Farm Food Facts

How the Transformative Investment Project Can Impact the Future of Food and Agriculture

September 02, 2020 USFRA Episode 89
Farm Food Facts
How the Transformative Investment Project Can Impact the Future of Food and Agriculture
Chapters
Farm Food Facts
How the Transformative Investment Project Can Impact the Future of Food and Agriculture
Sep 02, 2020 Episode 89
USFRA

Today is all about the future of food and agriculture. 

Our guests are Ramsay Huntley, and Andy Fabin.

Ramsay Huntley is the sustainable finance strategist for Wells Fargo, a member of the sustainability and corporate responsibility leadership team. He oversees the development and execution of Wells Fargo sustainable finance strategy. He works with business partners across the bank to develop new opportunities that support Wells Fargo is $200 billion sustainable finance commitment and position the bank to lead the transition to a low carbon economy. He also has the responsibility for the bank's clean tech philanthropy programs, including the award winning Wells Fargo innovation incubator in conjunction with the national renewable energy laboratory.

Andy Fabin is part of the multigenerational family owned and operated Fabin brothers farms in Indiana, Pennsylvania. Fabin brothers farms specializes in soybean processing, crop production, cow calf operations, as well as commodity buying and marketing. He's a member of the Bedford farm Bureau club's board of directors, the Pennsylvania soybean board, the Pennsylvania Cattleman's association, the beef quality assurance, Pennsylvania beef council, Indiana County farm Bureau and Pennsylvania farm Bureau is young farmer and rancher committee

Show Notes Transcript

Today is all about the future of food and agriculture. 

Our guests are Ramsay Huntley, and Andy Fabin.

Ramsay Huntley is the sustainable finance strategist for Wells Fargo, a member of the sustainability and corporate responsibility leadership team. He oversees the development and execution of Wells Fargo sustainable finance strategy. He works with business partners across the bank to develop new opportunities that support Wells Fargo is $200 billion sustainable finance commitment and position the bank to lead the transition to a low carbon economy. He also has the responsibility for the bank's clean tech philanthropy programs, including the award winning Wells Fargo innovation incubator in conjunction with the national renewable energy laboratory.

Andy Fabin is part of the multigenerational family owned and operated Fabin brothers farms in Indiana, Pennsylvania. Fabin brothers farms specializes in soybean processing, crop production, cow calf operations, as well as commodity buying and marketing. He's a member of the Bedford farm Bureau club's board of directors, the Pennsylvania soybean board, the Pennsylvania Cattleman's association, the beef quality assurance, Pennsylvania beef council, Indiana County farm Bureau and Pennsylvania farm Bureau is young farmer and rancher committee

Phil:

US Farmers and Ranchers in action would like to recognize the sponsors of the 2020 Honor The Harvest forum . Welcome to the U S Farmers and Ranchers in action weekly video podcast for Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020. I'm your host, Phil Lempert. Today, It's all about the future of food and agriculture. Our guests are Ramsay Huntley, and Andy Fabin. Ramsey is the sustainable finance strategist for Wells Fargo, a member of the sustainability and corporate responsibility leadership team. He oversees the development and execution of Wells Fargo sustainable finance strategy. He works with business partners across the bank to develop new opportunities that support Wells Fargo is $200 billion sustainable finance commitment and position the bank to lead the transition to a low carbon economy. He also has the responsibility for the bank's clean tech philanthropy programs, including the award winning Wells Fargo innovation incubator in conjunction with the national renewable energy laboratory. Andy is part of the multigenerational family owned and operated Fabin brothers farms in Indiana, Pennsylvania. Fabin brothers farms specializes in soybean processing, crop production, cow calf operations, as well as commodity buying and marketing. He's a member of the Bedford farm Bureau club's board of directors, the Pennsylvania soybean board, the Pennsylvania Cattleman's association, the beef quality assurance, Pennsylvania beef council, Indiana County farm Bureau and Pennsylvania farm Bureau is young farmer and rancher committee. Andy and Ramsay. Welcome to Farm Food Facts.

Ramsay:

Thanks, Phil. Great to be here.

Andy:

Thanks for having me.

Phil:

Uh , the topic is how the transformative investment project can impact the future of food and agriculture Ramsey. Let's get started and give us the definition. What exactly is the transformative investment project?

Ramsay:

Sure, certainly I'm speaking on behalf of myself and Wells Fargo. We're excited to participate in the transformative investment project. And what it's focused on is what does it take to drive forward the next decade of investment into the agricultural community here in the United States, but in particular focus on how do we think about solutions that can support climate smart agriculture? And I think what's really exciting about what we're trying to do with the transformative investment project is to really bring a lot of different partners like Andy and many others to the table. So to think about what's the solutions here could be. And I think it's a unique opportunity given that finance like myself, farmers and love and other participants throughout the whole ag value chain at the table here with us. So really excited to be part of it.

Phil:

So Andy, we've heard from a lot of farmers, even pre COVID-19 , um , that they've been struggling financially, that has been tough. Uh, the past couple of seasons , uh, just hasn't given the crop yields that people have hoped for. Um, what are you finding in Pennsylvania?

Andy:

Well , like you said , it's been a rough go here, especially since we've been looking at, this is probably our third year of , you know , some prime crops. The last two years we were exceptionally wet and this year we were dealt a pretty far below when it came to drought as well. So , um , the month of August or first rain was three days ago. So , um , that's pretty dry for Pennsylvania. A lot of field crops here in Pennsylvania, really worried about, you know, making enough to get through, to next harvest for their dairy herds . There's just a lot of , a lot of worry right now. And then you throw that on, you know , global food prices and global trade issues that we've been seeing. It just compounds the problems.

Phil:

So Ramsay, the, the transformative investment project is a big project over many years. What are you doing? What is Wells Fargo doing to help folks farmers like Andy today to get through these kinds of issues? Um, and , and it's great for us to talk about, you know, 10 years from now, 20 years from now , um, that, you know, climate change is going to be eradicated and everything we're going to do, but these guys and gals are struggling right now. How can this project help them?

Ramsay:

Sure. Well, when we gather with the many constituents at the table, for the things that we're talking about, are you , what are solutions that can bring additional economic benefit onto the farm? And we've heard loud and clear from our former Metro partners that they're looking for a additional economic incentive and Andy and description of what you just heard there along with what we've heard from other producers and operators in the field. That's very consistent that there's a need today. And so one of the opportunities that is under consideration through the transformative investment project is how can farmers and ranchers be compensated for additional benefits that they're bringing through their stewardship of their land. For instance, there's been quite a bit of conversation around the carbon credit markets. What are the ecosystem services that farmers and ranchers are? Um, you know , they're , they're producing today, but may not be valued , um , accordingly , uh , in the market. So I think that's one of the areas that's quite interesting for consideration here, an area where we, and I think other corporations have seen a rapid uptake, frankly, even just in the last , uh , few months or a year or two year , um, where there's been a lot of interest in, how do we better compensate , um, you know , our agricultural community for those benefits that , uh , we're all ultimately going to enjoy. So that's just one example that's potentially out there.

Phil:

So Andy, you know, you talk about , uh, the global markets , um, what are, what is the state of the global markets right now?

Andy:

We're seeing improvements, I guess I'm not a global economist, but I'm hearing some positive signs from our trade partners around the world. And we've been working on , on this issue for the last two years of developing new markets with countries. We haven't done a lot of trade with in the past, but they are shaping up to be good trade partners. And I think that going forward, we will have made some inroads around the world so that we're not so reliant on the gorillas

Phil:

And Ramsay. What are you seeing globally ,

Ramsay:

Certainly I would say, you know , my experience tracks with what Andy just described as well. And, you know, I think we're , uh, you know , paying attention to , uh , certainly the issues they , and he was talking about earlier. You know , there are clearly significant weather related issues this year. Um, you know, I think we've all seen the news of late of the direct show in Iowa, for instance , um, you know, the , certainly any, you know , mentioned the , the issue and the lack of rain even in his area. So I think that is front and center, our own consideration here, as well as what are the implications , uh , you're related to , uh , to weather this year and frankly, what are the implications for that as we continue for where , uh, it certainly seems like you have a sense of normal, if you will, perhaps is a little less , uh , within the bands of normalcy that we perhaps and used to in the past.

Phil:

So, Andy , um , obviously you're very active in Pennsylvania agriculture. Um, what we've seen in during the pandemic is a lot of retailers, a lot of supermarkets actually reaching out , uh, directly to farmers and to ranchers, to secure a source of supply. I mean, for the first time in our lives, we walked into supermarkets and we saw empty shelves and that is freaked out a lot of people, a lot of consumers, especially in the meat case. So , um, what are you seeing with that relationship? Are we going to see, you know, supermarkets working much more locally than we've ever seen before?

Andy:

You know, I think so. Um, the American public has been just so you know, I guess myself included, we just take everything for granted. Um, but the complexity of our, our food system and our supply chain has been exposed to the public. Um, you know, it's very complex. There are a lot of moving parts, you know, you just go out to lunch and get a cheeseburger. And, you know, there are dozens of companies involved in a simple cheeseburger from the meat and cheese, the bread , the potatoes for the fries, the ketchup , everything. Um, so I think that has been brought to light to the American consumer. Um, you know, like you had mentioned, this is the first time that that has been, their confidence has been shaken , um, not to any one person's fault, but when something like this occurs, we weren't ready, we weren't prepared. And , um, you know, but when you can skip a few steps in that supply chain, I think it simplifies the process and people have a lot more access to their food and feel a little more secure with it.

Phil:

I interviewed a farmer, I believe it's a husband and wife, I want to say North Dakota. Um, and they also have have cattle. And what we're seeing , um , is they had to drive the cows, you know, four or five hours to have them slaughtered and they had to make an appointment , uh, you know, months ahead in order to do that. Are you seeing that in Pennsylvania as well?

Andy:

Yeah. I've heard of stories like that. Yes. We have not seen that here locally. Um, because Pennsylvania we've been blessed for decades with , um, what really dozens and dozens of small Packers. Um, we're not as reliant on the large packing companies here in Pennsylvania, but I guess that is , um , you know, certainly been, been highlighted here locally as well.

Phil:

So it looks like Pennsylvania is the right model for, for the future. Uh , because yeah, because now we're just saying that a lot of these meat packing plants , um, are still 20, 30, 40% capacity. Uh, they're talking about having to make, you know , huge investments , um, you know, going to , to folks like Ramsey and begging for money because they've got to go either all robotic or they've got a distance and, you know, their factories were built to do as much as they can as cheap as they can. Um , and that model to your point, just hasn't really worked and, you know, for, for consumers to be exposed to this , um , in a way I would argue that it's a good thing that they understand how complicated it is. Um, on the other hand, I would say it might be a bad thing because now they're looking at it and saying, Whoa, you know, this the way I'm getting that cheeseburger just is way too complicated. What do you think Ramsey?

Ramsay:

Well feel, you know, to tie that back to the transformative investment work. One of the things that's really important to this work , uh , is the data that underpins not just any one form what's happening in one community, but really across that whole value chain. And so when we think about transformative investment, we're thinking about the technologies that can ultimately tell that consumer more about the product they're consuming. But I think the intermediate point that is perhaps more salient to the bond community is how can we use that additional information. Um , as I said earlier, such that Andy and other farmers can ultimately accrue additional economic benefit. So if we know more about , uh , what's happening , uh , in the system, the benefits that are associated with that, not only can we potentially find a way to add value, you know , at the farm, there's also value add for the consumer there, because that information is valuable to say, here's how your, your cheeseburger, your wheat, whatever the product might be what's produced. And here are the benefits that were associated with that, that perhaps you weren't aware of otherwise. But now thanks to a project like this, we have information that helps to bring those stories to life. And I think when we think about what's happening in the CPG space, you know, that idea of bringing stories to life is incredibly important to that conversation.

Phil:

So Ramsay, if you have to look in your crystal ball five years from now, what does agriculture look like?

Ramsay:

If I had a crystal ball that was really that good, I'd probably have a different career maybe directly on wall street. Right? But I think if we think about what the future holds that idea of more information rather than less is absolutely the trajectory that we're all in . That was true this time last year. I think if you reflect on what we saw this year on the supermarket aisle, throughout the value chain, that will continue to be the case. And I think what you're also going to see is a significant increase in atrium that's underway now, which is the commitment to sustainability with the large food and Bev companies. And if you follow that thread backwards through the value chain, I think that has some real positive benefits. And that's where a project like the transformative investment work can be . I think ultimately really valuable, not just to the farm community, but really to all of us.

Phil:

So Andy look in your crystal ball five years, what does it look like?

Andy:

No , I think we're going to keep forging ahead with the American farmer always work towards becoming more and more sustainable and you know, it's not going to change that fundamentally. We're going to keep doing what we can to be the most sustainable , um, you know, producers that we know how to be, and we're going to learn every year, how to be better. So I think we're just gonna keep on keeping on as producers, hopefully , um, you know, with the awareness from the American consumer, we can just be more, I guess, transparent about how we do things. You know, it just seems like we've never really had many questions about, you know, our practices in the past. Um, maybe from the vocal minority, if you will. But I think that the minority is going to be the majority. So I think I'm very optimistic about agriculture. I think to be a farmer, you've gotta be an eternal optimist, you know, I think we're just gonna keep on keeping on and, you know, keep learning every year we get better. So, Andy , how do you feel about consumers asking more questions and demanding answers? Um , actually , uh , you know, it couldn't be prouder really because we always have a good answer for why we do the things we do. Um, you know, our practices are backed by science and history, both. So , um, you know, I , I'm not afraid of questions and, you know, just to, just to wrap up , um, and I'm going to ask you both the same question , so, so you'll get a heads up, but I'm going to start with Andy . Um , what do you want from Ramsey ? When do you want him to do for agriculture and for you? You know, probably this is just thinking personally because I am a young farmer. Um, you know , we're working in today, but we are also working for tomorrow in agriculture. You know, this is not a short term business that we're in. We don't pop in and pop out to make a quick buck. Um, my grandfather farmed this land, my father farmed it. Um, some day I hope my children and grandchildren farm it. And , um, you know, that's what I'm looking for. I'm looking for, you know, investment in capital for the long term . I'm looking for a partner that is willing to grow with me as , uh , as a businessman.

Phil:

And Ramsay. What do you want from Andy?

Ramsay:

I'll pick up on Andy's point there? I think build on exactly what he's saying. So Wells Fargo now has been around on nearly 200 years and that legacy and that commitment is built on longterm high value relationships. So when I think about the sort of relationships that we have with farmers like Andy, I think the more that we can do to understand where their needs are and the information that they need from us and vice versa that helps both of us make better decisions. And I think we have a real opportunity here to work with leaders like Andy , to then take that out to the market. So I think what I need from him is for him to continue to raise his voice on what's working for them and let us help to amplify that from where we sit and bring that out to farmers, producers, and really throughout the entire value chain. And ultimately, like I said, let's tell that story even more positively and shine as bright of light on that as we can. So I think the partnership here is fundamental to who we are going forward .

Phil:

Well, I want to thank both of you for joining us today. Um, you're both optimistic. You're both great. Keep up the good work and , um, you know, Andy, I'm going to pray for good weather for you guys, you know, no matter, no matter where the farm is in the world.

Andy:

That's right . That's one thing we can't control.

Phil:

No, we can't. Thanks for joining us today on Farm Food Facts.

Ramsay:

Thank you Phil.

Phil:

US Farmers and Ranchers in action would like to recognize the sponsors of the 2020 honor. The harvest form or movement sponsors, United soybean board and national pork board. Our presenting sponsors, Wells Fargo and Cargil. Our gold sponsors, Bayer, Dairy West, Nebraska soybean board, McDonald's, Nutrien and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. Our bronze sponsors, Purina and Ernst & Young, our youth sponsor Ruan and our donor sponsor Tyson. For more on all things, food and agriculture. Please visit [email protected] Also be sure to look out for us on Facebook at us farmers and ranchers and on Twitter at USFRA until next time.