TAMPA, FL--(Marketwire - March 02, 2011) - Producing enough food to feed a fast-growing world population in a sustainable fashion is one of the great challenges of the 21st century. Bayer CropScience, a global leader in crop protection, brought together leading experts to discuss this and other critical topics at its annual Ag Issues Forum, which was held March 1-2 in Tampa, Fla.
The event was attended by more than 70 editors, broadcasters and leaders representing the soybean, corn, wheat and citrus industries. Over the course of the two days the group heard from speakers ranging from a former U.S. secretary of agriculture to the controversial director of the documentary, Food, Inc.
"Of course, it's impossible to provide answers to every challenge facing agriculture in just two days," said Mike Deall, vice president of marketing for Bayer CropScience. "But the intent of this forum was to lay out the facts about the state of U.S. agriculture today for a healthy discussion, and we that we certainly did."
Deall was also the opening speaker, first detailing the foundation of the sustainability program of Bayer CropScience, and discussing the company's commitment to American agriculture.
"Technology is crucial to improving agricultural productivity," said Deall. "That's what our mission -- Science for a Better Life -- is all about."
Today's producers must be as adept at navigating the legislative and policy decisions that affect their business as they are at working their fields. Clayton Yeutter, former U.S. secretary of agriculture, discussed "Agricultural and Trade Policy... 2011 and Beyond." He drew upon decades of experience in both the public and private sectors to provide an overview of current U.S. trade policy and insights into legislative initiatives that may affect it in the near future.
Yeutter called for action on U.S. trade agreements and said there were a number of political uncertainties associated with a split majority in Congress. He also predicted that the budget deficit will drive much of the debate on the 2012 Farm Bill.
Speaker Gary Blumenthal served as chief of staff for Yeutter at the USDA. He currently is president and CEO of World Perspectives Inc. in Washington, D.C., which works in the areas of food safety and environmental issues. "Capital Investment in Agriculture" was the topic of his discussion.
He focused much of his remarks on the "booming farm economy." Blumenthal referenced the surge in crop exports and farmland values, as well as the decrease in crop inventories. He also stated that most consumers don't understand that sustainability goes hand-in-hand with good economics. He explained that farmers are always looking for more efficient and less costly methods, and these are almost always more sustainable methods.
The agricultural economy also is top of mind for growers as planting season approaches. Jason Henderson, vice president and Omaha branch executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, has long studied the farm economy, both in theory and in rural communities. His presentation focused on "Outlook on Farmland Values, the Ag Economy and Ag Credit Availability." Dr. Henderson said that credit availability continues to be strong and likely will remain so, as long as interest rates remain low. However, he warned that the upward trend for farm real estate will come to an abrupt halt once interest rates start rising.
Producers also must keep in mind how their products are perceived by their partners in the corporate world -- and what lessons they may be able to learn from those partners. Beth Sauerhaft, senior manager for environmental stewardship for the Pepsi Beverages America division of PepsiCo, added that valuable perspective. Her topic was "PepsiCo's Environmental and Nutritional Sustainability Platforms -- What They Mean to the Company and Its Agricultural Partners." Sauerhaft also outlined an ag sustainability program her company planned to pilot in 2011.
Few people have had a bigger impact on public perception of agriculture than filmmaker Robert Kenner. His 2008 documentary, Food, Inc. has influenced current food policy decisions and is one of the top-25 grossing documentaries of all time. Kenner led a spirited discussion on "A Look at Agriculture through the Food Inc. Prism."
Kenner told the story about how he started making the movie to simply tell the story of where our food comes from, but when food companies refused to participate, it turned more investigative. Although many of the agricultural media in attendance took Kenner to task in a subsequent question and answer session for his lack of ag expert input on the move, it was difficult to dispute his affirmation that Food, Inc. had opened discussions on and within the food industry.
In somewhat of a response to Kenner's movie, speaker Tom Nagle, the former strategic and operation manager of the iconic national "Got Milk?/Milk Mustache" campaign gave a presentation on "Standing Up for Our Food System," which focused on how and why the U.S. agriculture industry needs to tell its story better. Nagle is currently the managing partner of Statler Nagle LLC, strategic marketing advisors to industry and trade association campaigns.
Nagle said many of the problems he had with Food, Inc., were the same problems he has with food policy today -- too much of it is driven by hearsay, rumors and generalities without enough regard for the facts.
"In just a few short years, this has become one of the most anticipated and respected forums of its type," said Deall. "Our objective was to present unbiased information from all viewpoints -- even those that may challenge some long-held assumptions. I believe our discussion over two days will be the springboard for innovative ideas that will help U.S. agriculture remain strong in coming years."
Bayer CropScience is a company committed to bringing new technology to the forefront of crop production. For questions concerning the availability and use of products, growers should visit their retailer, contact a local Bayer CropScience representative, or visit Bayer CropScience online at www.bayercropscience.us.
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About Bayer CropScience
Bayer is a global enterprise with core competencies in the fields of health care, nutrition and high-tech materials. Bayer CropScience AG, a subsidiary of Bayer AG with annual sales of about EUR 6.5 billion (2009), is one of the world's leading innovative crop science companies in the areas of crop protection, non-agricultural pest control, seeds and traits. The company offers an outstanding range of products and extensive service backup for modern, sustainable agriculture and for non-agricultural applications. Bayer CropScience has a global workforce of 18,700 and is represented in more than 120 countries. This and further news is available at: www.press.bayercropscience.com.
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