During a brief conversation with an Ag journalist the other day the subject of marketing and over-production came up. As we talked we found ourselves agreeing that some of the commodity groups representing various products out there do an abysmally poor job of marketing and selling their ever-increasing supplies.
Not so with almonds.
Over the years I watched the Almond Board of California predict increased harvests of almonds, which in the United States are produced exclusively in California. And in the years following those increased harvests, it was later reported that all of the increased production was sold at a profit to almond farmers.
It’s been a few years since I’ve had contact with the Almond Board, but suffice to say, if they’re continuing as they were in the past to sell more almonds as production continues to rise — I recall the first billion-pound year back in the 1990’s, which has since doubled in size — the other commodity groups and agricultural marketers could do well to take a lesson from them. Why, for instance, do dairy producers continue to increase output without first securing a profitable market for their increased supplies? Is there little wonder that the dairy industry is in the trouble it’s in with milk sales in recent years well below the cost of production? The dairy industry isn’t the only segment of agriculture with this problem.
American ingenuity and technology is a wonderful thing; American agriculture has plenty to be proud of in this arena. Yet, it seems that when it comes to selling the commodities they produce, some farmers lack the ability to find profitable homes for the products they produce. Yet they continue to produce them. Moreover, some groups don’t seem to understand the ever-changing marketplace and consumer perceptions that can lead to decreased sales.
While I wish I had the answers for these groups I do believe that answers are out there. I also believe that there are people out there who have some great ideas and a keen ability to ask questions and find good answers. American agriculture could do well to listen to these folks, which in my estimation all seem to be coming out of college right now, or were recently graduated with degrees in agriculture or similar fields.
Without naming names, I’ve been able to rather easily find some of these young folks engaged in social media, sharing their ideas, their questions and even their opinions in a growing arena of information and media. They’re out there on Twitter and Facebook. Many of them have their own blogs and web sites. Most importantly, they’re passionate about American agriculture, and that’s a good thing!
If the long-held American ideal has been to give the next generation a better country and more opportunities than the previous generation, then maybe it’s time to allow these 20-somethings a more prominent place at the table before America cedes its agricultural production to nations that do not have our best interest at heart.