Coalition Promotes Farmers On The Hill

July 21, 2010 at 11:53 am Leave a comment

The Corn Farmers Coalition (CFC) is emphasizing the importance of family farmers to our leaders in Washington as well as to the consuming public in a unique new campaign.

CFC is an alliance of the National Corn Growers Association and 14 state corn associations. Its primary goal is to educate policy-makers in Washington about how innovative farmers are growing more corn every year with fewer resources while protecting the environment. The new ad campaign centered around “10 facts” shows real corn farmers holding large signs with fact-based numbers on them from the USDA and EPA, then the numbers are explained, such as:

90 – Family farmers grow 90% of America’s corn.

95 – 95% of all corn farms in America are family owned.

9 Billion – America’s corn farmers exported $9 billion worth of corn last year. One of the few American products with a trade surplus.

20 – America’s corn farmers are by far the most productive in the world, growing 20% more corn per acre than any other nation.

I asked Mark Lambert, director of the Corn Farmers Coalition, about the campaign. “There has been a growing concern in recent years that the general public and many key opinion leaders just don’t understand the revolution that has taken place in agriculture,” Lambert said. “Through innovation and technology, corn farmers have become the most productive in the world. We have grown the seven largest crops in history in the last seven years and have done it despite less-than-ideal growing conditions. More importantly, we are doing it on less land, with fewer crop inputs and while making great strides in improving our environmental foot print.”

Lambert explained that CFC started with a handful of growers and corn staff that saw the bogus “food versus fuel” attack of 2008 as the final straw. Others agreed and it swelled to 14 states putting their limited checkoff dollars behind this effort. “We wanted to do something meaningful with a limited budget so Washington seemed like a great place to start. Our elected officials and those who affect their thinking on Capitol Hill have a huge amount of influence on our productivity and profitability through legislation and regulation. They need to make these decisions with some fundamental knowledge. We want them to know there are multi-generational family farmers out here and what they do in Washington can affect their success as much as the weather. Farming is one of the few foundation industries from which all real economic activity arises so impeding it knowingly or otherwise is not in the best interest of this country.”

Pre-advertising focus group sessions indicated that few, if any, family farmers exist anymore and that corn and other agriculture products come from some faceless corporation — a factory farm. “When they realize 90% of our corn comes from family farms and how productive they are, they feel good about that and want to make sure it stays that way,” Lambert said.

“When you ask people in D.C. what the most important industries are they don’t even list ag,” he continued. “Things like retail and oil and gas head the list. When you add agriculture to the list of industries and ask them which one they would save if they could only save one, ag comes out on top unanimously. If we put farming on their radar and family farmers specifically, it changes the public dialogue entirely.”

CFC is using large scale ads in the Metro System in Washington, D.C. and Reagan National Airport, all the print publications on the Hill from Politico, to CQ Today to The Hill. They also have online ads on the sites of all of these publications as well as Radio commercials are running on four stations in the D.C. market including WAMU and public radio during the All Things Considered show. Many state corn grower organizations are utilizing the messaging, ads, radio, etc. on their own which is also broadening the audience and leveraging their investment which was funded through checkoff dollars coming from 14 corn states and the National Corn Growers Association.

Lambert wrote in a blog about the campaign: Corn is arguably the most versatile commodity on the planet and can be used for food, feed, fuel, fabrics, biodegradable plastics, cosmetics, fireworks, batteries and on and on for thousands of uses. No one grows corn better than American family farmers. There is a not so subtle message here if we are willing to listen. As my old man used to say, “If you want to succeed, go with your strengths.”

Lambert encourages other agriculture industry groups to develop similar efforts focusing on family farms. “We have to be proactive if we want another generation to stay on the family farm. CFC is not alone. Many other farmers are beginning to mobilize and get active though their farm organizations, civic groups, schools and even through social media. There is also an emerging movement toward many of these groups working together on a more universal agriculture campaign.”

The consumer’s response has been almost universally positive, Lambert said. “Most react with surprise when they see the 10 facts being used as the key campaign messages. Our goal was to utilize fact-based messages to assure continued good will toward family farmers and it seems to be working. We have a very positive story to tell. We just need to shine a light on it.”

Geni Wren
Editor, Bovine Veterinarian Magazine


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