(Posted Wed. Nov 28th, 2012)
Nov. 28: As the new Board of Directors assumes leadership of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, National Corn Growers Association Past President and former USFRA Vice Chair Bart Schott took a moment to speak about his experience in USFRA with Off the Cob. Reflecting on a variety of issues, from the formation of the alliance to his future goals for USFRA, Schott shares his perspective on the importance of the work USFRA has done and challenges his fellow farmers to get involved in this growing conversation.
Schott, who served as NCGA Corn Board President during fiscal year 2011, played an integral role in the formation of USFRA. Active in discussions since the program’s inception, he worked with a variety of grower leaders to shape an alliance that would meet the growing need for a unified, open movement enabling farmers and ranchers to join into public discussions on food and food production.
Growing from a group of about 20 organizations into a coalition of more than 70 of the leading national, regional and state farmer-and-rancher organizations and their allies in only two years, USFRA brings agriculture together to strengthen public trust in agriculture through an open and honest dialogue which encourages farmers and ranchers to not only share their own stories but also to listen to consumers’ concerns.
“The way that I have always looked at U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance is fairly simple,” he explained. “On my own personal farm, we are really good at growing crops. We are really good at producing corn and sorghum and wheat. While I don’t have any livestock, I have many friends that do, and we are good at producing food. What we haven’t been as good at is talking about how we do it. We have been letting other folks tell our story for us. Sometimes that is good. Sometimes it is not so good. USFRA is a way to really connect with our consumers and of making farmers and ranchers aware that there is a real need for their active participation in this dialogue. It is something that we haven’t done in the past, and folks want to link up with us and talk about life on the farm. They want to know how safe and productive the food supply really is. They need a link to their food, and we need to cultivate this conversation from here on forward.”
While Schott has completed his term on the USFRA board, he remains active in promoting the alliance and maintains a vision for the organization which he helped create.
“We want to continue to grow in the future by building on what we have already done,” said Schott. “The Food Dialogues have been a great success thus far, and it is a program that needs to continue. We also need to work together and support one another in agriculture as much as we possibly can. We have got people from different directions trying to tear the ag community apart. I think that our strength in working together is what will carry us into the future. “
Schott stressed the need to grow grassroots support for USFRA and get more farmers and ranchers involved in conversations with consumers by issuing a challenge to his fellow producers.
“I challenge the farmers and ranchers who are my age, and those who may be a few years younger too, to get on social media and start a dialogue,” said Schott. “Get on Facebook or Twitter, or even start blogging for consumers and you will find out that it can actually be a lot of fun. We are the experts in our field, and we are the ones who have to share our story with consumers here in the United States and across the world. To make this happen, we have to embrace social media.”
During the interview, Schott also discussed his experiences participating in the Food Dialogues, his personal observations from inside the developing movement and his new role, serving NCGA as a member of the Commodity Classic Joint Venture Committee.