Speakers presented strategies, trends and foresight
Pirkle started off by explaining that the public’s view of agriculture has changed since World War II when public opinion of ag was probably at its highest. He questioned if agriculture will be able to keep its social license to operate in the future or if public opinion will turn against agriculture and make producing food too challenging.
[Left to right] Dave Downey, Billy Pirkle, Johnny Council and Bart Pescio. Council explained that the benefits of ResponsibleAg to the ag retailer industry far outweighed the drawbacks and that retailers need to get ahead of the curve of fluctuating public and regulatory opinions.
Pescio explained that he brought the perspective of someone who’s lived in Europe and experienced its regulations of the ag retail industry.
Pirkle then explained that ResponsibleAg took its cue from the 4R Nutrient Stewardship initiative about fertilizer rate, timing, source and placement. He said ResponsibleAg is more of a compliance program that goes a step beyond the 4Rs. He sees it as a way for the industry to be more transparent. Pescio admitted it could be a painful process.
Council pointed out that ARA was already working on a code of practice for the use of fertilizer before the West Fertilizer explosion happened, which brought the country’s attention to retailers. Since the explosion, pressure to develop a compliance program to oversee the industry has been increasing.
Pirkle said the mood in Washington, D.C., was that government agencies were looking to the fertilizer and retail industries to come up with guidelines. He stressed that giving the industry a chance is better than tough new regulations that could be difficult to deal with and could be costly and prohibitive to doing business.
Rounding out the morning sessions, Captain Mike Abrashoff, author of “It’s Your Ship,” shared his experiences of being the captain of one of the lowest ranking Navy ships and how he turned the crew’s attitudes around and helped them to become one of the highest ranked crews within two years.
Abrashoff explained that after he became the captain of the USS Benfold, he realized he needed to change his leadership style and find out why the crew wasn’t stepping up to their responsibilities. He decided to interview every crew member and get to know them, their dreams and desires. He looked into how he could help the crew make their personal goals happen. He realized many did not have access to adequate training, so he revamped the training program. He created a learning center so that crew who needed refresher courses in math and English could improve their skills. After implementing his changes, his crew was advanced and promoted at rate of 200 percent better.