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World Ag Congress : World Ag Congress
World Agricultural Forum 2009 Congress 15 the food industry is building trust and really under-standing our accountability. Production agriculture in the past was very concerned about defending itself as opposed to acknowledging its footprint. I think the biggest thing we can do in building trust in society and particularly with consumers is that acknowledgement, that ownership, that accountability for what the impacts of agriculture are. The environmental benefits of food products are buried in the supply chain, they are generally invisible. Most people are only looking at those inherent qualities which are price, quality and convenience. They are really not considering these back-of- the-house or invisible product attributes. We see a lot of consumer interest in sustainability, but consumer interest is far different than purchas- ing behavior. So intent is really part of a giant work of media and propa- ganda that this somehow will be a salvation for agriculture. I think consumers basically are looking for products that do have environmental attributes, but with no compromises, no incremental pricing, except for a tiny niche of people. We have to look at other characteristics that have more potential in the marketplace. One of the biggest one is biotechnology and technology in agriculture as a whole. That is much more powerful than the current marketplace for agricultural environmental improvement. We also have to look at the enormous power of public policy and the shifts that are going to be taking place in the near future. Tax incentives particularly, and a whole host of other different benefits that will come from carbon trading and other sources that will incentivize agriculture. Lastly, we have to remember that agriculture is one of the best ways to sequester carbon. We need to promote that notion that we are a great hope for the reduction of greenhouse gases, and stop being so defensive about our position in agriculture. Q: Tyson Foods has done a lot of work in sustainability initiatives. What are some of the benefits that might be seen from those initiatives? A (Igli): One of the things we continue to be concerned about is the use of water. When we are using water, we have to look at conservation measures that also comply with federal and state regulations and USDA regulations. There are tradeoffs that go on. Environmental agencies want to see conservation, food agencies want to see a certain amount of water used in the safe production of food. We have seen some reductions in water, about 15% over the last four or five years in our company through some very direct efforts. We have set a goal that by the end of 2010, to get another 10%. We are going to continue to chase that and that area of water conservation. Q: What do you think the NGO community needs to do better to contribute some solutions? A (Kahn): We need to focus our attention on working with NGOs who will be the transfer agent or train the trainers. From my own agricultural experience, cooperative extension was really critical to me and very few organizations today want to fund cooperative extension. But someone has to train people in those countries in that area. NGOs like Care, World Vision and other philanthropic groups can really make a big difference and that is one of the things that we need to emphasize to NGOs. A (Funk): It is incredibly important for NGOs going into an agricultural project to really think through what the exit strategy is. Too many NGOs go in agriculture in a relief situation, but then it just keeps going, and these farmers are so disempowered at that point that it becomes really very difficult to move to a system where the NGO can pull out. There is a self-perpetuating system there. Q: Who is going to pay for ecosystem services? A (Igli): We have not figured out how to connect this yet with consumers. From our company's perspective, we intend to invent products that allow the farmer to be profitable. That, at the same time, has an environmental benefit. Then the farmer acts in self interest, and at the same time brings an environmental benefit. These kinds of products are going to be really successful and they will have a societal benefit. WAF TAKE-AWAY INSIGHTS FROM ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION "We need to make conservation effective and workable for local stakeholders and stakeholders at all scales --- be it local communities, government or global corporations --- if we are to be successful in our mission." "If we take our relationship with governments seriously, not just as a regulator, but as partner, and we build the relationships on a personal level with the regulators and with the legislators in those countries, when it comes time to push, you can push further then you thought you could." "We need to demonstrate how conservation benefits people, how it benefits development. There is a segment of people that will value diversity for its own sake, but we need to accelerate and push the science so people can understand that watershed, that forest, is important for the orangutan, but here is what it does for disease prevention downstream. We need to make those links." "We are going to have to struggle with this issue of how much of the resource we are going to put toward putting food in people's mouths and how much of the ratio are we going to put towards this conservation measure. You can do both, but the ratio really needs discussion."