The following is an opinion editorial from National Corn Growers Association President Kevin Ross. The views expressed are those of the writer.
I’ll remember both for as long as I live. Ram’s famous, “So God Made a Farmer,” ad because of the way Paul Harvey’s booming voice portrayed farmers to the rest of the world. Bud Light’s infamous corn syrup ad because of the way it trashed a corn product in a misguided – and apparently unlawful – attempt to differentiate.
As I look back on the great “Corntroversy” of 2019, I see it wasn’t all bad for corn farmers.
- We formed a friendship with Molson Coors that continues to this day.
- We sparked a conversation about the impacts of misleading consumers.
- We stood up for farmers who can be over-looked by advertisers (e.g. Chipotle’s GMO campaign which they all but acknowledged they couldn’t deliver on, and the grain-free pet food trend which science says may not be so healthy for pets.).
Representatives of Anheuser-Busch Inbev told us shortly after this all began that they never intended to offend corn farmers. I believe that’s probably true, but what that also revealed to me is they planned this without any consideration of corn farmers as constituents of their supply chain. As a farmer, that frustrated me.
Then it motivated me to do something about it. That started with understanding why we don’t have a seat at the table when brands make promises that impact us. To me, it boils down to these two things.
- The first is the reality that farmers are far upstream that we can be a regrettable afterthought at times to brands that are trying to meet the changing needs of consumers.
- The second is a more painful reality that consumers can be a regrettable afterthought at times to farmers.
While we can’t change the first reality, the second is full of opportunity. It begins with seeing consumers as a customer base with different needs and brands as partners to help meet them. It’s a shift from trying to force education about farming to a posture of service that’s aimed at working together to deliver customer satisfaction at every step – from the farm all the way to the dinner plate.
That’s when the seat at the table we all crave as production agriculture will open up. That’s when we’ll be surprised more by what we were able to improve in our value chain and less than what we see during a pretty big football game.
Here’s to a Super Bowl full of fun and football, one that’s free of silly food fights and full of advertisements promoting corn products.
Kevin Ross, President
National Corn Growers Association
Related AgWeb coverage from 2019: