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Focus on Agriculture

January 23, 2012

Bloggers Step Up to the Keyboard

By Cyndie Sirekis

More than 6,000 people, mostly Farm Bureau members, attended the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 93rd Annual Meeting, held in mid-January. About a dozen of the attendees, all active in social media, volunteered to blog about their experiences.

These “guest bloggers” wrote more than 40 posts for the Farm Bureau Annual Meeting Blog (http://farmbureau.wordpress.com). Posts about the topics below were the most popular.

President Bob Stallman’s annual address. In what has been dubbed the “State of Farm Bureau,” AFBF President Bob Stallman outlines the current “lay of the land” when it comes to regulations and policy related to agriculture, and highlights the organization’s priorities. He also suggests a few strategic actions for the farmer and rancher members to consider.

“We must engage directly with the consumer as an industry in ways we haven’t before,” Stallman said. “And while we must fully engage in this ongoing national dialogue about food and the devoted care we take when we grow it, we must also never, ever forget to listen.”

Blogged Jeff Fowle, a California farmer and rancher, “I believe he [Stallman] is spot on when he said, ‘…Folks, maybe, just maybe, we, as the producers of food in this country, can play a role to help unite instead of divide. It’s about time to put all else aside and for all of us to stand up as Americans first.’”

Advocating for agriculture. “For years when we talked about agriculture we told people how safe, abundant and affordable our food was in this country,” blogged Chris Chinn of Missouri. “Farm Bureau members learned from U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance research that consumers don’t connect to these messages because these are not concerns they have. People are more concerned about the methods we are using to produce food and the impact it might have on consumer health. We need to let people know we hear their concerns and we want to address them.”

Young farmers and ranchers. Results for national Young Farmers and Ranchers (aged 18-35) competitions naturally generated interest, but musings about where agriculture may be headed also garnered attention.

“The increasing average age of farmers and ranchers in the United States is a legitimate concern,” wrote Chelsea Good, communications director at the Kansas Department of Agriculture. “Many people my age are hesitant to take the leap and farm and ranch full-time. From increasing production costs to limited access to credit, getting a start in agriculture as a young person is not easy. However, in my opinion, the leadership development happening through YF&R indicates that our industry will have strong, competent leaders for many years to come.”

Farm tours. “Hawaii is facing a lot of issues in agriculture that are similar to what farmers face on the mainland, including challenges related to water, economics and animal rights activism,” blogged Hilary Maricle of Nebraska. “Additionally, they have supply issues as so much of their food is shipped in…throughout the U.S., we have things that are threatening agriculture and the effects can be seen in Hawaii. If we want to keep ag strong, farmers must continue to stand up and speak out together like our AFBF delegates [who set the policy direction for the organization in the coming year] did on Tuesday!”

Farmer and rancher photos. North Dakota rancher Val Wagner blogged about a surprisingly emotional standing-room only session featuring photographer Paul Mobley talking about his book American Farmer, the Heart of Our Country.

Cyndie Sirekis is director of news services with the American Farm Bureau Federation.