October 2008


Florida was first on the radar screen for ballot initiatives.  HSUS, Farm Sanctuary and friends likely thought it wouldn’t really draw a lot of attention in a state without a major swine presence.   That alone tells you that these “animal protectionists” are not looking to “save” as many animals as possible.  However, they were right – the “pregnant pig” initiative flew under the radar screen of many ag groups.  When it subsequently passed, it set the stage for Arizona, Colorado and California. (more…)

North Americans can easily lose sight of the basics, which I was reminded of during a recent trip to Egypt.  I had the privilege of working on a Value-Chain Training project focused on strengthening agricultural technical high schools, through Egyptian faculty members who train teachers integrate workforce preparation skills with state-mandated curriculum.  A colleague from Michigan State University and I provided a three-day workshop, along with developing a marketing communications plan to build greater awareness of this USAID MUCIA program.                                                                               

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What a week it’s been for the agrifood business to go on a wild ride with the national popular press. The ride started with Sunday’s edition (October 12) of Food Fights, the New York Times Magazine, with a reported circulation of 1.7 million. 

In a “Dear Mr. President-Elect” nine-page diatribe, Michael Pollan wrote “It may surprise you to learn that among the issues that will occupy much of your time in the coming years is one you barely mentioned during the campaign: food. Food policy is not something American presidents have had to give much thought to, at least since the Nixon administration — the last time high food prices presented a serious political peril…” (more…)

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been at the Center for Food Integrity Food Summit.  In addition to hearing from executives from across the food chain with vastly varying opinions, consumer panels enlightened us and provided a glimpse into another world.

Several on the animal care consumer panel didn’t really believe that labels are meaningful; the generational differences were apparent with the levels of food label use.   This is consistent with recent Food and Drug Administration findings that consumer use decreased for most label components. “It declined approximately 3 percentage points for the Nutrition Facts panel, 11 percentage points for the ingredient list, and 10 percentage points for the panel’s information about calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Only the use of information about fiber and sugars did not decline over the 10-year period. Use of fiber information increased by 2 percentage points, while that for sugars held steady.” (more…)

Technology is a frequent topic in modern agriculture and considered a necessary farming tool.  The rest of the world is abuzz about technology tools, but in a very different context than in food production.  YouTube, LinkedIn, Blogs, Facebook, social networks, Second Life, video blogs, RSS feeds, and Twitter are some of the popular ones.  If you don’t have time to familiarize yourself with all of these, join the crowd.  However, you also need to know that the techno tools used by the rest of the world are INFLUENCING public opinion about the tools we use in agriculture. (more…)