A.G. Kawamura calls it “the biggest toy store in America.” More than that, the World Ag Expo is a place where ideas happen.
Kawamura was the keynote speaker at a luncheon at the World Ag Expo in February. Kawamura was California’s food and Ag department secretary under Gov. Schwarzenegger. He is also an Orange County farmer.
The theme of Kawamura’s speech centered on vulnerabilities inherent in American agriculture and how those issues are lost on a public that is bombarded with a variety of messages.
Some of those vulnerabilities provide opportunity and perhaps nowhere are these opportunities more apparent than each February in Tulare, Calif. when over 1,000 companies gather to promote their goods and services to an international audience.
Regardless of agriculture’s challenges, presenting them to Ag-friendly audience is a good start. Kawamura believes it’s a message that needs to be spread further. Preaching to the choir has its benefits if the choir understands the importance of sharing the message with a wider audience and then does it.
One of the points Kawamura made deals with something he calls a chasm between the “hopefuls” and the “hatefuls.” For those who watch cable news networks or listen to talk radio, you’re quite aware of the two sides.
The hatefuls and the hopefuls are antagonists in the most classic of senses. They don’t seem to care much about right or wrong, just getting their way; though the argument can be made that for some there’s more wrong than right in their arguments.
Politically speaking, antagonists may not care about solving problems because to solve an issue is to put it to rest, and Heaven forbid our elected leaders and community organizers solve a problem and make themselves irrelevant.
Elsewhere at the World Ag Expo, I heard California FFA President Dipak Kumar of Tulare give a passionate speech on agriculture. Having been around FFA members as an Ag journalist, the pessimism that can sometimes creep up over a host of issues impacting agriculture is squelched as I see and hear the optimism that surrounds these kids.
Perhaps agriculture’s challenges and the vulnerabilities Kawamura talks about will be addressed by Kumar’s generation as it ascends into leadership roles. After hearing Kumar speak positively of agriculture and his home town, some in the room were ready to elect him mayor.
My hope for agriculture is that current Ag leaders don’t force the Dipak Kumar’s of the world to “wait their turn” to suggest and promote ideas that address what Kawamura suggests are American agriculture’s vulnerabilities and challenges.
Like Norman Borlaug’s work to create wheat resistant to disease and address world famine that likely would have resulted had he failed in his efforts, we are perhaps at another critical crossroads that will require quick thinking, ingenuity and leadership.