By: Adrian Schunk
Michigan Farm Bureau Discussion Meets help introduce young leaders to the organization, while simulating a committee meeting where discussion and active participation are expected from each participant. This competition is evaluated on an exchange of ideas and information on a pre-determined topic. Over the next several weeks, topics of discussion will be highlighted providing resources for research and preparation for the 2018 Discussion Meet events. The following ideas are suggestions for discussion content, the conversation could go in many different directions and contestants are encouraged to explore other ideas.
Topic: In our modern world, the rapid dissemination of information and opinion about agriculture and food technologies can make it difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. Given these challenges, how can Farm Bureau best protect farmers' access to production technology options?
Challenge: Fear-based food labels, commercials and advertisements can flood consumer perspectives with misleading information about agriculture. This fearmongering creates a mistrust for agriculture practices, leaving consumers confused and concerned about where their food comes from. This cycle not only determines consumer purchasing habits, but elected officials’ decision making and legislation which regulate food production and marketing.
Potential Solutions: The Center for Food Integrity’s research concludes that telling agriculture’s story is the most effective way of moving the consumer trust needle. Organizations such as the National Corn Grower Association’s Common Ground are not only providing resources about food production, but dispersing it through attractive, efficient avenues. Additionally, American Farm Bureau Policy #344 advocates for truthful, science-backed labeling.
Solution in Action: The National Milk Producers Federation’s Peel Back the Label Campaign, U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance’s Faces of Farming and Ranching program, and Michigan Agriculture Council’s Michigan Grown, Michigan Great brand are telling agriculture’s story to consumers in a relatable, attractive manner. The Farm Bureau-supported Federal Voluntary Labeling Act and Accurate Labels Act reveal the tangible impact of advocating for transparent labeling.
Challenge: Consumers are, on average, at least three-generations removed from the farm. Current elementary, secondary and postsecondary students are the next generation of food influencers; ensuring these generations are equipped with the critical thinking, science and agriculture knowledge necessary will be a defining factor in the future of our industry’s production and regulation.
Potential Solutions: Promoting critical thinking through Next Generation Science Standards could allow students the ability to decipher the amount of information they are exposed to on a daily basis via social media, advertisements and marketing. In addition, supporting funding which promotes agriculture and science-based education is crucial to ensure upcoming generations understand the impact, relevance and importance of agriculture technologies.
Solution in Action: Michigan Farm Bureau’s Promotion and Education initiatives, such as Agriculture in the Classroom and FARM Science Lab, are providing students with hands-on experiences in agriculture, bringing them one step closer to food production. The Farm Bureau supported Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act which authorized a minimum of $1.229 billion per year 2025 to support career and technical education.
Challenge: Americans spend less than ten percent of their income on food. Meanwhile, farmers, agriculture organizations and legislators work to produce a safe, abundant and affordable food supply. Maintaining this food supply standard is only possible if there are practices and regulations supporting these efforts.
Potential Solutions: Promoting awareness of safety in modern agriculture practices, such as genetic engineering and RNA spraying, will provide consumers with a wider perspective of current technologies. Updating Michigan Farm Bureau food safety and biotechnology policies to address the food industry’s ever-changing dynamics is crucial. Lastly, ensuring farmers equipped with communication tools for on-farm visits allows for promotion of these technologies.
Solution in Action: Utilizing Farm Bureau policies to evaluate legislation, including the Federal Food Safety Modernization Act, maintains the ability to advance agricultural practices. Ensuring the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) auditing process remains relevant and science-oriented will allow for effective direct-market opportunities for famers. Attending Farm Bureau conferences and trainings readily prepares farmers for consumer engagement.