Southern Farm Network director Rhonda Garrison is at the National Association of Farm Broadcasters convention this week in Kansas City talking with Bart Schott, vice chairman of the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance:
SFN: How are you feeling about the progress that you've made over the course of the past 12 months?
BS: It's been just a tremendous year. Just to give you an example, when we announced the Alliance movement a year ago we had 22 affiliates and zero ag industry partners, we had 9 board members. And now today, I'm proud to announce we've got 59 affiliate members, 19 board members, and 10 agribusinesses that have joined us as well.
SFN: Give me an example of some of those affiliates.
BS: John Deere came on, Monsanto came on with us, DuPont came on with us, just to name a few. Those three are premier partners.
SFN: Of course, your goal is to basically save animal agriculture and you mentioned some big hitters in the business that acutally don't have a direct stake in the animal agriculture game.
BS: You know, this whole alliance is a movement where all the ag production groups are welcome to the table to give a message to the consumers that we want to have an open dialogue with farmers and ranchers. So this will be the link to answer questions with our consumers today. And that's why you see such a wide, diverse group. We've got corn growers, cattle producers, hog producers, we've got egg guys -- the whole gamut of egg production today involved the alliance.
SFN: Let's talk about the moves that you're making to help educate the public about where their food comes from.
BS: Next week, we're going to start with segments of farmers and ranchers having a dialogue with a consumer. They're a minute long on the Discovery Channel. Just to set it up: it's like farmers and ranchers are sitting at a table and there's a couple of consumers there and they're having this open dialogue about what they do on their farm and why. And that's what this is all about, is being able to hook a consumer up with a farmer and rancher on a question that they might have. Each of us has had our own campaign to answer questions and we've been giving answers that they really haven't really been asking. When we started the food dialogue, you know, one question on my farm is, "we produce fertilizer to be more sustainable" that's the answer we give and the consumer thinks we're saying, "you're doing that just to make more money". And they want to know why we're doing that and what effect it has on our planet. That's the sort of question and answer they want to have.