Sunday, January 10, 2016

‘First Peas to the Table’ Named Foundation for Agriculture’s Book of the Year



ORLANDO, FLORIDA, January 10, 2016 – The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture presented its ninth annual Book of the Year award to Susan Grigsby for “First Peas to the Table.” In this lighthearted story, a little girl, Maya, and her classmates learn about gardens and peas, as well as Thomas Jefferson’s garden at Monticello.

Grigsby, who lives in St. Louis, Missouri, is the author of three picture books, as well as poetry. She teaches creative writing in schools, museums and nature centers, often integrating the lessons with science, social studies and art.

“I am so happy that, thanks to this recognition from the American Farm Bureau Foundation For Agriculture, more children will have access to ‘First Peas to the Table,’” said Grigsby. “I sometimes help students set up their own school gardens and am always inspired by the sense of wonder that develops as the children discover the infinite number of variables involved in turning one tiny seed into a plant that can feed a family.”

“After reading the agricultural-related correspondence and journals of Thomas Jefferson, I was struck by the passion that he and others had in regards to experimenting to figure out which plants, previously grown on other continents, would grow best in each of the diverse environments spread across the country,” she continued. “I wrote the book to celebrate how every gardener, young and old, learns through experimentation, through failures and success and with a joy for the wonders of nature.”

The Book of the Year award springs from the Foundation’s effort to identify accurate ag books, a collection of nearly 500 books for children, teenagers and adults that accurately cover agricultural topics. Book of the Year selections are educational, help to create positive public perceptions about agriculture, inspire readers to learn more and touch their readers’ lives, as well as tell the farmer’s story. The accurate ag books database is available at: http://www.agfoundation.org/recommended-pubs.

To accompany the “First Peas to the Table” book, the Foundation has created an educator’s guide and a School Garden Ag Mag. Again this year, the Foundation is offering a Spanish text version of the Ag Mag.

In honor of  Grigsby’s recognition and the host city of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 97th Annual Convention, the book’s publisher, Albert Whitman, has generously donated 100 copies of “First Peas to the Table” to the Orange County library system. In addition, the Foundation is donating $1,000 to the library system.

Outgoing Farm Bureau President Tells Farmers and Ranchers to Stand Up and Be Counted



ORLANDO, FLORIDA, January 10, 2016 – Farmers and ranchers need to adopt technology and they need to stand up for their rights. But most of all, they need to share their stories, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman told members at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 97th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show.

Stallman’s address – his last after 16 years as the head of the nation’s largest farm organization – echoed the challenges farmers and ranchers face when government oversteps the limits of the law. He reminded attendees that the organization’s struggle to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest, flawed water policies was not yet over.

“You know, if we’re going to let the federal government dictate where we can and cannot farm—or cut trees, or build homes, or otherwise use the land for any productive, economic activity—then this is not the Land of Liberty,” Stallman told attendees. “It is not the country that our forefathers envisioned—nor is it a country that will be able to feed itself for very long.”

Struggles notwithstanding, technology is helping to make farmers’ lives easier than they were just a generation ago.

“We have tremendous potential through new technologies: unmanned aircraft, data mining, biotechnology, robotics and who knows what else is coming,” Stallman said. “These advances stand to make farming and ranching more productive, less costly, less labor-dependent and even better for the environment.”

Stallman urged members to share their stories with the world, on social media and elsewhere.
“You know, we farmers used to complain that no one paid any attention to what we did—that people thought their food just came from the grocery store—and that we in agriculture didn’t have enough ways to get our message heard.

“Well, people are sure paying attention to farming and food production now! And in this age of social media, we no longer have to depend on others to tell our story for us. We have unlimited opportunities to engage—one-on-one or with thousands of followers—and have real conversations about agriculture.”

Stallman reminded Farm Bureau members of the importance of fairness and the dangers of depending on government.

“When we ask for the aid of government, we should not be surprised when we find ourselves bound by the chains of government,” Stallman said. “When we seek sustenance from the government, we have no moral standing to fault others who seek the same.

“We cannot have the freedom to live, work, play and pray as we see fit if we are willing to take those same freedoms from others. Just as our nation has emerged from contentious political and ideological battles before, we will do so again. You and I – all of us – have the responsibility to keep America great.”

State Farm Bureaus Honored for Excellence



ORLANDO, January 10, 2016 – State Farm Bureaus were presented awards at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 97th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show. The awards recognized their excellence in membership achievement and implementation of outstanding programs serving members in 2015.

The Pinnacle Award, the highest honor a state can be awarded for program and membership achievement, was given to Iowa, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Montana and North Carolina.

The Awards for Excellence were awarded to state Farm Bureaus that demonstrated outstanding achievements in six program areas: Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications.

The Awards for Excellence winners by state and category are:
Alabama (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Arizona (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
California (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Colorado (Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Connecticut (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Florida (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Georgia (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Idaho (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Illinois (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Indiana (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Iowa (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Kansas (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Kentucky (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Louisiana (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Maryland (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Massachusetts (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Michigan (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Minnesota (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Mississippi (Education and Outreach; Member Services; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Missouri (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Montana (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Nebraska (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; and Policy Development and Implementation);
Nevada (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
New Mexico (Education and Outreach; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
New York (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
North Carolina (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Ohio (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Oklahoma (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Oregon (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Pennsylvania (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Rhode Island (Education and Outreach);
South Carolina (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Tennessee (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Texas (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Utah (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Virginia (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Washington (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications);
Wisconsin (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; Member Services; Membership Initiatives; Policy Development and Implementation; and Public Relations and Communications); and
Wyoming (Education and Outreach; Leadership Development; and Public Relations and Communications).

Presidents Awards were presented to states for each membership-sized group that achieved quota and demonstrated superiority in the Awards for Excellence categories. The winning states and the number of President’s Awards earned are: Arizona (2); Georgia (1); Idaho (2); Iowa (5); Kansas (2); Kentucky (1); Massachusetts (6), Michigan (1); Minnesota (2); Missouri (2); Montana (3); Nevada (1); North Carolina (3); Pennsylvania (3); Texas (1); and Utah (1).

New Horizon Awards, honoring states with the most innovative new programs, were presented to: Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Farm Efficiency Can Soar With Drones



ORLANDO, FLORIDA, January 10, 2016 – Farmers and ranchers attending the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 97th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show learned about the advantages and practical considerations of using unmanned aerial vehicles during a workshop presented by the UnmannedFarmer Robert Blair, a fourth-generation farmer and vice president of agriculture for Measure Drone as a Service.

Farmers have long been adapting to new technology noted Blair, whose farm has seen five generations of the technology evolution since his family began farming in Idaho in 1903. Blair started using drones on his family farm in 2006.

“We need precision ag technology to increase profitability and reduce environmental impact,” Blair said. “UAVs give proactive data throughout the season. You can see what is happening and make adjustments on the spot.”

Thanks to the data drones provide, farmers can make up significant gaps in yields.

“But it’s not all about yields,” Blair added. “It’s about farming better, making better decisions.” Farmers can use drones to be more precise with water, fertilizer and pesticides, using less to grow more and protecting important resources.

Agriculture has yet to see the full potential of what drones can do to make farming more efficient, and it’s important for farmers to not only adopt new technologies but to engage with lawmakers on the way regulations impact their ability to use these tools on their farms.

Trade Agreements Bring Big Benefits to Nation’s Farmers and Ranchers



ORLANDO, FLORIDA, January 10, 2016– U.S. agriculture has a lot to gain from trade, was the central message Ambassador Darci Vetter, chief agricultural negotiator, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, had for workshop attendees at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 97th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show. Vetter’s conversation with farmers and ranchers focused on the advantages of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and how its passage is essential to opening new markets for U.S. farmers.

“The TPP is an agreement that unites 12 countries in the Asia-Pacific in a comprehensive trade agreement, with 40 percent of global gross domestic production on the table,” Vetter said. “It is one of the largest, and the highest standard, trade deals in history.”

U.S. agriculture already has deep roots in the area involved in the TTP with 42 percent of U.S. agriculture products being shipped to the area. Vetter contended that this region will only continue to grow in importance. The key to gaining a competitive foothold is to reduce or eliminate tariffs.

“This Asian-Pacific region is one of the most dynamic regions in terms of population growth, but also income growth in that population,” Vetter explained. “By 2030, 66 percent of the world's middle class will be in Asia, and 59 percent of middle classes purchasing power will be from this region. What we want to do now is to cement that preferential trade access to those economies and become their partners of choice as they grow.”

Vetter encouraged attendees to visit ustr.gov/tpp/, where the entire TPP proposal has been posted. The website also has summaries of the proposal along with infographics on how TPP will affect individual commodities and states. Everyone is encouraged to share infographics with friends, member of congress and on social media to help get the word out on why this deal is important to U.S. farmers and ranchers

Transparency Key to Building Consumer Trust


ORLANDO, FLORIDA, January 10, 2016– With research affirming that increased transparency boosts consumers’ trust in the food they eat and how it was produced, transparency is no longer an option for farmers and ranchers, the Center for Food Integrity’s Charlie Arnot told farmers and ranchers from across the country during a workshop at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 97th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show.

As farms have grown bigger over the decades, people’s trust in agriculture has declined, Arnot said. Consolidation, integration and technological advances in agriculture have resulted in safer, more available and more affordable food— and more skepticism from the public.

“As we’ve changed in size and scale and in the kind of production techniques and technology we use, we now reflect a different type of agriculture than many people anticipated,” Arnot said. “We consistently hear from people that they trust farmers but they don’t trust farming.”

As a result, agriculture has lost its social license— the privilege of operating with minimal formalized restrictions, such as laws and regulations, based on maintaining public trust by doing what’s right. Key to trust is value similarity, and many consumers feel the current generation of farmers and ranchers don’t share their values.

“Shared values are three-to-five times more important to building trust than sharing facts or demonstrating technical skills or expertise,” Arnot said.

In consumers’ eyes, farmers’ practices are an illustration of values in action. By being transparent and sharing their practices, farmers can demonstrate their values, which in turn builds trust.

But consumers don’t only want to hear from farmers, they want farmers to listen to them. They want a chance to ask their questions, get answers and to be heard and acknowledged on issues they consider important.

There are many ways farmers and ranchers can give consumers these critical opportunities to engage, but before they put themselves out there, they should consider a few things.

First, understand that who you are is as important as what you know.

Second, look at skepticism as the fuel for discovery. It’s not personal.

“Embrace skepticism as a chance to engage,” Arnot said.

Third, transparency is no longer optional for farmers and ranchers. It’s up to farmers and ranchers to find ways to illustrate their commitment to doing the right thing in producing food.

“Somebody’s going to be telling your story, it should be you,” he emphasized.

In closing, Arnot stressed that building consumer trust would not be a quick fix.

“One of the great things about farmers is your commitment to solving problems,” he said. “This is not a problem that is going to be solved in the next cycle of production. This is a generational problem. We need a long-term vision to build trust.”