United States Farmers and Ranchers Alliance Panel: The View from 30,000 Feet

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September 23, 2011

United States Farmers and Ranchers Alliance Panel: The View from 30,000 Feet

On Thursday, the first-ever United States Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) brought together experts from across the food spectrum to discuss the wide range of issues that influence how our food is grown and raised and how it ultimately ends up on your dinner table.

On Thursday, the first-ever United States Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) brought together experts from across the food spectrum to discuss the wide range of issues that influence how our food is grown and raised and how it ultimately ends up on your dinner table. Four panels were broadcast live via the Internet from Washington DC, Indiana, California and New York. The agenda and the questions posed in this forum were a direct result of two studies, one focusing on farmers and ranchers, and the other focusing on consumers.

Moderated by Phil Lempert, the Washington DC forum, “The View from 30,000 Feet,” focused on macro issues such as feeding our growing population while maintaining our high standards for safety, quality and an abundant supply to ensure low food prices. The panel discussed the solutions and opportunities for the food industry and our government to address issues such as healthy food options and pricing, the need for investments in innovation and research, animal welfare, how to manage depleting land resources, and how to maintain a sustainable food system. Some key data points opened the discussion:

  • 93% of consumers care some or a lot about food pricing
  • 54% say they are dissatisfied with how farmers and ranchers are currently addressing food pricing
  • 95% of farmers and ranchers say it is important that they provide wholesome food to feed the world’s hungry
  • 80% of consumers care about what it takes to feed a growing population, while 92% care about availability of healthy food choices

Rising populations, dirty air, dirty water, less farmers, how do we make it all work?

Dr. Jason Clay, Senior Vice President, Market Transformation, World Wildlife Fund, points out that over the next 40 years we will need to produce as much food as we did in the last 8,000 years to feed the world. He emphasizes the fact that we are in a global economy, and we import as much as we make. And further into the conversation, Dan  Glickman, Senior Fellow, Bipartisan Policy Center; Secretary of Agriculture (1995-2001) talks about the days of large surpluses being over, but the U.S. still having the ability to help, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because supporting a global economy affects security and the political stability of countries. 

“We need to pay attention to the land resources. We’ve lost 23 million acres of farmland. Protecting the land base is more important now than ever,” says Jon Scholl, President, American Farmland Trust. And Glickman adds to that one of the most important issues to address is global water depletion. 

“It takes one liter to produce one calorie of food,” says Clay who feels also that increasing soil carbon and solving climate problems are vital to increasing food production. 

But with respect to the U.S. role in the global economy, Clay also feels that we have to be careful about our role and focus more on assisting food insecure areas in stimulating production rather than undermining local food markets. 

Bob Stallman, Texas farmer/rancher & president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, added to the dialogues the importance of all different types of production. “We want choices for consumers, healthy choices…local, organic, conventional, biotech…we are all in this together,” says Stallman.

Kathi Brock, Director of Strategic Partnerships, American Humane Association, addresses animal welfare and what it says about our food production. “Your not just providing a meal, your providing social expectations that will cost more to feed people,” says Brock.

Tres Bailey, Director of Agriculture and Food, Wal-Mart, discusses what Walmart is doing in their efforts to meet challenges of environmental sustainability and providing healthy food options that consumers can afford.

And Frank DiPasquale, CEO, School Nutrition Association, addressed the importance of nutrition specifically when it comes to our nation’s children. 

The dialogue recaps are available at http://www.fooddialogues.com/gather/live-event

Panelists: 
•Tres Bailey, Director of Agriculture and Food, Wal-Mart
•Kathi Brock, Director of Strategic Partnerships, American Humane Association
•Frank DiPasquale, CEO, School Nutrition Association
•Bob Stallman, Texas farmer/rancher & president of the American Farm Bureau Federation
•Jon Scholl, President, American Farmland Trust
•Dan  Glickman, Senior Fellow, Bipartisan Policy Center; Secretary of Agriculture (1995-2001) (tentative)
•Dr. Jason Clay, Senior Vice President, Market Transformation, World Wildlife Fund