Earlier this year, I attended the North American European Union Agriculture Conference as a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Trade Advisory Committee. I was one of seven on our delegation representing America’s farmers.
On my family’s farm, we grow corn for cattle feed, sweet corn, and high-oleic soybeans. The other farmers in the group raise pigs, dairy cattle, beef cattle and produce. We met farmers from France, Austria, Sweden, Mexico, Canada, Denmark, Finland and more. Discussions focused on business challenges, the need to trade and frustration with government policies that failed to include farmers in the discussion. To say it was exciting would be an understatement.
I would describe it as the most exhilarating fatigue I have ever experienced. I say this because this conference is where farmers talk to each other about regulations, trusts and the challenges they face in addressing consumer misconceptions. I understand, when we talk farmer to farmer, we have more in common than differences. Farmers around the world want to do the best for their land, their families, and the rest of the world.
Farmers in the United States continue to adopt new technologies, growing the food, fuel and fiber we all enjoy while protecting the natural resources we rely on for generations to come. A good example is precision agriculture technology that allows farmers to create a more sustainable and secure global food supply.
Precision agriculture allows farmers to provide exactly what a plant needs, exactly when and where it needs it. Simply put, the technology allows farmers to do less. Farmers can pinpoint pesticide, fertilizer and water needs down to the individual. This increases the efficiency of pesticide and fertilizer use and helps avoid over-application, making it environmentally friendly. Chemicals are not wasted and the fertilizer is used by the plant instead of being placed in an empty area where the roots do not reach. Looking at the bigger picture – US agriculture would have needed about 100 million more acres 30 years ago to match today’s production levels.
With the world’s population growing by nearly 75 million a year, it is imperative that farmers around the world grow crops and raise livestock that are suitable for their land. When American farmers are able to produce the best, the result is a better quality product. Consumers around the world enjoy that quality and diversity while allowing American farmers to prosper.
We left the conference feeling encouraged and disappointed in each other. Many of us around the world are looking for ways to support each other, but now we know we are not alone.
I am grateful for this experience and realize how interconnected we are across continents. We are frustrated by some of the burdensome regulations on our farms, but now we understand that farmers in other countries may face more challenges. It was also interesting to learn that our farming counterparts in other countries are interested in how American farmers and ranchers tell their stories to elected officials and what makes a difference. America’s farmers were truly terrified that they were willing to do this. I am proud of every member who supports farm families across our country.
Isabella Chism is a farmer and farm bureau leader in Indiana. She serves on American Farm Bureau FederationThey are the chairpersons of the Business Advisory Committee and the Women’s Leadership Committee of the organization.