Trends In Agriculture Opens on a High Note

Written by NAMA on Monday, October 18, 2010 , 10:14 am

written by Amy Beeler Herman, Amy Beeler Herman Communications

High optimism for the agricultural industry was the key take-away message from the opening session of the NAMA 2010 Trends in Agriculture conference, October 5-6. Close to 150 members attended the Minneapolis event and heard Mark Pearson, Iowa Public Television’s Market to Market host, and Jay Lehr of the Heartland Institute cite the expected doubling of the world population by 2050 as the primary reason the agriculture industry will thrive. One of agriculture’s biggest challenges, according to both speakers, is ensuring that adverse public opinion and regulation does not thwart the industry from providing food for the world.

From the standpoint of commodities, Pearson sees bullish markets for each major crop for the next couple of years including corn, soybeans, wheat and rice. “The game changer for corn is ethanol,” he says. Referencing good US oil supplies, Pearson says tax credits given to ethanol blenders may be in jeopardy during the next congressional session. While bullish grain markets benefited crop farmers in recent years, livestock growers endured high feed costs and low market prices. Pearson notes a coming change: “the current cow herd is the smallest since 1950,” he says. “With no new production, beef prices will jump dramatically.” In the hog industry high feed prices and the H1N1 health scare triggered a reduction in sow numbers and eliminated inefficient production facilities to create a more robust pork market in 2010.

In the long term, continued gains in technology add to the productivity and prosperity of the agriculture industry. “Biotechnology is how agriculture will feed the world,” Lehr says. Crop plants improved with biotechnology require fewer inputs including less land and water needed for production. Other high return technological advancements such as precision agriculture and no-till farming reduce wear and tear on machinery, use less fuel and benefit the environment by reducing erosion and improving soil tilth.

Oil and energy supplies will continue to trouble the agriculture industry and the world as populations in China, India and other countries increasingly become middle-class and energy demands grow. “Ethanol, biodiesel, wind and solar power have no future in supplying significant amounts of energy,” Lehr says. “Eventually the whole world will run on nuclear power.”

Both Lehr and Pearson encouraged NAMA members to talk about agriculture and help growers share their stories about farming to counter the influence of environmental activism on public opinion and government policy. “The biggest problem for agriculture is the public does not realize we are environmental stewards,” Lehr says. “As long as the public thinks ag hurts the environment, the industry will be regulated even more.”

Consumers Take Greater Interest in Food Production

Written by NAMA on Monday, October 18, 2010 , 10:14 am

written by Amy Beeler Herman, Amy Beeler Herman Communications

Consumers want to know where their food comes from according to the four panelists who took part in the food trends panel during the 2010 NAMA Trends in Agriculture conference in Minneapolis, October 5-6. NAMA selected some highpoints to share from each panelist’s presentation.

Dan Halstrom is the senior vice president of marketing and communication for the U.S. Meat Export Federation. He emphasized a focus on global trade is essential to the viability of US meat production. “Free trade agreements like NAFTA help farmers gain access and add revenue to the farmer and industry,” Halstrom says. “The meat export market is ours (US) for the taking,” he says. “If the US does not supply meat to the world Brazil, Australia and other countries are quite capable of producing good products.” The U.S. Meat Export Federation (www.usmef.org) is the trade association responsible for developing international markets for the U.S. meat industry. It is funded by USDA; the beef, pork, lamb, corn and soybean check off programs, as well as its members representing nine industry sectors with interests in livestock production.

Carol Bagnoli heads the consumer insights strategy group at General Mills. She says consumers are focusing on health issues and interested in a health trend toward simple, natural foods. Beyond ingredients, consumers want to understand how products are made. “The further down the chain the better,” Bagnoli says. “In the consumers’ mind that is more natural.”

Rose Mitchell is the senior vice president of governmental relations for Hy-Vee. She sees tremendous growth in organic products and says the top three produce items are each organic: grapes, bananas and baby carrots. Hy-Vee is adding dieticians to the staff of each store to help customers with diet choices. Dieticians are also featured in product displays and aisle signage to promote healthy products. The innovative grocery chain introduced a nutrition value or NuVal product score to help consumers identify the health value of each product in the grocery aisle. Not only do the scores, from 1-100 with a high score being more healthy, make the shopping trip quicker but also help “the consumer get a large mix of generally healthy food in the shopping cart at checkout,” Mitchell says. Hy-Vee advertising features a homegrown food print campaign highlighting farmers within the grocer’s eight-state trade area. “Consumers want to see a name and face and each ad tells the story about a food producer,” she says.

Jim Compart is president of Compart Family Farms and also the president of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association. With generations of experience breeding and marketing the high-value Duroc breed, Compart Family Farms developed a branded pork program. Like the certified Angus beef initiative, the Comparts select breeding stock and utilize science-based feeding programs to produce healthy, flavorful pork. The genetically branded program delivers on an expectation of quality and taste and targets foodservice outlets. “Compart pork is served in 5-star restaurants across the US,” Compart says.

Internet Invigorates Conversation Via Social Media

Written by NAMA on Monday, October 18, 2010 , 10:13 am

written by Amy Beeler Herman, Amy Beeler Herman Communications

Assigned the task of speaking to NAMA by Tim Brunelle, CEO of Hello Viking, Joseph Rueter prepared for his presentation to NAMA Trends in Agriculture attendees by tweeting his digital community for ideas. The resulting conversation centered around one of the responses he received: “the internet allowed us to start having conversations again.”

Social media provides spaces for online communities that companies can cultivate and market to. “Brands provide a shortcut to trust,” Rueter says. A successful brand web site acts as a digital front porch allowing a corporation to have conversations with online communities and market to each group according to needs and interests.

Instead of drafting a single strategy for social media, Rueter suggested that the newness of the internet (only 15-years-old!) allows for experimenting with the medium and letting the community determine brand direction. Rather than relying on one communications campaign with consistent messaging, Rueter advocated utilizing coherent messaging. “Companies don’t talk, people do,” he says. “Get the people in your organization to talk.”  Be genuine, he added, so your community remains open to your messages. He described crowd sourcing, being a content curator as opposed to a content creator and thinking about what the user wants.

In approaching social media for agriculture, Rueter encouraged the NAMA group to tell stories about making food. “You make food, I eat food, tell me some stories,” he said. “The Internet allows communities to have conversation. There are many angles for conversations about food. Be honest, authentic and engage your community.”

Washington Update from NAMA Trends in Ag Conference

Written by NAMA on Monday, October 18, 2010 , 10:13 am

written by Amy Beeler Herman, Amy Beeler Herman Communications

The outcome of the midterm general elections will play a significant role in agricultural policy according to Jim Wiesemeyer, Informa Economics, Inc. The Washington, DC, consultant and writer says that if the GOP wins the election, Republicans may be appointed to key Congressional committees which will help agriculture.

Wiesemeyer charted out the election possibilities and political aftermath to the 150 attendees at the 2010 NAMA Trends in Agriculture conference, October 5-6, in Minneapolis, MN. He shared the predictions of Charlie Cook, political analyst for the National Journal Group, who says the Republicans will “’win 40 House seats and that a takeover is more likely than not.’”

Like the opening session speakers Mark Pearson and Jay Lehr, Wiesemeyer says agriculture is in a robust growth market if the US allows agribusiness and producers to operate. “If allowed, this will be the golden era of US ag,” he says. The difference between today and what many consider a golden era in the 1970s is commodity buyers — namely China and India — are paying cash.

Awards of Excellence Winners Honored

Written by NAMA on Monday, October 18, 2010 , 10:12 am

The Professional Development Awards of Excellence Winners were honored at the Trends In Agriculture Luncheon on Wednesday, October 6, at The Marquette Hotel in Minneapolis.

NAMA honors its members with hands-on responsibility in each of the Professional Development Areas (PDA). This year, awards were given in the areas of Marketing Communications, Public Relations, Product/Species Management and Sales. The recipients shared their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities in agri-marketing at the luncheon.

Marketing Communications ~ Scott McClure, Brighton Agency
A 25-year veteran of publishing and marketing communications, Scott has used his expertise and talents to advance the field of agricultural marketing on multiple levels.

Since joining Brighton in 2002, Scott has led the design and implementation of strategic marketing plans for major agricultural companies such as BASF, Monsanto, Delta and Pine Land Company, Horizon Ag, Bo-Jac Seed Company and Iron Solutions.

In 2009, Scott fostered a unique partnership between Monsanto and The Weather Channel to develop an online destination for targeted messaging. Dubbed Farmers’ Forecast (www.weather.com/farming), the innovative microsite offers farmers climate conditions, degree growing units and other important agricultural information in one location.

Scott also oversaw the creation of the Cotton Community (www.cottoncommunity.com), the ag industry’s first social networking site for cotton farmers. Since it went live in December 2008, Monsanto’s innovative networking website has had more than 4,300 individual visitors, while more and more farmers are steadily creating profiles and joining discussions with their regional neighbors about new variety performance.

Scott has served as a National NAMA committee member of the Agri-Marketing Conference Committee. He has also been a Student NAMA judge, Best of NAMA judge, and moderator for numerous Agri-Marketing seminar panel discussions.

Public Relations ~ Sue Otten, AGCO Corporation
Sue Otten, Director of Corporate Marketing & Brand Communications Worldwide, launched AGCO’s comprehensive social media initiative less than a year ago while educating global marketing teams on benefits, policies, technologies, tips & process. Learning as she went, Sue took calculated risks to get the buzz going both internally & externally. AGCO soon was ranked along with Coca-Cola & Delta Airlines with a perfect engagement score and won NAMA’s “Best of” award (Broadcast PR).

As Social Media tools were becoming more popular, it was important to develop a cohesive communications strategy and process within the company. This was important to not only ensure effective use of resources, but to also present a consistent digital message to our market and key stakeholders. Sue developed AGCO’s Social Media strategy and developed a process to get the many global brand and product divisions involved while still maintaining a unified Social Media presence.

At the same time, there was a need to develop the expertise of the AGCO employees. Sue, along with training specialists with the AGCO University department, developed a training course for employees to learn about not only AGCO’s Social Media objective, policy and philosophy, but also shows employees via a guided tour of AGCO’s social media sites how to access the sites and engage with customers, fans and followers.

Since joining AGCO two years ago, Sue has been an active member of  NAMA, participating in the Southeastern chapter. Sue also participated in the NAMA mentor program, working with college students on their resumes and interview process, and helped to evaluate student groups before they went on to present at the National NAMA conferences.

Product/Species Management ~ Elena Lindemann, Land O’Lakes Purina Feed, LLC
Elena’s Marketing Manager position was created by Land O’Lakes in 2006 to develop and market value-added, R&D-based calf feeds for the dairy industry. Land O’Lakes is the US market leader in calf milk replacers, but had previously not focused on value added calf feeds.

Elena led a cross-functional new product development team to launch AMPLI-Calf dairy feeds in 2008 across the United States at more than 30 Land O’Lakes Purina Feed manufacturing locations. The new product’s performance on young calves caught producers’ attention. AMPLI-Calf starter feed was consumed by calves with 11% more intake in pounds, increased calves’ weight by 14%, and grew calves 3% taller than competitive feeds. Previously, dairy producers used commodity type feeds for this lifestage of calf (starter feeds).

Today, AMPLI-Calf dairy feed represents approximately a $5 million annual business and is projected to keep growing at more than 15% for each of the next 2 years. A product extension is planned for the “grower” lifestage.

Elena is an active member of NAMA, has attended local/regional meetings when not traveling in the field with customers.

Sales ~ Marvin Kokes, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
Marvin Kokes knows the key to a successful sales career is in cultivating relationships—and that Marvin has mastered. He is a dedicated and well-respected ag professional who excels at his job and nurtures others to flourish as well.

Known as an ‘idea man,’ Kokes is responsible for contributing more than just time and energy, but ideas and connections to continue to build a stronger ag community.  He brings this strength to his daily leadership responsibilities in the areas of corporate relations, sponsorships, convention and meetings for NCBA.

At National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Marvin has responsibilities that include sales for NCBA’s Cattlemen to Cattlemen and sponsorship sales for the NCBA Convention and Trade Show.  What makes his task unique is living and selling the NCBA brand to a variety of corporate partners from animal health to largest of food service entities.  Each day, Marvin will sell the value of supporting NCBA’s work to protect the business climate for cattle producers and building beef demand.   Marvin provides partners a perspective of every segment of the business from the cow/calf operation through retail and foodservice.  In his role at NCBA, he works with each sector of the beef business, providing information, connecting people and resources, and most of all, bringing the passion and spirit that defines the American farmer and rancher.  Coming from a five generation Colorado ranch, he has significant accountability back home with his brothers and nephews, who depend on NCBA to represent their interests in Washington and the consumer marketplace.

Marvin’s commitment to professional development is evident in his work as the long-time leader of the Young Cattlemen’s Conference over the last 16 years. In 2010, he led the successful transformation of the Young Cattlemen’s Conference, which underwent a significant shift in sponsorship and itinerary. But Marvin never missed a beat, leading the largest YCC class across country, building young cattlemen into future industry leaders.

Each June, Marvin leads a group of approximately 60 young cattlemen on a cross-country tour, a literal farm to fork agricultural adventure. The trip is an experience that encompasses not just education, but also networking, friendship building and experiences that last a lifetime.  It has been through this type of effort, the YCC program celebrated its 31st year with over 1000 proud alumni.

“Involved” would be the word to describe Kokes’ level of participation in the National Agri-Marketing Association. Starting as a NAMA student member at Colorado State, he’s been a part of the organization for more than ten years. He is currently a board member, was the President of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of NAMA and also serves on the NAMA Executive Committee.

NAMA and ARC to Partner on PR Content Development for NAMA Conference

Written by NAMA on Monday, October 18, 2010 , 10:11 am

The Agricultural Relations Council and NAMA have entered into an informal partnership focused on developing enhanced public relations content for upcoming industry events. The first collaboration will focus on creating PR-track session content for NAMA’s Agri-Marketing Conference, April 13-15, 2011, in Kansas City, MO.

As part of the agreement, an ARC board member – Mike Oppermann of Charleston|Orwig – will serve on the 2011 Agri-Marketing Conference planning committee.

“We are continually looking for ways to strengthen the content of our conferences,” said Jenny Pickett, executive director of NAMA. “With this new partnership with ARC, we have a great opportunity to drive a more meaningful discussion about the role and utility of public relations in agri-marketing, and how our members can more effectively use PR to support their own business goals.”

Pickett noted that the partnership between NAMA and ARC, each an independent organization, fits in with NAMA’s goal of forming alliances with industry organizations to help strengthen professional development.

“This alliance will be beneficial to members of both organizations,” she said.

“Ultimately, ARC will contribute to developing two tracks of ‘ARC-approved’ PR sessions that will take place during the 2011 conference,” said Den Gardner, executive director of ARC.

“This new partnership with NAMA gives ARC a bigger platform from which to promote the art and science of agricultural public relations,” Gardner said. “It also fits with our mission to give ARC members who attend allied meetings a great opportunity to stay connected to ARC’s timely and relevant PR programming throughout the year. We also have a focus on strategic partnerships, such as our current relationship with the Agricultural Media Summit.”

Gardner noted that for the first time this year, ARC conducted an educational session at this summer’s AMS in St. Paul, Minn., and also staged a successful silent auction in collaboration with AMS. The AMS and future NAMA presence are in addition to ARC’s upcoming annual meeting, which takes place Feb. 23-25, 2011, in Fort Myers, Fla.

Pickett and Gardner said no specific partnership plans have been discussed beyond the 2011 Agri-Marketing Conference, but both said they hope to identify other ways in which the two groups can partner in serving their respective members’ needs.

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