Members share farm bill and food policy concerns at annual meeting

WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. — At National Farmers Convention 2014 in the Wisconsin Dells Jan. 28, food policy and the farm bill were standout topics.

National Farmers Organization President Paul Olson spoke to member producers about the lack of a farm bill, as well as conditions in the food production industry. He underscored that the foreign ownership of dairy processors, as well as consolidation of America’s food industry continues unabated. And, he cautioned that trade agreements need to be critically reviewed for their negative effects on producers. Regarding the lack of new farm legislation for the past two years, Olson said farmers deserve the respect of Washington D.C. representatives by passage of a new farm bill.

“I’m disappointed that farmers are being treated with such recklessness,” said Olson. “Farmers livelihoods are at stake.”

Education

Olson said consumers are more educated about food and are becoming producers’ allies. He noted that consumers should be very concerned about where their food is coming from, and what’s in it. Echoing Olson on consumer food issues, Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter, said a surprising percentage of food in America is now produced overseas.

China is now the third largest producer of processed vegetables, she said.

“We need to do something about food policy in America,” said Hauter.

Author of the book Foodopoly, Hauter reviewed the history of food production in America, and changes in government farm policy through the post World War II years.

“Food is one of the most concentrated industries in America,” Hauter said.

Food policy

She said in the beginning of the 1980s, corporations begin to have undue influence over government policies. And, therefore food policy.

“We all need to take back our democracy and help ensure a vigorous economy,” Hauter said.
Also at the National Farmers Convention,agriculture technology came on the scene in three major ways. Cattle marketers from Nexus Marketing introduced a new smart phone app featuring a reverse break-even production cost calculator that easily helps producers identify what they can pay for feeders.

Technology

The smartphone and tablet application also features fed cattle cost of gain and compound interest calculators, as well as futures prices and weather. The role of cloud and mobile computing in agriculture was featured in the opening session of the organization’s annual ag business meeting.

Presenters from Farmeron spoke about how cloud computing will become the new alternative to personal computers and on-premise software for farmers.

Dave Saunders, Farmeron, vice president for business development, talked about the changing role of technology on ag operations. He said farmer cloud computing will become the norm for producers, because of the benefits of continual software updates, automatic backups of files, data sharing and analytics.

Saunders said ag apps are growing fast and that means massive implications for workflow and processes. Sharing data derived from herd management software, soil sensors and other sensing devices can deliver real-time information directly to producers’ smartphones and tablets.

BouMatic’s Kelsey Fink focused on overall industry trends toward automation and robotics in dairying. She outlined issues today’s dairy producers face, including animal management, markets and labor management, along with social media and consumer issues.

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