I was asked to participate in a National Ag Day panel discussion on March 20 in Washington, D.C., to represent the 2017 Class of John Deere Outstanding Young Farmers National Winners. The event was held at the National Press Club.
“The Consumer, The Farmer and Sustainability” panelists included Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation; Emily Buck, one of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance Faces of Farming and Ranching; John Teeple, director of Advanced Technology at John Deere; and Sara Hendren, nutrition and quality assurance manager with Culver’s. Farm broadcaster Max Armstrong of “This Week in Agribusiness” served as moderator.
As a panelist representing production agriculture and dairy farming, I emphasized that, to me, sustainability means taking care of the land and environment and using natural resources efficiently to reduce the carbon footprint while still being economically viable to remain farming for an indefinite number of generations.
The producer and customer both want sustainability, but the problem persists that many customers are demanding that the farmer obtain this without the use of modern technology and science. This is indicated by the buying choices that customers are making in the marketplace. Misleading fear-marketing tactics such as non-GMO, antibiotic-free and hormone-free labeling only compound this issue by creating unnecessary paranoia in the minds of customers.
As farmers, we need to continue to stand up and speak out to share the truth about our product. We need to connect with our customers on our values and share with them what we do on our farms and how we produce a safe, nutritious product for all of us to enjoy. We must also demand that labeling and marketing of products honestly represent the true safety of them.
It was a great experience and opportunity to share my perspective as a dairy farmer. We will continue farming in a way that is as environmentally responsible and economically efficient as possible. But, we must also continue to speak up and connect with our customers to ensure we can continue to farm.