Staying up to date on dairy and agricultural policy issues is no easy task. From consistently contacting congressional offices and related industry groups to reading important documents, we constantly dig for more information to put our member voices’ in the best position to impact change.
As part of this quest for the “latest,” I attended the Ag Outlook Forum in Kansas City last month. This year’s line-up focused on discussing hot topics like the importance of workforce development for ag and U.S. agriculture trade’s domestic and global impact.
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) began the day by sharing a story to remind us how important it is for the ag community to educate government. He was recently asked by a Congressional member, who was just nominated to chair a crucial ag subcommittee, to bring her up to speed about agriculture. After the Senator started a briefing on the ag issues, she stopped him. Instead, she wanted to learn what farmers do and how they do it.
We cannot assume our leaders have even a basic understanding of modern dairy farming.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson discussed how ag needs get creative to attract young people to ag during a workforce development discussion. Gov. Parson’s message was simple, there are two components that go hand-in-hand to solve this: workforce development and workforce infrastructure. The latter is often overlooked. Enticing talented individuals outside of ag into agoriented careers was discussed as a possible solution. Notably, getting student’s attention early in the career decision process.
The second main theme of the day revolved around trade, what’s going on and why it’s important. U.S. Deputy Security of Agriculture Steve Censky touted USMCA, citing dairy’s key wins and updated regulatory transparency measures. The pending Japan free trade agreement was also discussed, even though details were still short. He also offered some optimism into the recent, on-again Chinese talks saying the initial meetings were positive but did hold true to the Administration’s fight against the Chinese exploitation of U.S. businesses.
Jason Hafemeister, Trade Counsel to the Secretary of Agriculture, followed up Dep. Sec. Censky’s trade updates by making the case for the need for trade on a global scale. In September of 2018, the global middle-class population surpassed the vulnerable global population for the first time ever and is set to grow by another 1.5 billion people in the next ten years.
The growing middle-class represents an enormous market opportunity for US agricultural products and especially for dairy protein. Hafemeister also looked to what Americans now thought of trade and NAFTA. In short, free trade and support for NAFTA has never been more popular in recent history than in the last three years. There isn’t an easy explanation but a lot of it is probably due to strong media coverage as there’s been no shortage of it from day to day.
Participating in events like th Ag Outlook Forum are fundamental to sharing information to keep the ag community moving forward. The event was presented by Agri-Pulse and the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City. Agri-Pulse’s next event, the Ag & Food Policy Summit, is in March in Washington D.C. Edge members attend as part of our annual Dairy Speaks in D.C. member advocacy trip. If you are interested in attending, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.