This week’s Open Mic Guest is Beth Ford, president and CEO of Land O’Lakes. The nearly century-old company has recently formed a multi-year partnership with Microsoft and has helped to form a new coalition to lobby Washington for increased access to broadband in rural communities. Recognizing a lack of healthcare in rural communities and a lack of investment in technology for schools, Ford says the digital divide isn’t a rural issue, it is an American issue. Ford says Land O’ Lakes is working to provide data-rich insights to help farmers achieve improvements in profitability and sustainability.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Ian Jefferies, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads. The rail industry is enjoying an upswing in shipping volumes with the return of global demand for ag commodities following trade tensions with China and the ill effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jefferies says the industry partnered with agriculture and others in the call for Congress to approve USMCA and is hopeful global trade opportunities will expand. While the rail industry invests billions in its own infrastructure annually, they’re hopeful the incoming Biden administration will bring renewed financial support for the nation’s dilapidated bridges and locks and dams. AAR supports an updated highway bill and believes the rail industry can play a significant role in climate priorities in the 117th Congress.
This week’s Open Mic Guest is USDA Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey. Nearing the end of his tenure as the first FPAC leader, Northey suggests the majority of work on implementing the 2018 farm bill is done as well the heavy lifting for the first two rounds of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program funding for a diverse group of farmers and ranchers across the nation. Ahead, Northey believes Congress should consider some mechanism for ad hoc assistance to be administered through USDA's Commodity Credit Corps. without additional legislative action. Northey believes CCC limits should be addressed in a new farm bill and believes a shift to climate-smart farm programs will include a number of conservation practices farmers are already implementing voluntarily. He says adequate broadband service is still an issue the Biden administration will need to address.
This week’s Open Mic guest is U.S. Representative Jim McGovern. The Massachusetts Congressman is outspoken in support of the millions of Americans that, despite stepped up efforts by Washington and volunteers across the nation, are still food insecure. McGovern is calling on President-Elect Joe Biden to appoint a Hunger Czar to centralize government efforts on food insecurity. McGovern says politicians are the problem because they lack the political will to address systemic issues that lead to the growing hunger issue. On trade, McGovern is hopeful for more diplomacy under the Biden administration in the nation’s trade relationship with China.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Kristin Peck, CEO of Zoetis. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught the world a lot about emerging infectious diseases. Peck says early detection and rapid response are keys to curbing the spread of threatening disease in both humans and animals and public and private collaboration is needed to battle future threats. She says the animal health industry’s growth is prompted by expansion in pet care and by growing consumer demand for milk and meat. Looking ahead, she says innovation in data collection and genetic analysis will lead to healthier animals and more sustainable production.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Chairman Pat Roberts. For four decades, Kansans elected Pat Roberts to represent them in Washington D.C. After serving as chairman and ranking member on the agriculture committees in both chambers and helping write eight different farm bills, the Kansas legislator is hanging up his spurs on the Hill. In this interview, Roberts discusses the challenges he sees in the culture of the Senate, the implications of next month’s Georgia Senate elections, climate change and the Paris Climate accord, and the obstacles ahead for the next farm bill. Roberts is concerned about China’s thirst for power and believes trade is a lever of influence in our relationship with the Communist nation.