On the second day of the 2019 Celebration Week during the 2019 Environmental Respect Awards, guests of program sponsor Corteva AgriScience gathered to discuss how the idea of agricultural stewardship has evolved and changed over the 29 years the program has been in existence.
“Let’s face it – things in the world of environmental respect today are not the same as they were back in 1990,” said Raymond Forney, Global Product Stewardship for the company. “We need to be ahead of these changes if we want to continue to be successful in this area.”
To help with this effort, Forney led the 2019 Environmental Respect finalists from around the globe in a half-day workshop looking at some of the key topics impacting and influencing stewardship during the past few years. First up, however, the question was asked of the audience what part of stewardship they were most proud of. The most popular answer was the industry’s education efforts, particularly those targeting younger consumers.
“We’ve done a good job as an industry of teaching young people and students what the positives of agriculture really are,” said Steven Williams, Branch Manager for Nutrien Ag Solutions in Hendersonville, NC. “This is very important in building towards our future.”
Dick Coombe, Owner of Thunder View Farms, Grahamsville, NY, agreed with this view. “At our farm, we set environmental goals,” said Coombe. “Then we had demonstrations at our farm from people from the city, to show them all the good stewardship practices we have and the progress we’ve made when it comes to environmental efforts.”
In terms of environmental challenges currently facing agriculture around the globe, many attendees pointed to climate change as a growing problem. In fact, some attendees from Turkey mentioned that changing weather conditions in their native land has led to “a more tropical climate,” leading to more insect pressures than ever before. Other attendees thought unpredictable weather as was present in the U.S. Midwest during 2019 was an even bigger problem.
“In New Zealand, we’ve seen numerous 100-year droughts happen just over the past three to five years,” said Harriet Cameron, Sales Manager, Farmlands Cooperative, Christchurch, New Zealand. “And these weather events seem to be getting worse each and every year.”
Besides climate, changing consumer needs present another challenge. Many attendees say that lots of consumers are looking for “simple, old-fashioned” produced crops to buy, rejecting modern agricultural practices in the process. Of course, as Keith Fricke, ERS Manager for Prairieland FS, La Belle, MO, pointed out, economics still rules the day for most agricultural suppliers and producers.
“At the end of the day, growers are still in this business to make money, so that is what they will do,” said Fricke. “Economies are the key, for growers, ag retailers, and even the consumers.”
Concluding the workshop, Corteva’s Forney emphasized to Environmental Respect Award attendees that agriculture “can’t be quiet” when it comes to telling its positive stories. “We have to communicate our good message throughout the valve chain,” he said. “And we have to work together using the same message.”