Telling the story about the role of modern agriculture's science and technology to outside audiences is an obligation of all employed by the crop protection industry, according to the president of CropLife America in remarks at Bayer CropScience’s 2010 National Sales Meeting. Speaking before nearly 400 attendees, Jay Vroom challenged the audience to take charge of speaking opportunities wherever and whenever they arise. "CLA has done extensive public opinion research in the past couple years and it shows that the public is willing to listen to our information and that such messages can allay concerns and address the legitimate questions that are out there," Vroom explained. "We can bemoan public misunderstanding or the misrepresentation by extremist critics of modern agriculture, but if we're not all out there talking to people with well-formed messages that can connect with our facts--then we're doomed to continued communications challenges."
Vroom explained to the group that many in other segments of agriculture are coming to similar realizations, and that the thousands of potentially unified voices from crop protection, teamed with tens of thousands of other voices across a wide range of farmer groups and other agribusinesses, can create a virtual echo chamber that can bring the public to well-grounded support for what we do. We can also achieve more in American agriculture if our scientific research and development can continue to prosper. "Not only can this happen, I am convinced the early stages of this new, coordinated campaign are already underway," Vroom stated.
Vroom illustrated the importance of language —when he cited research that showed how some key phrases play into negative reactions and close doors to further debate, while parallel approaches instigate further interest and greater dialogue. "We've looked carefully into the issue of the place that most organic and related farming fits into the larger scheme of US farming and the application of technologies and practices and we found that in the vast majority of cases, a definition of modern agriculture can fit both organic farming and other operations, the difference being degrees of technology and what's been certified organic. Many technologies are being used in all kinds of farming," Vroom says. "This open approach can appropriately diffuse confrontation, and allow discussion to instead focus on facts and opportunities."
In the presentation Vroom also updated the Bayer audience on the top priority issues CLA is focused upon for its members, including NPDES permit requirements that will come for certain pesticide uses in April of 2011, Endangered Species Act challenges to crop protection product registrations, and spray drift policy at US EPA. He also provided a top line analysis of the November elections and some scenario impacts on ag policy for the next two years.
"With the need to reauthorize the farm bill by 2012, it is very important that the new leadership of both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees get focused immediately and work hard at outlining approaches that fit the conditions that are the reality of the day," Vroom noted. "Also, outreach to other committees of jurisdiction for the '12 farm bill as well as support from leadership in both chambers, is vital to a cohesive new package coming together. Newer and bigger Federal budget constraints, different foreign competition and export opportunities, and new levels of productivity at the farm gate are all key factors that a very new set of ag leaders on the Hill have to quickly embrace. CLA will be right there beside them advocating for the best policy to enable science and technology to play its important role."