Farm Food Facts

The Resilient and Dynamic Farmer: Insights from Dan Glickman

July 08, 2020 USFRA Episode 83
Farm Food Facts
The Resilient and Dynamic Farmer: Insights from Dan Glickman
Chapters
Farm Food Facts
The Resilient and Dynamic Farmer: Insights from Dan Glickman
Jul 08, 2020 Episode 83
USFRA

Former Secretary of Agriculture, Dan Glickman, chats with us about the future of the food and agriculture industry. New opportunities for farmers continuously emerge as consumers change how they think about their food.

Show Notes Transcript

Former Secretary of Agriculture, Dan Glickman, chats with us about the future of the food and agriculture industry. New opportunities for farmers continuously emerge as consumers change how they think about their food.

Phil:

Farm Food Facts. Where every farmer, every acre and every voice matter. Welcome to Farm Food Facts for Wednesday, July 8th, 2020, I'm your host, Phil Lempert. Each week we t alk to the leaders in food and agriculture who are making a difference for our farmers. Our ranchers, our shoppers, and most of all, our planet today, I'm joined by the CEO of US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, Erin Fitzgerald, for a very special conversation with Dan Glickman. Who's a big fan of FDRs well-known saying, "the only thing that we have to fear is fear itself". Secretary Dan Glickman served as the U S secretary of agriculture from 1995, until 2001 with president Bill Clinton. Before that he represented Kansas' fourth congressional district as a Democrat in Congress for 18 years, the secretary has agriculture in his blood. He serves on the boards of the Chicago mercantile exchange, the food research and action center and the national for each council. Here's the chair of initiative at the Institute of medicine on accelerating progress on childhood obesity and vice chair of the U S food program USA and the Meridian Institute to look at longterm implications of food and agriculture policy. You also serves as a senior fellow at the bipartisan policy center where he focuses on public health, national security and economic policy issues. He also chairs their democracy project and co-leads the center's nutrition and physical activity initiative . After leaving politics, Glickman led Harvard university, school of government and the Institute of politics. He also has one credential that no other secretary of agriculture can boast of chairman and CEO of the motion picture association of America from 2004 to 2010 , and continues to serve as an Academy, as a member of the Academy awards and the American film Institute, Mr. Secretary, it is Erin and my pleasure to welcome you to Farm Food Facts.

Dan Glickman:

Thank you very much. Uh , it looks like I can't keep a job, but thanks for talking about all my past experiences

Phil:

And great experiences and great results , um, as, as they would be. Erin, why don't you get us started.

Erin:

Well, secretary Glickman, thank you so much for being here today. We're really excited to have you on the show. So, you know, there's just been so much going on in the world today and in the face of the current challenges , what would , well , what would you say one word would describe our farmers and ranchers today?

Dan Glickman:

Well, it's, it's , uh, there was this old saying for every complicated problem, there is a simple and a wrong solution. So there's a kind of a simple and a wrong word, but I would say uncertainty is probably the thing that impacts farmers and because of trade, climate change, COVID public health issues. Um, and so it , we are in uncertain times, it's not all gloom and doom, but uncertainty is certainly there.

Phil:

So Mr. Secretary, what could the government be doing to help these farmers and ranchers?

Dan Glickman:

Well, the government has actually provided a very significant amount of direct assistance as a result of that trade situation with China and as a result of the coven response. And so, you know , uh , the taxpayers, yeah , the billions even tens of billions of dollars into the hands up , most farmers in this country, not all farmers it's tended to skew towards larger farmers, and it's tended to focus more on row crop and , and livestock rather than fruits and vegetables, but that's, that's certainly, you know, beginning to change up . I think that the government can certainly do it's best to keep our markets open. So that trade is not restricted because we have to sell about 40% of everything that we produce here. And the other thing is research is that the government provides a lot of the basic research for agriculture, food and agriculture, and that needs to be expanded research into growing crops, more productively using less water growing crops in a sustainable fashion. The research agenda in agriculture and food is not been going up. In fact, in real terms, it's been going down in recent years. And so those would be two things that I would think we need to do.

Phil:

So let's get back to climate change, which I know is near and dear to your heart. What could should, and are farmers doing to mitigate climate change?

Dan Glickman:

Well, certainly , uh, farmers recognize more and more that this has been a serious problem now for years, I think that there was some concern and skepticism by some farmers that climate change wasn't real and rural and agricultural interests would be suffering because of what folks may be on the coasts would want to do to them to try to, you know, reduce emissions and , and impact their lives. But that is really began begun to change as more and more farmers have recognized that weather , uh , volatile weather and changing climate has impacted their income, that production methods. And so you're seeing a lot more interest in conservation measures, generally water conservation, use of lower amounts of pesticides, herbicides, soil health, and the land grant colleges have also become much more focused on agriculture and you're seeing a lot more interest in sequestering carbon keeping it in the soil rather than having an escape into the air. And , um, and so, so I , I do think the whole newer and younger of farmers has really begun to realize how significant of forest agriculture can be in, in helping to facilitate improvements in climate change problems.

Phil:

So we've, we've come through a couple years and we talked to a lot of farmers who have really had a tough time because of storms because of flooding because of droughts because of fires. I mean, the list goes on. And on what advice would you give to a farmer who comes up to you and says, mr. Secretary, you know, I'm ready to bail on this. This is just really hard work. What would you offer them?

Dan Glickman:

I would, first of all , offer them that if I were looking at a business opportunity in the future, I would look at food and agriculture is kind of a dynamic area that , uh, not only will people always need , uh, these products, but they are, can be profitable as well. You know, there was a movie years ago called the graduate, in which case , uh , Dustin Hoffman was told by, I think it was his perspective . Father-in-law that secret sauce was plastics. And I think we've gotten beyond that, but I think the secret sauce today in large part is food and agriculture and related items to it. So yeah , saying that, what does that mean for farmers? Well, it means is that , uh , farmers are going to have to become more diversified. Monoculture agriculture probably will never be what it was 50 years ago. So diverse farming operations are more and more important , uh , value added parts of agriculture where you not only produce it, but then you process it into the marketplace is going to be another area of great opportunity and lots of farmers using cooperatives and other methods are certainly banding together to do that kind of thing. Um, there's a lot of entrepreneurship in agriculture generally now that we might not have seen 40 or 50 or 60 years ago, that it is true. Farmers are going to have to adapt to lots of change. It's going to be tough, especially as it relates to climate and weather pests, other kinds of disasters, I mean, who would've ever thought this COVID thing would become this massive problem that nobody could have ever anticipated? Um , so that's why talk at the first question was asked about uncertainty, But , um, but I also think there's great opportunity out there , uh , for farmers to become the entrepreneurs of the future And direct marketing, for example, a farm products to consumers. We hadn't seen much of that 30 or four years ago, it's going on like crazy right now, more and more and more , uh, where your , your farmer's markets have become much bigger. So agriculture is got a lot of new things happening to it, And a farmers can make money in this process, but it's to be a different world than it might've been back when I was growing up. So Aaron , so secretary Glickman, you know, one of the things you talked about with a little bit of this uncertainty , um , you know, a year ago when we got a bunch of leaders together in a real , we said now is the time to really step up and start planning to work together on in the next decade. I almost said, you know , we need to be prepared for these uncertain unpredictable times. And yet we saw agriculture. It was an essential of food and ag sector really stepped up really the essential sector, okay . That we saw really meet the crisis. What learnings do you think that we could have from COVID? Well , uh , you know, certainly resilience , uh, being able to accommodate changing circumstances quickly , uh , is one of the things we we've learned, you know, so it depends on where an agriculture you're talking about, but, but certainly for people processing meat and poultry , uh, they're now learning that , uh, you know, maybe this whole series of producing meat and poultry with very fast line speeds using a lot of low wage or immigrant labor that may not be the kind of , uh , systems that we're going to have in the future, or they may need to adapt to a new way of, of doing business , uh , in terms of producing proteins. That's something that perhaps we have learned, we may find the same thing when it comes to certain animal and plant pests and diseases in the future as well, when people were going to have to adapt very quickly. That's why it's so important to have a research budget it's fully funded, both public and private sector. That's okay . Focused on what those crises are that might impact agriculture. And the third thing is nutrition. So I suspect that one of the great trends in the next 10 to 15 years is going to be the relationship between agriculture, food, hello, and nutrition. And , um, it's just going to be, people are going to be a lot more interested in what they eat and how they live longer. And farmers are going to be a part of that equation produce the kinds of foods that will infect, keep people alive longer. So secretary, you mentioned research, you talked about science, what role does technology play for farming in the future? It's a huge role. Um, and you know, it's an interesting, other interesting thing that I've been involved with more collaterally with a bunch of these entrepreneurial startups, some of the hedge funds index investing in agriculture. And , um , I am seeing that more and more of the investment capital in food and agriculture is going into tech firms. Now, whether these are tech firms that have to do with how you apply , uh, fertilizer and , um , spatial technologies , satellite technologies, a lot of, especially in the food sector in terms of how you take a plant and make it more adaptable to weather , um, or a pest using biotechnology , uh , and related technologies too , strengthened production techniques. These, these were not factors 50 years ago or 40 years ago. They are factors today. And the most successful farmers are going to be the ones who adapt so that new world. And when you think about , um, you know, we just changed our name as you know, to U S farmers and ranchers inaction. And one of the things that we think about is how do we celebrate leaders in action and our individual farmers and action. Do you think about the future of this technology potential research decade look like, and what types of actions can we take right now? They can get us on that trajectory. Uh, well I think the future looks good myself. You know, I'm an optimist. Uh that's first of all, it doesn't do you any good to be a pessimist? Oh , you can do is sit around and think about how terrible things are. So, yeah , we've always been able to move out of the depths of problem areas. I think that the whole COVID experience it's going to lead us into changes in how we produce and consume food and the whole supply chain of food it's going to, I think it is for inner innovative farmers. It's going to mean more direct marketing to consumers. Um, and it's , um , um , and that, that has got a foot actual explosive, a opportunity for increasing incomes for farmers . But, you know, the, the downside of this is, is that things move fast and we just have to be prepared the best that we can to deal with with this. And , uh , so that's where the land grant colleges and the other universities are going to have to teach people , uh , not what we learned in 1945, but what we're going to leave need to learn in 2050 in 2020. The other thing I'm saying is, is that a lot of folks used to think agriculture, you know, foods on your table, there was never any problem with it. So why worry about it? But now, you know, this whole COVID thing caused a great enlightenment in terms of the fact people actually are concerned and want to know, are they gonna get their food? How are they gonna get their food? Uh , are farmers strong enough and ranchers to produce this kind of food? What do we need to do to facilitate supply chain so that they don't run out, then they get food at reasonable prices and nutritionally balanced. So, so these are just extraordinary opportunities , uh , if we take advantage of them and if we, again, I'd go back to this point, I keep making over and over again. If we fund a research budget that plans for the future, you know , um , we see this at the NIH, which a lot of in the , in the health and, and disease, you know, we fund that at very high levels. Why, because everybody has family that get a serious disease or illness. And so people are interested in that. They think it affects their lives. We need to maintain that attitude when it comes to food production and agriculture, because it has a remarkably similar impact on the society as a whole

Phil:

Secretary. Thanks so much for joining us. Um, as you point out, you know, this is the first time in most people's lives who are alive today, they've walked into a supermarket and they've seen empty shelves. And that really was a, you know, shocker to many people and got them more interested in food and agriculture than ever before. So thank you for all your great work , uh, over many years and many years to come. And yeah ,

Dan Glickman:

Thank you. Can I, can I make one more point if you don't mind? Okay. One of the great things in food and agriculture policy-wise is there's always been this coalition between farmers and ranchers and people who produce, and then those who need food. And so you, you, this coalition that was started by senators, Bob Dole and George McGovern and moved and Debbie Stabenow and Pat Roberts and , and others, and in the private sector as well to make, to ensure that that we have 40 or 50 million people who are hungry today. And I suspect that's going to continue because I don't think they've Condamine is gonna massively rebound in the future. So we keep these coalition what I , the urban and rural coalition, the coalition between producers of food and consumers of food, and particularly focus on those who are hungry and poor, because that's one of the great benefits Americans , the only country in the world that has this massive food assistance program, we gotta be proud of that. We can make it work better, obviously, but the people who have the most at stake to keep that going, are the farmers and ranchers, because that builds coalitions, political coalitions that are really important for the future of agriculture

Phil:

Well said, great point, Aaron .

Erin:

No, I just want to say thank you for taking the time. Um, you truly are a leader and we love to celebrate leaders in action here. And so thank you for taking, taking the time. And I think making the connection between our food makers, our community and the planet and the future is really well understood. And I appreciate you taking the time

Dan Glickman:

And , and to farmers and ranchers, whatever your new name exactly is. You're doing a really important service because you've been bringing people from all parts of the network , uh, the food and agriculture production network writ large it together, and we really need it .

Erin:

Well, it's time. You know, I think we're going to get , get together again in September. And hopefully it's it's time for, you know, a lot of lessons learned from Covid. And as you had suggested, and we were looking for a leader to step up in action, right. Never before time needed in action and we appreciate it.

Dan Glickman:

Thank you.

Phil:

Thank you. Thanks for listening to today's podcast episode, for more information on all things, food and agriculture, please visit us@usfarmersandranchers.org . Also be sure to look for us on Facebook at us farmers and ranchers or on Twitter at USFRA until next time.