John Kriese, President NYBPA
Putting Agriculture First
President’s Message by John Kriese
I recently had the opportunity to be the keynote speaker at the Ontario County Agricultural Appreciation Dinner. As I recently have learned, there are multiple organizations in Ontario County who work together in order to promote the diverse agricultural industry which exists within the county.
These organizations included Ontario County Cornell Cooperative Extension, Ontario County Farm Bureau, and the Agricultural Enhancement Board of Ontario County. It was really refreshing so be amongst a broad array of producers representing dairy and beef, vegetable and fruit, as well as grain and field crops. In addition, there were many agricultural industry representatives in attendance representing an incredibly diverse array of agricultural services, suppliers and business. The 140 people who attended this event have put agriculture first in their lives.
My keynote speech went well. As a result of my attendance, I was able to reconnect with many old friends, and was also able tom meet new producers, innovators, and leaders within the agricultural industry. I now have a few more “friends” on Facebook, and as a result, my circle of contacts has expanded to include people outside of my normal circle of influence.
This wonderful evening came to close with the presentation of the Rodney Lightfoote Agricultural Viability and Innovation Award. Each year and individual or business is recognized with this honor for outstanding dedication, innovation, and leadership to agriculture in Ontario County. It was a true honor to be present when the names of Mr. and Mrs. Ronnie Parker were read as this year’s recipients! As many beef producers would know, the Parker’s have built New York State’s largest independently owned livestock sale centers and have put agriculture first in their lives.
As producers of meat animal protein, we represent an extremely small proportion of the population. With less than 2% of the population being engaged in production agriculture in American, beef producers are just a small fraction of the meager percentage. Therefore, I feel the necessity to ask the members of the NYBPA to put agriculture first in their lives. By putting agriculture first, we can join forces with other production agriculturists and agribusiness professionals, just like they do at the Ontario County Agricultural Appreciation event.
I truly believe that it is easy to put agriculture first in our lives. As a New York Beef Producer, we must learn to embrace all aspects of agriculture. We need to understand the economic and the social pressures being placed upon all producers of meat animal proteins. For example, the economic pressures of the Northeast Dairy producers is not “their problem”. As Beef producers, we must understand that at least 20% of the ground beef on the market is derived from the dairy industry. As fluid milk prices continue to struggle, there will be more cull cows heading to market. Cull cow prices are destined to feel negative pressure as well, resulting in decreased farm income for both the dairy producer as well as the beef producer. Clearly, low milk prices can affect every segment of the agriculture industry, ranging from the seed salesperson to the machinery dealer. Our local economies benefit directly when we all put agriculture first.
Like most Americans, I now use Amazon. Specifically, I have Amazon Prime and can enjoy unlimited free shipping, free music, and even free movies. Some of the free movies Amazon Prime Members could watch any day of their lives include “Bloody Business”, “Rivers of Waste”, “A Meaty Issue”, “Farmagedon”, “Meat”, “Toxic Kids”, “Beyond Food”, and “Vegan”. If you have not watched any of these movies, you need to put agriculture first and watch them. Millions of Americans have watched these movies, and their perceptions of the meat animal industry have been created. The message contained within these “documentaries” are very consistent and always seem to hit the bulls eye of their target. The creation is food fear by the media is big business, and millions of Americans are concerned with food safety and the humane treatment of farm animals.
The American consumer is very confused because of the constant array of mixed messages they receive daily. There are farmers and producers who believe that today’s consumer does not have the mental capacity to understand how their food is produced, harvested, processed, or delivered to their tables. If you, as an agriculture producer has created a niche agriculture market you have something special. However, please put agriculture first and refrain from creating additional consumer confusion. As beef producers we need to focus on the creation of continual demand for our wholesome product. When used incorrectly, niche marketing strategies can cause increased consumer fears and concerns, which may lead to a demand shift which does not include meat animal protein.
Fear and confusion is almost always short term, but education with positive advocacy can last a lifetime. As the presiding officer of this organization, I welcome your talents and your unified actions for helping the consumer to understand agriculture first. As we work together to accomplish this goal, let us always remember that our own actions and words can sometimes create negative perceptions. Lastly, invest in yourself, and visit the New York Beef Council’s website at www.nybeef.org. This resource is incredible, and this could become the first step you take to learn how to put agriculture first, and how to present a unified voice for beef advocacy.