Archive for the ‘agvocate’ Category

Random thoughts from Corn Congress and Washington DC

I was in Washington DC last week for the National Corn Growers Corn Congress. I extended my stay to do some sightseeing with my grown son, so I ended up spending 6 days in DC, which is way too long. I’ve been smiling nonstop since I returned home, just happy to be here, somewhere normal! It’s not my first trip to DC, but I did accumulate a lot of random observations.

  • I spent most of my time with farmers from Kansas and many other states. Words that describe my farmer friends include the following: kind, intelligent, polite, funny, sophisticated, outspoken, focused, professional, friendly, well-rounded, honest, informed. Our farmers sat through long committee meetings, two delegate sessions and visited every member of our Congressional Delegation. All the while, they were also using their smart phones and tablets to keep track of the markets, check email, and kept in contact with their families at home who were running the farm in their absence.
    Roberts Visit 7-2014

    With Senator Roberts

    jenkins

    With Congresswoman Jenkins

  • There were many farewell speeches at Corn Congress this year with NCGA Exec Rick Tolman retiring, as well as Nebraska Corn’s Don Hutchens, Monsanto’s Marsha Stanton and John Deere’s Don Borgman. Our own Jere White was honored at the March Corn Congress session for his retirement. New leaders will rise to take their places, but those are some big shoes to fill.
  • Speaking of leaders, I was so impressed with the members of the DuPont New Leaders Program offered through NCGA. Farm couples are encouraged to go through the program together. This cultivated two new leaders from Kansas: Tom and Sandy Tibbits of Minneapolis. The program’s final session was held around the Corn Congress event. We were happy to have them along on our Hill Visits and Tom was able to help Kansas Corn by serving as a delegate. Tom is already on the KCGA board and we have plans to use make use of Sandy’s skills as well as an advocate for agriculture.
  • Speaking of Hill Visits, many of the Congressional offices have offered Russell Stover candies to their visitors for years. With the new Mars candy factory in Topeka, many of our offices have candy bowls with Peanut M&Ms and Snickers bars as well! And Cheezits. Did you know all Cheezits are made in Kansas?
  • I serve on the Corn Farmers Coalition steering committee, an image program that aims to educate and inform Washington DC decision makers about corn farmers. This year’s campaign has just begun and I sawourfull page ad in The Hill newspaper, as well as ads online and intheMetro trains. This year’s ads have an innovation and technology theme because the focus groups we used when planning this year’s campaign were fascinated by the use of technology on our farms. I remember one focus group participant saying, “It’s kind of neat to think that those farmers are using the same iPad as me.” It is not always easy to overcome the stereotypes about farmers that many people have. On one hand, they are surprised to learn that 98 percent of all corn farms are family farms–many folks think that our farms are owned by big corporations. On the other hand, they think farmers look and work on the farms just like they did 50 years ago. When we talk to these people about GPS guidance and mapping, precision agriculture, they get really excited.

    metro

    This Metro passenger was extremely interested in our CFC ad!

  • There is some corn planted in front of USDA. And the US Botanic Gardens is featuring a wheat display called Amber Waves of Grain.
  • I saw a lot of advertising in DC. I saw an excellent ad in a Metro train placed by Humane Watch. It explained that HSUS, the Humane Society of the United States, only gives 1 percent of its funding to local humane shelters and encourages people to donate to local humane society shelters instead.
  • On the Metro, we sat next to a woman holding a takeout bag from Chipotle. Over the years, I’ve discouraged my kids from eating at Chipotle for various reasons (primarily because it’s danged expensive!), but also because of how the corporate burrito company bashes farmers who grow the food. Sitting next to my son, who is a devout capitalist, I pointed to the bag in the woman’s lap and told him to read it. This quote is from Chipotle’s “Cultivating Thought” Author Series.
  • Saunders

    If no one must work, who will make the burritos?

    I’m all for love and peace, but just sitting around feeling love for one another might get a little boring after a while.  More importantly, Chipotle, if no one works, where will all that free food come from? Who will make the burritos? I’m for free speech and an open exchange of ideas, and I enjoyed reading the bag that held a nine dollar burrito. But I do have the right to disagree. My capitalist son, who in the past has been disturbed by Chipotle’s anti-farmer statements but still ate the corporate burritos, was even more disturbed by that quote.

  • borlaug

    Norman Borlaug is the new guy in Statuary Hall at the Capitol.

  • We saw the new statue of Norman Borlaug, the Father of the Green Revolution, during our tour of the Capitol. That an Iowa plant breeder is honored in this way Statuary Hall in the Capitol is significant. His work which created a high-yielding, disease resistant wheat is credited for saving a billion lives. Borlaug was a strong supporter of the promise of biotechnology and urged people to stand up to the anti-science crowd.
  • corn capital

    A corn capital at the Capitol. (Architect of the Capitol)

  • I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone has ever counted up the number of Greek columns in DC? It made me remember the Architecture Appreciation class I took at K-State where we learned about Doric, Corinthian and Ionic columns. Speaking of art and architecture, if you are a corn grower, look around in DC–there are many depictions of corn in the Capitol and many other places. In fact, the photo here shows a corn capital in the Capitol. A capital is the top of a column. According to the Architect of the Capitol: Carved by Giuseppe Franzoni from Aquia Creek sandstone, these columns were installed in the Hall of Columns of the U.S. Capitol in 1809. The fluting of a conventional shaft was recalled by bundled corn stalks. On the capital, husks were folded back to reveal the cob and kernels of corn.
  • I was struck by the friendliness of the people in DC on this trip. I think this was influenced by the unusually cool weather. One cab driver told us that the cooler weather was a disaster for cabbies because everyone wanted to walk instead of taking a cab. He joked that he would have to charge us double. Judging by his meandering route to our destination, I don’t think he was kidding.

Kudos to Hy-Vee

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

The agricultural industry plays defense time and time again. Food is often a victim of misunderstandings, as most consumers are generations removed from the food source and the process. Food is an entry point to climate change, employment, health, immigration and the economy; making it a pretty easy target.

The most recent misunderstanding: “pink slime” or “lean, finely textured beef”. This controversy over processed food has been all the rage in the media recently.

“The more people are disconnected with their food supply and the sources of their food, the more questions they will have, and we understand that,” said Craig Letch, director of food safety and quality assurance for South Dakota-based Beef Products Inc. But, “We don’t produce ‘pink slime.’ We produce 100 percent quality lean beef. That’s it. That whole thing is a farce. There’s no substance to it.”

Hy-Vee, a Midwestern supermarket chain, ranks among the top 20 supermarket chains and the top 50 private companies in the United States, and for good reason. Hy-Vee’s “helpful smile” is seen in the meat counter aisle this week as they listened to their customers and released this statement yesterday regarding lean, finely textured beef (LFTB).

“Hy-Vee takes great pride in listening to the voices of our customers and offering them outstanding values on the quality products they want to buy. Following our recent decision to stop purchasing ground beef containing Lean Finely Textured Beef, we heard from many customers who asked us to continue carrying this product. They’ve sent us a clear message: They want a choice when it comes to ground beef, and they want to support companies that provide thousands of jobs in our Midwest trade area. In response to this feedback, Hy-Vee has made a decision to offer both kinds of ground beef – both with and without Lean Finely Textured Beef. Both products will be identified so customers can determine for themselves which type of ground beef they want to buy. This transition is underway and will be implemented in our retail stores as quickly as possible. We thank our customers for sharing their views on this issue, and encourage them to continue telling us what we can do to improve their shopping experience at Hy-Vee.”

I believe Hy-Vee deserves to be commended for their service to consumers and not buckling under the media hype. Consumers and “agvocates”, thanks for making your voice heard and asking for what you wanted from the grocery-store chain.

There is no reason for lost jobs and hurt families over something that’s a non-issue. 236 families have temporarily lost at least one income at just the Garden City, KS plant alone. Hy-Vee took a risk and stepped out in support. Let’s show them we have their back. Let them know on Facebook or write Hy-Vee to show your appreciation.

Letters can be sent to:
Hy-Vee, Inc.
Attn: Rose Comer, VP
5820 Westown Parkway
West Des Moines, IA 50266-8223

You can also fill out a comment form here.

Hy-Vee continues to show that consumers come first. Please join me in thanking them.

For more information on LFTB:
Get the Facts on Lean Beef Trimmings

Meat-processing company gets chewed up in ‘pink slime’ uproar

NPR: Why ‘Pink Slime’ Isn’t That Different From Other Meat Products

Pink slime push-back: Someone smarter, or more emotional, than me has to figure this out

Kansas Joins CommonGround Program

Farmers Greet Guests with Delicious Food and Genuine Conversations at State Launch

The Kansas State University Lady Wildcats may have shot better hoops than the University of Kansas Lady Jayhawks Saturday night, but the real winners were the farm women who started a conversation about food at Allen Fieldhouse prior to the game.  Teresa Brandenburg, Kara James and LaVell Winsor hosted dinner to launch the Kansas arm of the CommonGround program—a national grassroots movement, designed to bridge the gap between the women who grow food and the women who buy it.

The event brought together members of the media, academics and government officials to discuss modern farming. During the dinner, guests were invited to partake in conversation about farming and food while enjoying delicious food and the company of the new Kansas CommonGround volunteer farmers.

The reason Kansas became a part of the CommonGround movement was clear during dinner as Alton, Kan. CommonGround volunteer, Teresa Brandenburg explained, “many consumers are confronted by a barrage of inaccurate information and rumors about food. All three of us (volunteers) want to share our stories and personal understanding of agriculture and food.” She also noted, “who is better to tell that story than someone like me, a mom, and a farmer?” Throughout the dinner, the volunteers shared anecdotes from their farm and used their agriculture knowledge and expertise to address guest’s concerns about our nation’s food supply.

Many questions were about the locavore movement and organic farming, but LaVell Winsor, a grain farmer from Grantville, Kan. said, “many of the topics we discussed centered around the facts on organics and implications of a shift toward eating locally produced foods.” She enjoyed being able to address misconceptions throughout the evening. “Some of the attendees pulled me into a discussion on the benefits of organics to ask for my thoughts.  I explained that, while farmers in our country do provide a variety of healthy, safe options, there is no evidence that organic production results in a more nutritious, healthier choice. Really, they could rest assured that they were providing their family with the wholesome nourishment they need whether they buy organic or conventionally produced foods. It was great being able to put a face and a name with agriculture so that people knew they can contact a real person about farming and food!”

To close out the evening, guest were encouraged to fill their reusable CommonGround grocery bags with facts about food production and recipes the volunteers shared from their own kitchens. Following the dinner, the entire group was invited to join in the festivities and watch the University of Kansas women’s basketball team take on their rivals from Manhattan.

“As a Kansas CommonGround volunteer, I hope our guests left with a better understanding of how food is grown and that, as farmers, we want to speak with the public about what we do,” said Karra James, CommonGround volunteer from Clay Center, Kan. “When farmers like myself say something about food I think our message comes from a more genuine place because we are connected directly to agriculture.”

The CommonGround program is moving forward in 15 states including Colorado, Delaware, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dokata, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and South Dakota. The movement will continue to grow and expand nationwide.

Want to join the CommonGround Conversation? Stay tuned for more CommonGround Kansas updates and what you can to help.

Website: www.FindOurCommonGround.com

YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/FindOurCommonGround

Twitter: www.twitter.com/commongroundks

Twitter Hashtag: #CGConvo

Facebook: www.facebook.com/CommonGroundKansas

Blog: http://commongroundkansas.wordpress.com/

About the volunteers:

Teresa Brandenburg from Alton, Kansas

Teresa was the 2006 American Honey Princess, crown and all.  But that hardly serves as her only contribution to agriculture. Starting out, Teresa grew up in a small town in Iowa where her dad drove a truck hauling farm commodities. Teresa started raising livestock with her family when she was 10.  Now, she and her husband, Luke, are the fourth generation on his family’s farm. Their son, Jacob, represents the fifth generation.  She is currently serving on the Kansas Soybean Association Board of Directors, and enjoys working with her husband to raise cattle, corn, milo, soybeans and wheat.

LaVell Winsor from Grantville, Kansas

LaVell has a unique perspective on agriculture, having worked as a farmer with responsibility for merchandising and managing grain sales while keeping financial records, and outside of the farm with other growers as a business consultant specializing in risk-management.  Coupled with her previous experience in succession and estate planning, LaVell understands the vast array of financial issues facing farmers and agriculture as a whole.

Karra James From Clay Center, Kansas

Karra works with her husband Derek on his parent’s farm to grow grain, raise cattle and, more importantly, their elementary school-aged son and daughter.  Having earned a degree in Food Science and worked in the food safety field, Kara understands the science behind many of the questions consumers have about their food. As she increases her involvement on the farm, she also broadens her perspective on the modern technologies and techniques they use every day.

Lori Deyoe From Ulysses, Kansas

Farming is Lori’s heritage from several generations back on both sides of her family, and her work has always reflected that. She is a farmer’s daughter, the wife of a cattleman and mom to two children. Even her education, a degree in agricultural economics with minors in animal science and women’s studies from Kansas State University, is rooted in agriculture. Before Lori and her husband started a family, she worked as the assistant grain manager at an elevator in town. And currently, Lori coordinates logistics for their small beef feed yard; handles the accounting; and writes on their blog about agriculture. No need to say it – this woman is all about farming.

About CommonGround™

CommonGround is a grassroots movement to foster conversation among women – on farms and in cities – about where our food comes from. CommonGround was developed by the United Soybean Board (USB) and National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) in an effort to give farm women the opportunity to speak with consumers using a wide range of activities. USB and NCGA provide support and a platform for the volunteers to tell their stories. The opinions and statements made by the volunteers are not necessarily representative of the policies and opinions of USB or NCGA.

Food Day- 365

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

A couple weeks ago I noticed something different about the bananas I picked up at the grocery store. They had a sticker on them advertising some sort of holiday, called “Food Day,” taking place on October 24. Naturally, being an advocate for agriculture, I was instantly curious.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has launched Food Day, a campaign to “change the way Americans eat and think about food.” CSPI says that Food Day is designed to “encourage people to support healthy, affordable food grown in a sustainable, humane way.” Sounds like a slogan for agriculture to me! Farmers want to produce healthy food for their families, their communities and the rest of the world. We all want affordable food. Farmers and ranchers are practicing sustainability and humane animal welfare daily.

On the Food Day website, there are six key points outlined as goals. I’ve got beef with some of these points and would like to go through each of them to share some thoughts.

1) Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods.

Of course! Farmers and ranchers want to provide the world with safe, healthy and affordable food. Remember that these folks feed their families the food they produce.

2) Support sustainable farms and limit subsidies to big agribusiness.
Farmers were the first environmentalists. With today’s farming techniques, it’s possible to have great yields, while improving the soil and protecting the environment. By caring for the land and the environment, farmers can continue producing great crops that help provide quality, safe food. Often times, farm land is passed down through generations so growers want to ensure that their land is well cared for. I won’t get into subsidies but Caci, a farm wife from South Carolina, explains farm subsidies further on her blog.

3) Expand access to food and alleviate hunger.
Farmers and ranchers support efforts to alleviate hunger in our own country, as well as across the globe. You will find that these folks donate to food banks and a variety of charitable causes. Here’s just one example. Today, one farmer produces enough food in one year to feed 156 people. If we relied on the food production systems of 1950, as some are suggesting, approximately 150 million people living in the U.S. today would be without food. That’s everyone in the 13 largest U.S. states, hungry! Additionally, placing restrictions of the U.S. food system that limit the ability to produce the food we need will increase the cost of food and limit healthy, affordable food choices for all of us, including those who can least afford it. Today’s food system works to address hunger and food insecurity, and to meet the challenge of feeding a growing global population.

4) Protect the environment & animals by reforming factory farms.
Wait, what exactly is a factory farm? As Chuck Jolley, a Kansas City freelance writer wrote for The Pork Network, “Those big, bad, evil factory farms? Most of them are run by your neighbor, his wife and kids. Maybe there are even a few grandchildren lending a hand. And they offer employment in areas where there aren’t a lot of other opportunities. They are the leading businesses in rural America, producing billions of dollars worth of goods at a scant few pennies on the dollar. They feed most Americans and a stunning portion of the rest of the world and, hopefully, your neighbor, his wife and kids can go to bed at night, satisfied with a job well-done and a lifestyle they love.”

As Dawn Caldwell, a Nebraska producer writes in her blog. “Regardless, if we have 10 or 10,000 animals, if we don’t treat them well, they won’t treat us well. It takes a special kind of person to own or work on a farm – there aren’t many of us left here in the U.S. We are a few proud folks doing our best to continually improve farming methods and products for a rapidly growing population.”

Today, 98 percent of all farms are owned by individuals, family partnerships or family corporations. Actually, just two percent of America’s farms and ranches are owned by non-family corporations. Size shouldn’t define a family farm or “factory farm”. If global food production is to more than double by 2050, there’s enough work to be done by both large and small farms.

Like you, farmers and ranchers expect every ounce of their food to be healthy, affordable, and most importantly, safe. That is why they go to great lengths to care for their animals. Not only is the right thing to do, but animals that are threatened or sick simply will not produce as well as healthy animals. With constant temperature monitoring and on-call veterinary care, America’s farmer and ranchers pride themselves on adhering to the strictest quality assurance and certification standards.

5) Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids
The farmers I know are supportive of free enterprise. Parents are best equipped to make nutritional decisions for their families. The agricultural community wants to continue an open dialogue with consumers. If you have questions concerning the production of your food, ask a farmer. Here is a list of producers who would be happy to address your questions and concerns.

6) Support fair conditions for food and farm workers.
Agriculture is a vital part of our lives and our economy. U.S. agriculture and related industries account for one in 12 jobs nationwide. We want to provide fair wages and conditions for all workers.

Food Day conversations and activities will be taking place across the nation on October 24 but farmers and ranchers are speaking up about the food they produce every day. Now, more than ever, farmers are noticing the disconnect between agriculture and the consumer and are doing something about it. Join the conversations on Twitter regarding food production by following #FoodD, #FoodDay365 and #CGconvo. Below is a list of resources that may be helpful in answering your questions about food.

Resources:
Registered Dietitian’s Food Day Pledge Takes Aim at What’s Wrong With Most Advice

Shouldn’t Every Day be Food Day?, The Center For Food Integrity

Real Farmers, Real Food

Food Dialogues, U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance

CommonGround

Cause Matters, Connecting Gate to Plate

Connecting with Consumers

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

“Consumers don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Makes sense right? A salesman may be very knowledgeable about the product he is selling but unless he has a sincere interest in me and my needs or wants, I’m simply not interested in doing business with that salesperson and possibly, that company.

With that said, farmers and ranchers shouldn’t be surprised by consumers wanting to know that they care about the health of their family- someone they may not personally know. A study done by the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) showed that of early adopters, 86 percent had done an online search on food nutrition in the past six months. Seventy-nine percent had searched the safety of food, and over 40 percent searched topic including the use of technology in growing food, humane treatment of animals raised for food, and environmental sustainability in farming.

Who are these “early adopters” I speak of? Early adopters are the folks in society most capable of changing consumer attitudes. The rest of society tends to follow these early adapters, which is why CFI felt it was important to study this group and the role websites and social media play in forming their opinions on food. Knowing this information makes it possible for agricultural groups better engage these folks and determine how to better communicate with them.

Do you remember when the iPod first hit the market? Those that bought them when they first came out would be considered early adopters. By 2007, Apple sold over 100 million iPods.

So as farmers and ranchers, how can you connect with your consumers? Today it is easier than ever to communicate with people around the world. Forty-eight percent of early adopters indicated that they frequently visit Facebook and 30 percent they frequently use YouTube.

Just under half of early adopters (46%) believed that the information found on the Internet strongly helped to shape their opinions on the safety of food. Four out of 10 (41%) believed that information they found on the Internet strongly helped to shape their opinions about the nutrition of food. About one out of three (35%) believed this information strongly helped to shape their opinions about the humane treatment of animals raised for food and environmental sustainability in farming.

There’s no question that the internet and social media shape opinions. Even through social media, farmers can show that they care for the consumer. What are you doing to communicate with society about your farming practices and the food you produce? Be it a Facebook account, blog, or letter to the editor, listen to the concerns of consumers and be proactive.

View the research- 2011 Early Adopter Web Research: Targeting Early Adopters to Build Consumer Trust

Become an advocate for agriculture!

Chinese agriculture and America’s role

Kansas Corn and Grain Sorghum communications specialist, DeEtta Bohling recently returned from Northeast China as a delegate on the U.S. Grains Council’s Corn Tour. Through Twitter, she met Meghan Blythe who also just returned from China as a part of Kansas State’s Animal Science program. DeEtta got Meghan’s take on the experience and the lessons she learned agriculture in China.

DB: Meghan, tell me a little about yourself. Agriculture has always been an important part of your life, I assume it will also play a role in your future career?

MB: I grew up on an Angus Cattle Ranch in White City, Kan. Wanting to stay involved in the agriculture industry, I came to Kansas State University to major in Agriculture Economics. With this degree I hope to be a source of objective facts for the agriculture industry and government in the future.

DB: I was introduced to you by your mom on Twitter (@DebbieLB) and was interested in your trip to China, as I recently returned from China as well. You went on behalf of the Animal Science department at K-State University, correct?

The study abroad group

MB: Yes, I embarked on this trip to China along with 15 other students and 2 professors through the Animal Science department at K-State. We spent 12 days abroad visiting Chinese farms and agriculture firms in addition to touring the country.

DB: How does animal agriculture differ in China compared to the United States?

MB: After visiting many Chinese farms, I realized that the American definition of a “farm” was vastly different than the Chinese definition. A farm by U.S. standards is organized, large-scale, and uses production methods based on sound science and efficiency, but the Chinese farms are small-scale, with methods rooted in history and tradition. This mindset took some adjustment. The first beef cattle farm we visited was described as large; however, this feedlot held a total of 1,000 head.

DB: The United States has very strict regulations when it comes to food production. What safety concerns does China have when it comes to food and what precautions do they take?

A man sleeping on the meat counter

MB: The largest shock I got was not from the food or the vast crowds or the pollution, it was the wholesale meat market. The market conditions can only be described in one way… unsanitary. The building that housed the meat market was room temperature, on the verge of being hot, and in the short 5 minutes that I was there I saw vendors sleeping on the meat counters and picking up meat that had fallen in the aisles. Seeing the meat market conditions made me appreciate the safe food supply established in America.

DB: Did you tour any crop fields or have an opportunity to speak to the farmers and ranchers?

MB: While our tour was mainly animal agriculture focuses, we did tour some vegetable patches and greenhouses and drove past many crop fields. In an agriculture museum in Xian (central China), I recognized an old, wooden plow on display. It was a plow designed to be pulled behind oxen like that which I had seen in history books depicting farming methods of the 1800’s. The plaque next to this plow stated that this tool was used in China only 50 years ago in the 1960’s!

DB: In speaking with a hog producer in NE China, he mentioned that hog prices were historically high and that high corn prices were affecting profits. He also said there were concerns for a new foot and mouth disease variants. Did you hear of this in the areas you visited?

MB: In the beef cattle feedlots we visited near Jinan (east central China) the concern of foot and mouth disease was mentioned, but we didn’t really encounter any other incidents.

Meghan (right) and a friend at a beef feedlot

DB: What do you think the future of agriculture looks like for China?

MB: My first exposure to Chinese agriculture was passing a Chinaman herding sheep alongside the freeway just outside Beijing. This encounter exemplifies the dilemma faced by China. As the cities swell with population growth, the traditional agriculture methods will not be able to meet the demand. This strain will present American agriculture with a huge opportunity as China will more than likely rely on the U.S. for food imports.

DB: In the United States we have folks such as PETA and the Humane Society of the United States that promote veganism. Are their groups like this in China?

MB: When asking the manager of a Chinese feedlot about the reason for using a natural (no hormone, no implant) program, he responded that the Chinese people demanded it. He went on to explain that the Chinese people are becoming more concerned about animal welfare and handling practices. While this concern is being voiced, he made no mention of activist groups similar to PETA and HSUS. And from learning that many Chinese agriculture laborers are employed by the government in order to ensure that federal regulations are upheld, I would infer that activist groups are not tolerated in communist China.

DB: What would you like Kansas farmers and ranchers to know about Chinese agriculture?

MB: China is a force to be reckoned with in terms of economics and foreign policy. Their expanding middle class is following the model of the American middle class. They are buying more cars, eating more meat, and moving to the city. Like in America, the number of Chinese agriculture employees has decreased over the past 50 years. One difference remains completely overlooked, and that is that the Chinese agriculture production methods have not evolved (at least not enough) to sustain the growing population. The solution to this challenge will be revealed over time, but I predict it will present a huge opportunity for the American farmers and ranchers.  More than ever the world is going to look to Kansas farmers and ranchers for food.

DB: Animal agriculture is constantly being blamed by animal rights activists and environmentalist. What one thing would you recommend farmers do to improve this issue?

MB: China doesn’t have an issue with special interest groups because the communist government prohibits criticism. In America, activists have the freedom to voice their opinion, and so do you. As farmers and ranchers you have the ability, the right, and the freedom to tell your story to the public and voice your thoughts and views on government regulations. Sometimes it takes a challenge to reveal an opportunity. The challenge of animal rights activists and environmentalist groups has made the consuming public eager for your story. Take advantage of this opportunity.

Follow Meghan on Twitter: @MeghanBlythe 

Check out more of Meghan’s guest blog posts

Sigma Alpha Sorority Promotes Ag at KSU

Guest post by Beth Holz

Growing up on a diversified farm I witnessed my uncle, father and grandfather working early mornings, late nights, and every weekend. My grandfather never went into retirement, he spent everyday on the farm, up until the day he passed in his nineties. When physical labor was no longer plausible because of his age, he was in the office discussing markets, animal care, and business strategies. He devoted his whole life, with pride, to the farm-a lifetime of hard work to feed the world. This is quintessential of agriculturists across the nation.

As a gesture of thanks the Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture Sorority at Kansas State University wanted to educate and remind students of all farmers do. On Thursday March 31, sorority members hosted a “Give Thanks to Agriculture” display at the student union. The display included a grocery cart containing over 90 loaves of bread, depicting the amount of bread from one bushel of wheat.

Over 200 t-shirts showed the use of cotton, and a diagram of 156 people demonstrated how many people one farmer feeds. In addition, commodity groups,  including the Kansas Corn Growers Association and Kansas Grain Sorghum Association, donated gear and educational materials to hand out to students. Furthermore, students had the opportunity to write a message and sign flip charts thanking a farmer. The campaign went beyond the walls of the union. Sigma Alpha members, decked out in pink t-shirts with the slogan “Give Thanks to Agriculture” stamped across the front, handed out fliers with various agriculture facts and statistics across campus. The girls focused on the side of campus where agriculture classes are not held, in an attempt to reach those not as familiar with farming and ranching.

Not only did this campaign give Kansas State students the opportunity to show gratitude for their food, fuel, and clothing, it was valuable to the sisters of Sigma Alpha, myself included. The support that we received from different agriculture groups and businesses was astonishing. When I see how excited agriculturalists are about education and awareness, it makes me want to continue spreading the word. The more we support each other as advocates and offer our many resources, the more people we can reach with positive messages.

I felt honored this week to be apart of an event that shows thanks to farmers. Farming is a time consuming, back-breaking, high risk job that the world depends on for survival. If you ate, got dressed or used a vehicle today, don’t forget to thank a farmer and spread positive messages about agriculture.

———————————–
Beth Holz is a Junior at Kansas State University Majoring in Agriculture Communications. She is originally from Grand Junction, Iowa, where her family have fed cattle and raised corn for 4 generations. Beth was involved in the operations, as well as involved in the 4-H program on the state level.

She is involved in several agriculture clubs on campus, such as Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture Sorority, Kansas State Dairy Judging Team, and Agriculture Communicators of Tomorrow. She enjoys the agriculture industry, and has enjoyed her internships with AIB international and The Kansas Soybean Commission.

She plans to graduate in May 2012, and pursue a career in the grain industry, or at a full service communications firm.

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