CLA inspires debate on the shifting culture of modern ag

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CropLife America (CLA), the national trade association representing the developers, manufacturers and distributors of crop protection products, hosted its fifth annual National Policy Conference (NPC) on Thursday, May 22, 2014, at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. 

CLA used this year’s NPC, titled “The Devolution of AgriCULTURE,” to instigate a thoughtful and balanced discussion among farmers and ranchers, media and industry representatives on the future of agriculture and its ability to adapt to meet consumer, environmental and regulatory demands. Nearly 300 individuals attended this year's NPC, which featured leading figures from agriculture, media, industry and sustainability, each bringing unique perspectives and inspiring an impartial yet passionate debate on key industry issues. 

“The National Policy Conference continues to serve as a forum where individuals from many different backgrounds can openly express their views related to agricultural policy and the agricultural industry at-large,” noted Jay Vroom, CLA’s president and CEO. “With this year’s theme, we were excited to explore the changing agricultural landscape through the viewpoints of farmers, members of the media, business leaders and sustainability advocates. The issues discussed during the National Policy Conference are relevant not only to policymakers and influencers in Washington, but to everyone impacted by the ongoing evolution of the agriculture industry.”  

Vern Hawkins, chairman of CLA’s board of directors and president and North America regional director for Syngenta Crop Protection, addressed the crowd during the event. “The 2014 National Policy Conference invites many voices in agriculture to come together and discuss opportunities to bridge the gaps between consumers, farmers and the food industry,” said Hawkins. “It is inspiring to be part of the ongoing conversation among representatives from agriculture, media, industry and sustainability.”

Education was a key theme articulated by several of the panelists. “When you’re more involved in food production, you shop differently. One of the most important things the ag community can do moving forward is to better educate the consuming public on some of the key issues facing the industry,” said Jesse Hirsch, senior staff writer, Modern Farmer. Jenny Hopkinson, food and agricultural reporter, POLITICO Pro, echoed this notion and called upon the media to help close the gap. “For a long time consumers were calling for affordable food, so this was created. Now consumers have that but want to know what’s in it. There’s a lot at stake and as journalists we have to tell both sides of the story.” 

Seth Goldman, president and TeaEO of Honest Tea, summed up the event as one that can help move the industry forward. “A lot of times conferences like this feature people patting themselves on the back and congratulating themselves,” he said. “This gathering is different in that it invites open dialogue and transparency that’s hard to find. This sort of transparency can really be a catalyst for change.” The conference is one of many CLA initiatives underway to continue to offer transparency on issues facing the agricultural industry.

Moderated by Ali Velshi, host, “Real Money with Ali Velshi,” Al Jazeera America, panelists included Seth Goldman, president and TeaEO, Honest Tea; Megan Brown, West Coast blogger and 6th-generation cattle rancher; Delores “Dee Dee” Darden, Virginia farmer; Jesse Hirsch, senior staff writer, Modern Farmer; Beth Hoffman, blogger, Forbes and professor, University of San Francisco; Jenny Hopkinson, food and agriculture reporter, POLITICO Pro; Michele Simon, president, Eat Drink Politics; Moira Mcdonald, senior program officer, Environment Focus Area, Walton Family Foundation; Sean McMahon, North America agriculture program director, The Nature Conservancy; and Rod Snyder, president, Field to Market, The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture.

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