Ag Leaders Convene on Sunshine State


Although a few rain drops fell on Tampa early Tuesday morning, Rick Coyle and Haylie Shipp are staying warm in Florida.  The duo is in the Sunshine State this week to take in the Bayer Ag Issues Forum (Tuesday and Wednesday) and the 2011 Commodity Classic (Wednesday through Saturday).  Check back for updates throughout the week!  Daily journal entries will be listed in reverse chronological order.

Day 3:  Commodity Classic

With the 2011 Commodity Classic in full swing here in Tampa, I was able to chat with leaders from the Montana Grain Growers Association about what they were discussing in their National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) committee meetings.  Resolutions that make it through these meetings are then brought before and voted on by the NAWG delegates.

Brian Eggebrecht, MGGA Vice President, talked about growing concern over regulations for pesticide applicators.

Gordon Stoner, MGGA President, discussed complications with 1099 rules and the need for reform in that area.


Day 2 (evening):  BASF Media Event

After the Bayer Ag Issues Forum came to an active finale, our media crew was invited to an exclusive BASF event.  BASF The Chemical Company unveiled details about their soon-to-be released fungicide, Xemium.  Along with the details of the product’s disease control, they also told us that it takes 8 to 12 years on average to bring a product to market.  For Xemium, that process will also cost roughly $276 million.

When we were done with the business/education part of our evening event at Busch Gardens, we got to join together with a number of producers for an evening safari adventure.  With me below is Evan Slack of the Evan Slack Radio Network.


Day 2:  Bayer Ag Issues Forum

Following a fantastic private concert from country music singer Jimmy Wayne, our crew was primed for a great finale to the 2011 Bayer Ag Issues Forum.  For those that don’t know Jimmy Wayne’s story, look into it!

Wednesday’s diverse schedule of speakers started out with a presentation from Beth Sauerhaft.  Sauerhaft is the Senior Manager of Environmental Stewardship with PepsiCo.  She shared the following information:

  • In a lower income country, over 50{b5a992b8e63762954627fabd02ae0ce4cbdce5a7319b086354586c608f95fa42} of the population dies from cardiovascular disease.
  • How does a company with names like Lay’s, Tostitos and Pepsi encourage people to eat healthier?  Sauerhaft says they are emphasizing portion size and will not advertise to children under the age of 12.
  • PepsiCo is building a farm sustainability program that will focus on environmental, social and economic sustainability standards on the farms that produce their ingredients.  They plan to try this with a few farmers this year.
  • What is PepsiCo’s stance on biotech crops?  They don’t have one company stance on GM.
  • Why did PepsiCo fund the HSUS through its Refresh Project?  No answers as of yet, but Beth will be getting us in touch with the correct department.

Up next on Wednesday morning was the potentially most anticipated presenter.  Robert Kenner is the producer of Food, Inc., a very successful documentary that paints an extremely ugly picture of American agriculture.  Expressingly nervous to be mis-quoted, Kenner wanted all printed quotes to be run past him.  Still, you had to give him credit for presenting in front of a agricultural audience.

  • Robert Kenner told he was surprised by the huge level of interest in the movie.
  • When making the movie, Kenner said that he had no pre-conceived notions about how it would turn out.  He said that after several attempts, he couldn’t get agricultural folks to come on camera.  “That world was shut off to me.” 
  • Kenner says that while concentration in the food industry provides cheaper prices in the grocery story, it limits diversity of the selection.
  • Kenner is encouraging the population to cut down on meat consumption.
  • While we are spending less money on food, Kenner says that we are spending more money on medicine.  Are those two items related?  He thinks so!
  • Kenner reports that he attempted to get into the Commodity Classic while he was making the film and was denied access.  Saying that, he will be heading home and not staying for this year’s event.

The final presenter for the Forum was Tom Nagle with Statler-Nagle LLC.  He has been worked together with Tip Tipton, creator of the “Got Milk?” campaign in several capacities.  That capacity today was as the replacement speaker for an ill Tipton.  Following up on Robert Kenner’s presentation, Nagle spoke about how we can stand up for our food system.  Here are a few of his key points:

  • Because A (food is more inexpensive now than in the past) is true and B (the American public is spending more on medicine) does not mean that A caused B.
  • Obesity is a nice way for authors to beat up the food industry.
  • The First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign aims to sharply decrease childhood obesity in the next decade.
  • A human’s instinct for fats, sugars and salts doesn’t come from the food company.  It comes from evolution.
  • Organic products are great.  They fill a niche where people want them.  Organic production requires more resources to produce less food.  It is not a solution for filling the global food demand and there is no scientific evidence that organic food leads to healthier food or people.
  • False assertions that go uncorrected become facts.
  • If people are going to keep eating, why worry?  Agriculture is under assault and being positioned as the problem.
  • There is no link between vaccines and autism.  The vast majority of the public believes this.  One study of about 12 people, which has been subsequently torn apart and proven inaccurate, led to this belief after it was shared in the media.


Day 1:  Bayer Ag Issues Forum

The Ag Issues Forum is an invitation-only event that provides media with access to individuals who are shaping perceptions in and about the agriculture industry.  The program this year is focusing on the rapid movement of agriculture into a new era where transparency and open dialogue between the industry and consumers is increasingly important.

The first speaker was Clayton Yeutter, Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.  Dr. Yeutter was named to that post in 1989 by President George Bush.  Here are a few of the highlights brought forth by Dr. Yeutter:

  • There is a reasonably good probability that the U.S. Senate will shift to Republican control in the next election.  Dr. Yeutter believes that it is likely President Obama will be reelected and that they House will stay in Republican control.  What does this mean for ag policy, specifically trade?
  • What budgets/programs will get cut as a growing push to reduce federal spending reaches fruition?  Dr. Yuetter says that the U.S. sugar program cries out for change, but that the lobby effort for the small industry may be strong enough to keep it the same.
  • Dairy export markets around the world are exploding.  The growth in world incomes, in Asia in particular, are causing the demand for dairy products to climb exponentially.  Dr. Yeutter says that this is especially one area where U.S. ag policy needs to be revamped.
  • Climate change is an issue he says is pretty much on the back burner right now.
  • The administration is starting to wake up to trade.  President Obama says that he wants to double exports.  Now will the Columbia/Panama/Korea trade agreements make it through?  Dr. Yuetter says that there is a bit too much “tweaking” going on and they just need to go before Congress to be voted on.

The next speaker up was Gary Blumenthal, CEO of World Perspectives.  He spoke on capital investment in agriculture.  Below are some of the messages that Gary shared:

  • Agriculture is seeing a growing interest in the investment community.  Farmland is one of those investments discussed most. 
  • The year is the 22nd consecutive year that the U.S. has not had a substantial crop failure.  In the past, this run has never lasted longer than 22 years.
  • While the U.S. seems to be in love with the “locavore” local food movement, Brazil pays its larger farmers more than its smaller farmers.

Jason Henderson with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City rounded out the afternoon.  He provided an outlook on farmland values, the ag economy and ag credit availability.  He had the following information to share:

  • The biggest risk, in his eyes, for agriculture producers is interest rates.
  • Farmland values are up with North Dakota (+23.7{b5a992b8e63762954627fabd02ae0ce4cbdce5a7319b086354586c608f95fa42}) leading the pack.
  • As the cost of cotton goes up, clothing is going to become more expensive.
  • Banks are now reporting that they are seeing increased loan demand from qualified applicants.
  • Farm loan delinquencies have risen above historical averages, especially for real estate.


© Northern Ag Network 2011

Haylie Shipp


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