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Farmers hear about consumer, climate issues
Buckeye Farm News
Winning consumer trust is ultimately more important than defeating the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), according to a food industry expert who recently spoke at OFBF’s Trends and Issues Conference.’
“I know that we love to hate HSUS, but at the end of the day, don’t forget the main thing,” said Terry Fleck of the Center for Food Integrity, a national food system organization based in Kansas City.
According to Fleck, most consumers trust farmers but many don’t believe contemporary agriculture is farming.
“We don’t produce food the way we used to produce food,” he acknowledged. But Fleck also noted that just a few generations ago the nation was spending 40 percent of its income on food and four out of 10 people were involved with food production.
As HSUS works to drive a wedge between farmers and the “reasonable majority” of consumers, Fleck encouraged farmers to first talk about their ethics and values rather than their skill and competence.
“Most people are just simply looking for permission to believe that what you’re doing is right,” he said.
Fleck’s advice: “Stop playing not to lose. Stop defending a status quo. Start engaging with the consumer.”
Also speaking at the conference was Lonnie Thompson, a leading Ohio State University paleoclimatologist. Thompson has spent his career researching glaciers and their annual ice layers that have preserved thousands of years of climate information.
“The earth is warming, we have many different ways to record that,” Thompson said.
Thompson acknowledged there are many variables that can affect climate change, but he presented evidence in support of the idea that humans play a factor in the rate at which the earth is warming. His concern is that the melting of the world’s ice will change the geography of the planet through rising sea levels.
“If we didn’t have all the people and all the infrastructure at sea level, this would not be an issue,” he said.
While global warming could benefit cool-climate countries such as Canada and Russia, Thompson said warmer and many poorer areas would be hurt. He questioned what would happen if rising sea levels forced people to migrate from Bangladesh.
“Where are they going to go, India?” he asked.
The annual Trends and Issues Conference provides Farm Bureau members with an opportunity to hear from a variety of speakers on current topics. It is held in conjunction with OFBF’s Advisory Team meetings. Advisory teams are groups of Farm Bureau members who discuss current issues within their area of agriculture and make recommendations on policies and programs. For more information, visit the Advisory Teams page on OFBF.org.