Less than two percent of the United States population is working in agriculture. This may not sound like much, but let’s break it down. Two percent of the population means roughly 21 million jobs, 10 percent of the total workforce, and more than 160,000 farms. The greatest credibility for this huge industry goes to the farmers who work 365 days a year to feed the world. But who is advocating for them while they’re out in the field? That’s where Rob Schrick and Bayer Crop Science comes in.
Schrick, the Strategic Business Director for Bayer, knows the importance of promoting the industry and making consumers more aware of where their food comes from.
“What we’re trying to get across is that everyone in agriculture needs to lean into the conversation about ag, and be a proud ‘Agvocate’ for our industry,” he said.
Explaining the importance of farming, using both science and an emotional connection is key to getting this incredibly important concept across.
One way Bayer is striving to accomplish this goal is by working with youth involved in 4-H.
“We’re trying to get the kids even more excited about STEM,” Schrick explained.
STEM is a program that combines Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics to give the kids hands-on education and inquiry-based science learning, which they can relate to agriculture and share with their community.
It is said that today’s youth are tomorrows leaders, and Bayer is helping the future leaders found in 4-H represent the farmers that work so hard to provide the world with a safe, affordable food supply.
Bayer CropScience Says Farmers Need to AgVocate with Consumers
By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster
The California Association of Pest Control Advisers (CAPCA) recently held their 42nd Annual CAPCA Conference & Agri-Expo in Anaheim.It was a sellout crowd at the Disneyland Convention Center, with about 1,600 registered participants and more than 160 different trade show vendors participating.The theme of this year’s conference was “Feeding a Nation, Fighting the Fear,” with speakers covering a variety of topics related to public interest in agriculture.
David Hollinrake, vice president of Agricultural Commercial Operations (ACO) Marketing with Bayer CropScience, talked about a program that Bayer CropScience sponsors called AgVocate. “AgVocacy really is about engaging the farmer population so that they can represent modern agriculture to the consumer population that has a growing disconnect from what we do,” Hollinrake said.
There has been a growing disconnect between those who are involved with agriculture and the overall consumer base.“With misinformation sometimes comes misconceptions and mistrust,” Hollinrake noted.
One of the reasons for the divide between growers and consumers is that the number of people involved in agriculture has declined significantly over the past 50 years.“When my grandfather grew up on the farm, some 40 percent of people were involved in production agriculture. Today, there’s only 1 percent of the population involved in agriculture,” Hollinrake said.
It’s important to bridge that gap by giving consumers a better understanding of what agriculture is really about.“Our role with AgVocacy is to enable the farmers to take an active role in describing the benefits of modern Ag and really dispelling a lot of the myths that exist in agriculture,” Hollinrake said.
“One of the other topics that we spoke about was the difference between conventional agriculture and organic agriculture,” Hollinrake noted.The growth in organic farms has created an atmosphere of misunderstanding; with consumers erroneously believing that traditionally grown produce is somehow less safe.Without being involved in agriculture, it’s understandable for people to have misconceptions about how the industry works.However, these types of beliefs solidify the need for the AgVocate program.
Hollinrake thinks meeting the dietary needs of a growing population will require both organic and traditional farming.“If we’re going to feed 10 billion people by 2050, it’s going to take all forms of agriculture. To me, it’s not an ‘either/or’ – it’s a ‘yes/and’ conversation,” Hollinrake said.
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, founderof 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.
Food Blogger Lorie Farrell AgVocates Conventional Ag
By Laurie Greene, Editor
Lorie Farrell helps farmers and agriculture by amplifying their voices. A freelance blogger and self-described AgVocate for food, farm and public policies that support agriculture and combat misinformation and junk science head-on, Farrell resides on Hawaii’s Big Island, the birthplace of the Rainbow GMO papaya that saved the state’s papaya industry. Having observed, firsthand, many activist groups who have sought to halt progress in conventional agriculture, she has a unique perspective on the issues and shares her views on her website and social media.
And while many food bloggers lean heavily toward organic production, Farrell stays away from it. “Organic production gets plenty of traction, so I tend to stay away from that part of agriculture production,” Farrell said.
“Some in the organic crowd seem to think that it is all one way or all the other, and it is not,” remarked Farrell. “It is really a mixture of methods. We need all of them at the table, and the table today looks much like what it is going to look like in a few years from now—a mixture of crop production methods and all the technology,” she noted.
Farrell wants to educate her audience to learn more about agriculture and advocate on its behalf. She stressed the importance for all of us to ask more questions, “but at the same time, it is also our job to give them good information and shine the light on good sources of information. It is not their fault they don’t understand. But at a certain point, we can lead a horse to water; they have got to make the choice.
And Farrell said emphatically that food shaming and food fear are intolerable. “Food shaming is when a person makes a judgement call on another person based on their choices of food,” she explained. “This happens very often with females and moms and it is unacceptable. Someone might see a mom buying a food that’s unhealthy and feeding it to their child. They will call the mom out on it. I’ve had moms tell me that people ask them, ‘You are feeding your kids organic food, aren’t you?’ They answer, ‘Well no, I am feeding them balanced meals, or I am feeding my baby formula.'”
“People will shame and bully you into making different food choices based on their perception of food. They will do it in person, but social media is also a very effective way to food shame. The objective of online food shaming is to change your choices of food—to take away your choice of food, actually—so you purchase organic or non-GMO. I don’t even know what the word ‘natural’ means.”