Understanding agriculture from the customer’s perspective was the theme of a three-day seminar attended by the Class of 2016 of the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Program, February 11-13, 2015 at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign. The “Kim Morton Seminar on National Agriculture Policy” featured 12 speakers and a consumer panel talking about key issues based on the changing public image of the food and agriculture industry.
Dr. Peter Goldsmith, Assistant Professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, led an interactive discussion of “Who are Agriculture’s Customers,” including the supply and value chains, growers, processors and retailers involved in the purchase and consumption of food. Expanding on the definition of the customer, Lori Laughlin, Director of Issue Management for the Illinois Farm Bureau, showed the results of research based on comments by farmers about their farming practices. Five members of a consumer panel featuring University of Illinois undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds were questioned about their opinions of farmers and agricultural practices.
The issue of food insecurity, both internationally and in the United States, was addressed by Dr. Craig Gundersen, Professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics and a Professor in the Energy Biosciences Institute, Institute of Genomic Biology. He noted that there has been progress in solving food security issues in many regions of the world, but few regions have met the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. He also indicated that there was an increase in food insecurity domestically since the start of the 2008 recession that has eased only slightly. Dr. Madhu Khanna, Professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, led a discussion on the question of sustainability that included the use of crop nutrients, fresh water availability, and the relationship between food production subsidies and nutrition.
“Understanding the Customer’s Views on Matters of Health and Nutrition” was addressed in a presentation by Dr. Brenna Ellison, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. She noted that society is more concerned about health and nutrition because of higher rates of obesity and a higher proportion of food dollars spent away from home.
Jonathan Coppess and Jon Scholl, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics Instructors, discussed the social, agricultural and political changes in America that are driving key issues and challenges to the agricultural community.
On the final day of the seminar, held at the Farm Credit Illinois corporate offices in Mahomet, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman spoke to the IALP Class of 2016 about the importance of engaging new partners in the discussion of agricultural issues and forming policy. That segued into a discussion of the “Qualities of a Great Leader” led by Kenneth McMillan, Pattee Professor, Political Economy & Commerce at Monmouth College.
“It’s key for future agricultural leaders to understand the forces that confront agricultural policymakers,” said Don Norton, President and CEO of the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation. “This seminar provides a solid foundation for our National Study Seminar in Washington, D.C. in March. We are very grateful to Kim Morton, our seminar sponsor, the outstanding faculty at the University of Illinois College of ACES, and Farm Credit Illinois for making this seminar possible.”
The Illinois Agricultural Leadership Program is a two-year comprehensive education series that develops knowledgeable and effective leaders to become policy and decision makers for the agricultural industry. The program is funded by the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation, a non-profit organization comprising individuals, companies, organizations and institutional partners. Program participants are selected from diverse backgrounds in Illinois agriculture, and program graduates have attained the highest level positions in commodity organizations and the nation’s leading agribusiness corporations.