The Farm Bill was a hot topic at this week’s Indiana Agribusiness Council Conference in Indianapolis. President and CEO of National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, Chuck Conner, says passage of a Farm Bill will be a huge accomplishment; however, agriculture will still have its issues. He points to labor forces as a big priority for farmers and for Congress.
“We’ve got a problem in American agriculture and it’s 70 percent of our hired labor force are undocumented workers, people who are not legally in this country. We need Congress to address this issue because obviously we cannot produce the fuel, feed and fiber for this country if we lose 70 percent of our labor force.”
Conner says consumer acceptance of today’s technology in agriculture is another challenge facing farmers.
“Things are not the same on the farm as they were when I was a little boy growing up and we had seven different types of livestock and grew four or five commodities; it’s very, very different. I think some of our consumers have this sort of idealic view of a farm in that way that’s different than what it is today. But our farms today are sustainable, they’re doing it right, they’re doing it with far fewer inputs in a much cleaner way. But we aren’t doing a very good job of telling our consumers that story.”
Conner says it’s up to farmers to be in charge of telling their story.
“We’ve got to, you know, instill in each one of these producers individually that notion of ‘this is part of my responsibility, this is my future as a farm is to make sure my story is being told in Washington. Not count on somebody else, but it’s something I’ve got to do as an individual.’ If we do that, we will not lose. We can’t lose in that environment because the support for farmers is strong in Washington and I think among consumers. It’s when they’re not telling the story and someone else is telling it for them that we run into a problem.”