon here in sunny Anaheim, California. The exhibit hall is filled with the latest and the greatest technology and machinery for growers of corn, soybeans, wheat and sorghum. According to the latest official attendance figures, there are 4291 attendees at Classic this year, including 1363 growers from all over the country and over 130 media. This is the 15th annual Commodity Classic, which started as the combined meeting of the corn and soybean growers, but in recent years has grown to add wheat and sorghum grower organizations as well.
Buy your own WTF t-shirt from I Love Farmers, They Feed My Soul – which is appropriate for the Commodity Classic in Anaheim, since it was started by students at Cal Poly. They have a great website and it is a great effort to support – so if you have not been there yet – check it out today!
We love farmers. They feed our soul. Together we are working to help our generation understand the importance of knowing where our food comes from and who produced it.
We’re not your typical “who cares” kind of young people from the Millennial Generation. Sure, we all have cell phones and we text like crazy. We have iPods and spend way too much time on Facebook and MySpace, but we care about our planet. We care about our country. We care about the American family farmer.
Corn growers all over the country are preparing for the 2010 Commodity Classic next week in Anaheim where important policy issues facing farmers and ranchers will be discussed.
Members of the Missouri Corn Growers Association got in the mood this week by holding their annual meeting in Jefferson City and going to talk with state lawmakers about the importance of keeping agriculture in the hands of farmers. National Corn Growers Association president Darrin Ihnen (right) was guest speaker at the Missouri luncheon. With him pictured is Mike Geske, former president of the Missouri Corn Growers now serving on the 15-member National Corn Board.
I interviewed both Darrin and Mike about some of the issues important to growers right now and topping the list is the threat posed by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which is in the process of working up a petition drive in Missouri directed at dog breeders – lumping them all in the unsavory category of “puppy mills” – kind of like they lump all of agriculture under “factory farming.” Mike says that is why all agriculture groups in the state are working to keep legislators informed about how food is produced and the importance of the industry to Missouri. “We feel that once they get past the dog breeders they are going to be headed for commercial agriculture,” he told me.
Darrin says the threat posed to animal agriculture in individual states by groups like HSUS ultimately impacts all of agriculture across the country. “It’s very important that we help defend them,” Darrin says. “We can’t be separated when it comes to agriculture. We need to work together.”
This is just one of many important policy issues that corn growers will discuss at Classic next week, the annual meeting that also includes soybean, wheat and sorghum producers. Others include the indirect land use issue, climate legislation, increasing the ethanol blend rate and extending the blender’s tax credit for ethanol.
Listen to back to back interviews with Darrin and Mike here: [audio:http://www.zimmcomm.biz/corn/ihnen-geske.mp3]
Everyone at Commodity Classic this year seemed to be impressed that attendance was as good or better than ever.
“As I understand it, we are either right at the record or over it, so that is phenomenal,” said National Corn Growers Association CEO Rick Tolman. Unofficial numbers I heard were about 4500 total registration with 1500 of those actual corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum farmers.
The state of the ethanol industry was a major focus at the meeting, as well as the state of the livestock industry – both major concerns for corn growers since they represent two of the biggest markets for the commodity. Tolman says they are working hard to improve their relationship with the livestock industry which has been strained in the past year over biofuels.
NCGA is also working with the ethanol industry on two important issues that could adversely impact future production – indirect land use and higher blends. “The indirect land use issue is one that by statute the EPA has to look at in the Renewable Fuels Standard,” Rick says. “Personally, I think its a ridiculous concept and doesn’t make any sense at all, however it is in law, so EPA has to look at it.” Regarding both issues, Rick believes sound science will eventually win out.
Concerns about potential changes to the 2008 Farm Bill surfaced at Commodity Classic this week, as the Obama administration unveiled its budget proposal which calls for cuts in farm program spending. “The farm bill is a five year program and we just went through a whole two years of discussions to get that done and finally we get it signed and it hasn’t even been implemented yet and they’re talking about changing it,” Tolman said. “That’s a principal I think is wrong.”
Listen to an interview with Rick here: [audio:http://www.zimmcomm.biz/commodity-classic/cc-09-tolman.mp3]
Five college students from agricultural backgrounds were presented with $1000 NCGA Academic Excellence in Agriculture scholarships, sponsored by BASF, at this week’s Commodity Classic in Grapevine, Texas.
Adam Burnhams (left) with U.S. Crop Protection Products at BASF and NCGA Chairman Ron Litterer (right) presented the students with their awards on Friday. Four of the five students were able to attend this year’s Commodity Classic. They are pictured here, left to right – Emily Treu of Wisconsin, Michael Sukalski of Minnesota, Alex Coughlin of South Dakota and Rita Cook of Iowa. Not pictured is Elias Klokkenga of Illinois.
Rita is a senior at Iowa State University majoring in agricultural business with a minor in public service and administration in agriculture and economics. Alex is a junior at South Dakota State University majoring in agricultural business with a minor in agricultural marketing. Elias is a sophomore at the University of Illinois majoring in agricultural and consumer economics with a concentration in agribusiness, markets and management. Michael is a sophomore at South Dakota State University majoring in agricultural and biosystems engineering with a minor in accounting and business management. Emily is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin – Madison double majoring in agricultural education and agricultural journalism.
I did interviews with each of the winners present, which you can hear below:
Alex – [audio:http://www.zimmcomm.biz/commodity-classic/cc09-ncga-scholar-alex.mp3]
Emily – [audio:http://www.zimmcomm.biz/commodity-classic/cc09-ncga-scholar-emily.mp3]
Rita – [audio:http://www.zimmcomm.biz/commodity-classic/cc09-ncga-scholar-rita.mp3]
Michael – [audio:http://www.zimmcomm.biz/commodity-classic/cc09-ncga-scholar-michael.mp3]
Farmers will soon have a new tool to analyze their natural resource use and key crop production inputs, introduced this week at the Commodity Classic by Field to Market, The Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture.
The Fieldprint Calculator was developed with input from a diverse group of grower organizations, agribusinesses, food companies, economists and conservation groups, to help farmers evaluate natural resource use on their operation compared to industry averages. These measures could help improve production efficiencies and profit potential.
The calculator will be available at www.fieldtomarket.org beginning March 15 for grower testing and feedback.
“Sustainable agriculture must make sense economically as well as environmentally or it’s not sustainable,” said Doug Goehring, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat in North Dakota. “This calculator will help producers understand how they’re being sustainable on the farm today, while providing insight into for future improvements that can benefit the environment and our bottom line.”
Watch Doug demonstrate the Fieldprint calculator here: