OPINION: Building relationships a key to farming
Wednesday, October 09, 2013 6:59 AM
In farming, working to build relationships is sometimes just as important as working in the fields.
My term as president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) comes to an end on Oct. 1, and one of the things I'm most proud of is the relationships I've helped Minnesota's corn farmers build with people as far away as Taiwan, and right here in Minnesota.
Earlier this month, MCGA welcomed a 20-member delegation from Taiwan to Minnesota. While in our state, the delegation signed a letter of intent to purchase $1.83 billion worth of U.S. corn and corn co-products in 2014-15. That's about 197 million bushels of corn and 500,000 metric tons of corn co-products like dried distillers grains.
I felt a tremendous sense of pride as Gov. Dayton, two members of the delegation and myself signed the letter of intent during a ceremony at the state Capitol. Corn that I grew on my farm in Eden Valley and that farmers throughout Minnesota grew on their own farms was going to make a difference in people's lives in a country more than 7,000 miles away.
All of this was happening because we - MCGA and our partners at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association - have made a commitment to building relationships that improve opportunities for Minnesota's farmers, both locally and throughout the world.
Back in January, I traveled to Taiwan as part of a trade mission to encourage the Taiwanese to meet their growing demand for food and agricultural products with U.S. corn. Trade missions like this humanize the relationship farmers have with their trading partners, strengthening export markets for farmers and creating thousands of off-farm jobs right here in America.
Relationship building isn't limited to overseas trading partners, though. As farmers, it's more important now than it ever has been that we connect with consumers right here at home.
As more people become disconnected from the farm (fewer than 2 percent of the U.S. population farms), who's going to tell agriculture's story? It needs to be farmers. Because if farmers don't step up and connect with the consumers who buy the food, fiber and fuel grown by farmers, other people will - and they might not always tell an accurate story of what agriculture is all about.
Since this is my last column as MCGA president, I'm going to offer one final piece of advice to my fellow farmers: Make your voices heard.
People today want to know more about farming practices and where their food comes from. Embrace it.
Tell your neighbors about conservation practices on your farm. Reach out to non-farming community organizations about speaking opportunities. Participate in events that bring farmers and non-farmers together. Seize every opportunity possible to teach kids about farming. Talk to your elected officials about legislation that impacts what you do on the farm.
Sometimes it's not easy to climb off the tractor, change into a pair of khakis and collared shirt, and work on building relationships instead of growing corn. But it's necessary, whether you're building those relationships with someone from Taiwan or someone right in your hometown.
Corn views is a monthly column from Minnesota Corn Growers Association President Tom Haag, who farms near Eden Valley.