Getting the Crop Protection Message Out Beyond the Agriculture Industry

I can remember the last business trip I took in the opening days of the pandemic hitting our shores. I was in an apple orchard outside Quincy, WA, speaking to growers and distributors at a workshop about crop protection programs. During the trip my cohorts and myself were rightly concerned that our return flights back east may get grounded. Thankfully our return flights proceeded as scheduled but a week later at the end of March 2020, nearly all travel was coming to a pandemic-induced standstill. That apple meeting seems like decades ago.

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Fast forward to Summer 2021 with vaccinations pushing the States closer to overall herd immunity. As a result, in-person events are already underway across the business world. While we start dusting off our roller bags and searching for those travel-size Listerine bottles at Walgreens, this is also a great time to spread the word about the importance of crop protection.

Over the last few years, corporations both inside and outside agriculture have intensely modified their messaging and investments on important topics like sustainability,
community engagement, and numerous other social and political issues. It seems almost antiquated in 2021 for companies to side with Milton Friedman’s classic doctrine that declares “social responsibility of business is to increase its profits.” The Friedman Doctrine these days is only half right. Corporations today both large and small are now expected to do more.

Larry Fink, CEO of investment management giant BlackRock, said back in 2019 that “workers, not just shareholders, can and will have a greater say in defining a company’s purpose, priorities, and even the specifics of its business.”

If workers have a greater say in today’s hot button issues, then manufacturers and their value chain partners getting back on the road should advocate more about the importance that crop protection plays in feeding the world. Although companies in the ag space have done a stellar job in their respective societal and environmental PR efforts, what about the importance of developing IPM programs? Automated farming operations? New seed treatments?

After 13 years developing solutions in the crop and food protection space, I am challenged more than ever before with uncertainty surrounding what conventional solutions will be available in the years to come. Readers of this article do not need a recap on the number of highly-regulated pesticides that are under threat of being removed from the market in the U.S. and beyond. I tell anyone that bothers to listen that the latest molecule coming under threat is not the first and most certainly won’t be the last.

Instead of relying solely on crop protection advocacy groups, now is a great time to reconnect with stakeholders, influencers, and even random strangers on the importance of product stewardship and how chemistry is a critical part of a sustainable food system.

Before hitting the conference schedule this summer, you can get inspired today at your local grocery store. Hopefully you practiced mindfulness and meditation during all those months stuck at home. Now that you are venturing out again, take a deep breath, slowly exhale and then walk along the produce aisle, dairy section, or butcher and gaze upon the miracle of modern-day farming and logistics. Remind the world what we do and how we do it.

With the exception of a few paper products, my grocery stores in North Carolina were packed to the rafters during the entire pandemic. We in the agriculture industry keep the world fed among shifting climate conditions, fluctuating markets, trade wars, and now global pandemics. Not only remind the world about this…brag about it!

Unfortunately, I hardly see our positive messages pushing out beyond the agriculture industry. Trade groups and the FFA kids can only do so much. Meanwhile, activists that cannot or refuse to comprehend what it takes to feed billions of people consistently everyday have a loud voice which leads with emotion over fact. The end result as always is more pesticide restraints which results in less choice for growers. More restraints impede innovation when hundreds of millions in research dollars invested in the next blockbuster solution are at risk of being pulled prematurely from the marketplace. The reduction in crop protection innovation stalls growth, increases farming operation costs, and then ultimately those higher costs are passed along to the consumer.

So instead of shrugging our shoulders at the latest misinformation campaign against crop protection or modern farming practices in general, we should brag about our industry. As domestic and global travel slowly open back up, instead of doom scrolling on your iPhone, why not engage with the guy in the middle seat, the Uber driver, the salesman at the hotel bar, or the steakhouse maître d’ about the awesomeness of farming. Advocacy and lobby groups for our industry is just half the battle. Add the importance of farming to your next discussion about issues impacting the world even if herd immunity has only gotten you as far as the produce aisle.

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