Ag students ask tough questions

English: Plowing an Alfalfa field by tractor, US

I recently had the opportunity to tell someone via a Twitter conversation (technology is amazing, isn’t it?) that I honestly see a bright future for American agriculture because of people like her. It’s no trite saying on my part to believe this of the college-age, undergrad and graduate-age class of farmers and ranchers who earnestly embrace the new technologies of the day, while promoting a way of life that still seems closer to a pioneer ideal than it does the internet age.

Neither is it to slight their parents, who built or perpetuated the farming operations that I, as a consumer, sincerely hope they can profitably continue.

Aside from what some might view as the typical optimism of young adults as they work their way through college, particularly those with a passion for something as noble as agriculture, I see in those I’m meeting through social media not only an honest and open nature similar to the character that drew me to their parents as I began my all-to-short stint as an ag journalist; I see in this next generation an eager desire to ask the kinds of questions that will lead to the kinds of solutions that benefit American agriculture in ways their parents could never dream of.

These thoughts all started with a rather interesting question by Jesse Bussard of Kentucky. She asks: “Does the ‘feeding the world’ mantra really do us any good?” Behind this question is the notion that American agriculture — particularly Farm Bureau — has perpetuated through their various PR efforts that if people are simply reminded that a large portion of the world’s food supply is produced in the United States, then people will do everything within their power to protect, preserve and promote American agriculture. To someone who understands agriculture, it all sounds good and simple. But as Bussard asks, does this PR statement really benefit agriculture?

“Does (this) statement really do us any good when trying to forge relationships with our customers,” Bussard asks in a tweet.

 I guess the simple answer to this question is very likely “no.” As an ag journalist who’s watched and studied agriculture from the perspective of someone who didn’t grow up on a farm there’s much more to this question than that. There’s something deeper within her question that seeks not just an “X=8” answer, but one in which leads to a solution that helps American agriculture continue to flourish in America, and to — dare I say — turn a profit!

I want to further explore this question and the conversation I had with Bussard with the hope of helping farmers and ranchers continue to provide consumers not just with the sustenance we require, but a source of food and fiber that improves our lives while providing a healthy profit for those who produce it.

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