Ag Agvocacy: One Small Pebble Can Cause a Ripple Effect of Change
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor
At the March 2016 AgVocacy Forum in New Orleans, Rob Schrick, strategic business management lead – horticulture at Bayer CropScience, noted we should never give up trying to AgVocate on behalf of the agricultural industry. “It goes back to the pebble and the ripple, which is what Braedon Mannering, founder of Brae’s Brown Bags talked about; you know, little things can matter,” Schrick said.
Braeden Quinn Mannering is an amazing 12-year-old from Bear, Delaware, who founded the nonprofit, 3B Brae’s Brown Bags (3B), to provide healthy food and other items to homeless and low-income people in his community. Mannering’s ongoing mission is not only to feed people today, but also to raise awareness about the problems of food insecurity and poverty and to empower and inspire youth across the nation to become part of the solution.
AgVocacy and Credibility
“The event was the fourth year running of what was the Ag Issues Forum,” Schrick said. “It is a forum that we put on just in front of Commodity Classic because Ag media is there, market influencers are there. So how can we get them together to talk about the issues relating to agriculture? That was a great theme four years ago, but now as the millennial generation is coming onboard [amidst] so much misinformation about production agriculture, we have re-coined this the AgVocacy Forum. What that comes down to is how do we tell our story about agriculture?”
“One of the most interesting things we saw at the meeting,” Schrick noted, “was that we are influenced by people all around us, doctors, lawyers, and our pastors. However in agriculture, the number one influencer is the grower. That really resonated with me and it is true; he is the most credible source, he is the one who produces that food, and he has to make that land he is working on sustainable. He has to make that production come, year after year, after year, and in most cases, he wants to turn that over to the next generation of farmers.
Schrick expanded on the grower, “I think because they are at the point-source, their livelihood depends on it, and they have to get more out of that land and make it more fertile each following year, who is better stewarding that land? And because of that, who is the most credible source?” he asked. “You know, I would love for [the credible source] to be a company—like Bayer; we are very proud of ourselves. Or you could talk to a consumer, [but the story] is going to have a bent to it. But when a grower is talking about production agriculture, that is pretty credible,” he said.
Food Chain Partnership
“At Bayer, our customer is the grower,” Schrick commented, “and we have to meet the needs of that grower. Well that grower is producing a crop and he has a customer, which is the food chain. These retailers, these food processing companies that are buying his product, are putting requirements on that grower. We have a food chain position on our team and a Food Chain Partnership coalition within our company, whose number one job is to understand what these food processors will require the grower. We understand that; we can help the grower meet those challenges; that is what our food chain partnership is all about.
Anticipating Future Agricultural Needs
“We have just recently expanded the greenhouse facilities at our integrated West Sacramento Biologics and Vegetables Seeds site. Bayer is an innovation company; our job is to look into the future and ask, ‘What will be the needs of growers ten years from now?’ Part of that is going to be a reduction in residues, and one of the ways to meet that need is through biologics. That is where we are making our investment. In 2012, we purchased AgraQuest, one of several biologics investments we made, not necessarily for the portfolio they had—which was a wonderful portfolio—but for that scientific know-how and the discovery engine that we have created for biologics.”
“We have got to come up with the next generation of crop protection products that can meet lower residue requirements. And as Bayer is Science for a Better Life, we are going to inject science into this and come up with a new portfolio of crop protection products that will meet the needs of the new generation.”
It all goes back to the pebble and the ripple effect.