CropLife America (CLA) celebrated its 80th anniversary as the national association representing the crop protection industry during its annual meeting at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.V. The theme of this year’s meeting was “The Great Progression of Agriculture” and included general session presentations on modern agriculture’s past, present and future.

The first general session on Sept. 23 featured a panel discussion with former U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture John Block, Michael Espy, John Knebel and Ed Schafer. CLA’s president and CEO, Jay Vroom, served as moderator. The former secretaries shared memories from their respective terms in office and reflected on U.S. farm policy, including a five-year farm bill that is currently under deliberation in the House and Senate.

“We were delighted that four former secretaries of agriculture were able to participate in an open dialogue at this year’s annual meeting,” said Vroom. “It was a truly unique opportunity for attendees to learn more about U.S. farm policy from the leaders who have seen it evolve so much in recent decades. The panel discussion embodied our annual meeting theme of looking back on agriculture’s past while still concentrating on the future.”

Pollinator health served as the focus of the next panel presentation, which included speakers from diverse backgrounds. Panelists included Richard Fell, Ph.D., professor emeritus of entomology at Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Aaron Hobbs, president of RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment); Gabriele Ludwig, associate director of environmental affairs for the Almond Board of California; and Keith Menchey, manager of science and environmental issues for the National Cotton Council. During the discussion, panelists stressed a need for increased collaboration among the crop protection industry, beekeepers, crop farmers and regulatory agencies including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

Cary Fowler, Ph.D., special advisor and former executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, delivered a keynote presentation during the second general session on Sept. 24. Fowler was instrumental in the development of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which provides security for seed samples of more than 750,000 unique crop varieties. His presentation focused on the continual preservation and security of seed diversity in order to sustain global food demands.

Two students currently engaged in promoting agriculture among young adults also gave a brief presentation during the second general session. Brennan Costello, central region vice president of the National FFA Organization, and Caroline Weihl of Agriculture Future of America (AFA), challenged attendees to imagine what agriculture and the crop protection industry might look like in the next 30 years.

“Throughout this year’s annual meeting, we celebrated the work of those ‘agricultural giants’ that came before us and worked so steadily on advancing modern agriculture from the time of CLA’s founding until today,” Vroom noted. “At all times, however, we must continue looking forward. Our industry is dependent on students like Brennan and Caroline, who represent the future of agriculture.”