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2012 World Ag Expo Seminar: Join the conversation about the food you produce

PD Editor Karen Lee Published on 29 February 2012

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Everyone seems to have a comment to make about food these days. The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) is encouraging those that spend their days producing food to become a part of the conversation.

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USFRA is a coalition of more than 70 national, regional and state agricultural groups and their partners committed to continuously improving how food is grown and raised to provide healthy choices for people everywhere.

Rodger Wasson, owner and president of Wasson & Associates, spoke on behalf of USFRA and led an informal discussion among attendees at the opening dairy seminar at World Ag Expo .

Wasson explained that the goal of USFRA is to bring the varied industry initiatives together to work as one. “There are so many well-intentioned programs, but they are not all together,” he said. “We are starting to get organizations together to contribute to this program.”

Thus far, USFRA has reached out through social media, hosting food dialogues across the country and airing vignettes on the Discovery networks.

Wasson opened the group discussion period by showing the controversial Chipotle commercial that aired during the Grammy Awards a couple of nights prior to the seminar. The commercial was actually created last fall and aired on television as well as YouTube.

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It had garnered 4.5 million hits on YouTube prior to its more popular timeslot during the Grammys, but then took in a million more hits within the following two days.

Wasson said the video could be used to start a conversation about factory farms, antibiotic usage, hormones and re-educating consumers on those topics. The key, he said, is to be inclusive of all forms of agriculture and not point fingers at other species.

The elements of a productive conversation, he explained, can be remembered using the acronym EASE, which stands for engage, acknowledge, share and earn trust.

To discover what today’s audience is acknowledging in conversations, USFRA used a firm in New York to conduct dial sessions with consumers. Each participant was given a dial to turn in regards to how much they agree or disagree with statements made.

What they learned was that the old arguments of a safe, affordable and abundant food supply fall flat on consumers’ ears. Messages addressing a better use of resources and acknowledging there is room for improvement in the current system were well received by the audience.

“People are pretty favorable toward farmers and ranchers, but not about farming and ranching,” Wasson said. “Consumers are not criticizing farmers and ranchers – they don’t know what is happening on farms today.”

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Therefore it is the responsibility of those in agriculture to keep on engaging this audience. Don’t get defensive, but share your own situation and earn their trust. PD

PHOTO:
TOP RIGHT: Presenter Rodger Wasson used Chipotle’s recent commercial to explain how producers can start a converstation with consumers.

Expo seminar summaries
For the first time ever at World Ag Expo, Progressive Dairyman presented nine dairy-specific seminars. Prominent experts from across the U.S. addressed issues at the forefront of today’s dairy industry.

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Karen Lee
Midwest Editor

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