ARA Conference Highlights: Presenters showcase top ideas
Following Casale’s overview of global factors and issues impacting ag retailers, Charlie Stenholm, former Texas congressman and senior policy adviser with OFW Law, shared his views on the state of agriculture. In his presentation, “Post-Election Analysis and the Impact on Agriculture,” he started with concerns about the fiscal cliff. He told the audience that he thought the country would go over the cliff and that both political parties were ignoring the real problems. He said that despite going over the cliff, the country would survive and the plunge wouldn’t be fatal.
He stressed that the political parties are becoming more polarized and that he wouldn’t be surprised to see our two-party political system turn into a three- or four-party political system.
He mentioned that 20 of the 46 members on the House Agriculture Committee will be new starting in 2013 and they don’t know ag. Stenholm called upon ag retailers to reach out to their representatives, especially the new ones that need to understand agriculture’s issues.
He called attention to the Renewable Fuel Standard and reminded the industry that it cannot produce food, feed and fiber without gasoline. The RFS needs to be improved, not eliminated, he said. From his experience in Texas and working with Big Oil, Stenholm said he thought Big Ag and Big Oil need to work together more since they both depend upon each other now. He criticized using the words “alternative energy.” Instead, he suggested replacing those words with “supplemental energy” since more energy is being produced in different ways.
In the GMO vs. organic debate, he sides with whatever means feeds people because, “Hungry people don’t stay peaceful.”
Stenholm commented on immigration, saying the United States need to develop a working policy that is relevant across the border with both Canada and Mexico.
Wrapping up the Wednesday morning session, John Foley, former Blue Angel pilot, spoke to the group about his experience becoming the lead solo of the Blue Angels. He shared multiple videos showing just how close Blue Angel planes fly next to each other and that the pilots must have discipline, trust and focus. He discussed how the Blue Angels have a culture of excellence that the agriculture industry could also aim to have.
What he learned becoming a Blue Angel was that the top 1 percent all do things similarly. By understanding what they do, we can all learn. According to Foley, this 1 percent has regular meetings for education and networking, provides training and education and has deep celebration.