Friday, March 22, 2013

Agricultural Advocacy Conference Press Release

"Cultivating the capacity to innovate and communicate through agricultural advocacy."

 Farmers Fight Agriculture Advocacy Conference Welcomes Distinguished Guests to Texas A&M Campus

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS―Over 300 Texas A&M University students welcomed keynote speakers to the College Station campus for the Farmers Fight Agricultural Advocacy Conference March 20. Todd Staples ‘84, Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Forrest Roberts ‘92, Chief Executive Officer of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Don Heller ’83, Partner in Ag Crop Insurance Agency, returned to their alma mater to charge young agricultural advocates to keep the industry alive and thriving.
The group was welcomed by the College of Agriculture and Life Science’s Associate Dean for Student Development, Chris Skaggs, Ph.D., who encouraged Farmers Fight members to make a difference in the world of agriculture.
Commissioner Staples discussed the vitality of agriculture to Texas and entire nation, while also encouraging advocates to be mindful of the consumers’ wants and needs.
“The consumer is king,” Commissioner Staples said. “If we lose sight of that, we are out of business.”
Commissioner Staples also pointed out other challenges faced by farmers and ranchers, including weather and politics. He went on to emphasize the importance of leadership and responsibility when advocating for agriculture.
“We have to be accountable for our own actions,” Commissioner Staples said. “You have the opportunity to be advocates for agriculture every day. We have to be a voice and fight for what we believe in.”
Roberts touched on a number of factors influencing the past, present and future of agricultural advocacy. He emphasized the importance of gaining trust and engaging in dialogue in order to bring out the transparency consumers demand in agriculture.
“We have to use a method or application that is not talking at, but talking with,” Roberts said. “Do everything you can with everything you have and learn from it.”
Heller informed the body about the basics of crop insurance and how he became involved in that sector of agriculture. He referred to food and crop production as an issue of national security and asked that advocates recognize the necessity of compromise in all of their pursuits.
“If we fail to educate and have discussion … if we fail to advocate … if voters and consumers listen to the wrong voices, then we fail in our effort to produce and feed the world,” Heller said. “You have a calling and I cannot think of a profession that does a better job of serving than feeding your neighbor.”
The conference concluded with Yell Practice led by Hunter Cook ‘14 and Ryan Crawford ‘14, Fightin’ Texas Aggie Yell Leaders.
Kasey Kram ’15 and Heston Heller ’15, Farmers Fight Lead Advocates responsible for planning the conference were excited to see a successful outcome of the event they began preparing for in August.
“The Farmers Fight Conference is important because behind every movement in history is a solid knowledge base,” Kram said. “I believe that this conference educates our advocates to be better prepared to go out and speak about the positive benefits of agriculture.”
They are looking forward to future Farmers Fight events.
“With the average American nearly four generations removed from agriculture, it is important to inform people just where their food comes from,” Heston Heller said. “I am extremely excited that we have the opportunity to do just that on this campus with Farmers Fight.”
Farmers Fight was born in 2011 when students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M became upset about articles published in their campus newspaper and that negatively portrayed the agriculture industry. Students were convinced that it was necessary to stand up for agriculture in a way that the public could easily understand. Through community and campus outreach events, social media campaigns and representation at a number of prestigious conferences over the past year and a half, the group has grown tremendously while keeping the mission and vision of its foundation at heart.
“Nine billion people by 2050,” Farmers Fight President Mason Parish said. “People are why advocacy is important. It is our job to come together and stand together to meet the goal of feeding the world.”
Farmers Fight will host its second Coloring Book Campaign in the Bryan-College Station area April 8-10 and will, once again, “take over” the Texas A&M University campus during Campus Connection Day, April 11, when students, staff, faculty, administration and passersby can “Get the 4-1-1 on Agriculture.”
For more information on Farmers Fight, visit their Facebook page at or their blog at

Friday, March 8, 2013

Guest Blogger: A Farm Wife

As a young girl playing with dolls I never imagined manure would be a consuming issue in my life. 

I was raised on the East side of Michigan and my dad worked at Fisher Body. He was home every day by 3:30 PM, had each weekend off and we would go to the cottage every year as a family for vacation.

In June of 1971, I graduated and walked down the church aisle in September, right onto the farm in West Michigan.

The honeymoon stage of farm life lasted a while. I learned side-by-side with my father-in-law, who was 2nd generation on the family farm. His vintage tales of using a horse and plow helped me to fall in love with the farm. But not before a falling-out-of grace with farm life.

All the rules I had been raised with were out the window. Dinner as a family happened only on Sunday afternoons after church. Farmer would leave early every morning and not come home until late at night. I became frustrated, anxious and resentful. I was home, raising four boys on my own, and not involved with the farm. I had all I could handle keeping our home standing and the boys fed and clothed.

As our sons grew older we all became more involved with the farm. In the winter, we would carry milk up to the calves, warm liquid splashing the all over our pant legs. By the time we got home, we were walking tin men in need of oil. The pant legs would be frozen stiff and our coveralls could stand up by themselves in the mud room to thaw out.

Slowly, I took over the lawn maintenance and flower planting and gradually I relieved Farmer from bookkeeping. I now drive tractor when needed, and I am the glorified “go-fer”. I go for whatever is needed, and deliver food and people to various places. One nice thing is that it’s it easier for me to find my car in the parking lot of the mall. It’s the only one with a corn stalk or wad of hay hanging from the bumper.

When Farmer and I were first married we milked 125 in a 4-stall herringbone. 

Throughout the years, at times, we’ve had to pick and choose which bills would be paid as the milk prices have fluctuated as much as a post-menopausal woman. Then, add in the droughts, too much rain, bugs and whatever else came our way. 

Now we have 1500 cows and milk 700 three times a day in a double 12 herringbone. We employ 18, which includes three of the four sons. The parlor milks 23 hours a day. 
We use AI and some sexed semen and have just started using genetic markering.

We own 800 acres and rent another 200, raising corn and alfalfa.
Our feed is kept in Harvestores and we have a couple cement silos as well.

We store our manure in two Harvestore Slurrystores. Which brings me back to the manure. There’s a whole lot of it with that many cows.
We qualified to be Environmentally Verified with MAEAP, which was no small thing. It took a lot of work. 

Our Excellence Award from our milk coop was bumped up to Superior this year.
Because of our number of cows, we are now labeled as a CAFO farm and have strict regulations we have to meet. When I hear the media and uninformed people talk about the awful factory farms, I get angry and frustrated, and my passion for the truth rises.

I started to blog ( so I can do my part in getting a real picture of agriculture out there. I want to show the good, the bad and the ugly of farming, and connect people to the milk they drink. My goal is to create an emotional tie to the farm for those reading, and draw-in all walks of life. My blog covers the technical side of farming, but includes much more than that, such as photography, recipes, humor (and farming offers plenty of fodder for humor!)

I have a 5 – 10 minute spot each Wednesday morning on WHTC-1450, a talk-radio station based out of Holland, Michigan. It’s called “Random Ramblings of. . .” where I talk about farm issues – fun, technical and randomness. I want the public to associate a hard-working farmer behind the gallon of milk they pick up from the gas station. I want them to realize a real live person is behind the cotton T-shirt they pull on in the morning. I also share how we’ve improved as farmers. How we take better care of the land, use less water, etc. The station covers all of west and southwest Michigan and is live on –line at  I also have the radio program podcasts listed on my blog.

Last year 300+ toured the farm. My daughter-in-law hosts preschoolers and I have various groups that come through each year. We end the tour with milk and cookies.

Our goal on the farm is to strive for excellence. The land and the critters belong to God and we are doing our best to care for them.
Farmer is third generation making our sons fourth generation. Our biggest challenge now - other than the day-to-day operation - is farm succession. We are trying to pass on what Farmer’s dad and Farmer worked so hard to create.

I have a hard time expressing my love of the land and for my BEBs (brown eyed bossies). While the start of my farm experience was a bit rocky, I would not change where I am for anything in the world. 
Blog contributed by: Diane Loew of "A Farm Wife"

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Climate and Coffee Rust Disease outbreak in Central American countries

Originally posted HERE. 
Many coffee farmers across Central America will not turn a profit in 2013 and some will even go out of business due largely to the near-epidemic levels of coffee rust disease occurring across the growing regions.

“Poor harvests and low market prices this year will deal a lethal blow to many marginal coffee farmers,” said Dr. Tim Schilling, Executive Director of WCR, World Coffee Research, at the Borlaug Institute of International Agriculture at Texas A&M University.

Total production of high-altitude, and thus high-quality, arabica coffee from Central America will be reduced significantly.  About 20% of all Central American coffee production due to rust and other diseases will be affected in this coffee cycle. The Guatemalan Coffee Board, ANACAFE, estimates that production in Guatemala will be significantly affected due to this year’s rust outbreak.

“Due to unusually high rainfalls at high altitude this year, the coffee rust disease has wreaked havoc on arabica coffee yields all across Central America,” Schilling said.

Meanwhile, Ric Rhinehart, Executive Director of SCAA, the Specialty Coffee Association of America, says “This is especially worrisome for the U.S. Specialty market that sources its beans from the small, high altitude farms in Central America.”

Hemileia vastatrix, or coffee rust, causes some damage in any year but can be devastating when conditions are especially favorable for its rapid growth.

“This year turns out to be just that…the perfect storm for coffee rust in Central America,” said Dr. Benoit Bertrand, coffee breeder from CIRAD, the French development agency that works with tropical crops.

High rust spore populations were left on the ground from last year and heavy rainfall allowed rust disease to multiply and rapidly attack coffee plant leaves, reducing physiological activity and thus the plant’s ability to produce.

“Those scenarios made this year’s rust attack particularly devastating”, Bertrand said. “In some cases, coffee bushes have lost all their leaves, branches have withered completely to the extent of sometimes killing off the entire tree.”

Many stakeholders in the coffee sector have wondered whether the severe outbreak of rust this year was due to a virulent ‘mutant’ race.  But work by CENICAFE scientists in Colombia proves that theory invalid.

“This year’s rust outbreak is not a new strain of the disease, but the same ‘RACE II’ of H. vastatrix commonly associated with rust damage in coffee around the world,” Bertrand said. “The outbreak can be credited to this year’s high continued rainfall.”

Schilling says it is likely that, “wild and extreme climate events like this will continue and cause more problems as time goes on.  We simply must invest in research to provide solutions to farmers while governments and the UN try to fix the global climate crisis.”

Most Central American coffee countries have already harvested this year’s crop while others continue to harvest. As such, the damage is done.  Farmers, governments and development agencies now pose a question as to how coffee rust disasters like that of Central America can be avoided in the future.  One of the surest short-term protection actions involves the application of a systemic fungicide to the coffee plant before the disease damages the plant.  Dose, timing and frequency depend on local conditions and recommendations. It is important to start the application with the first rains.

“Although the application of fungicides can be effective in the short term”, Bertrand says, “it is nevertheless expensive, laborious, and environmentally unsound”.

The best way to protect against rust in the medium and longer terms is through the use of a resistant variety of coffee.  The good news is that resistant varieties do exist and even some of the new F1 Hybrids from different sources possess rust resistance combined with other desirable agronomic traits.

The bad news Schilling says “is that the resistance to rust of nearly all available varieties is specific for only RACE II of the disease and that the resistant genes come from the robusta coffee species, a lesser quality species than arabica. For the quality coffee market, this is not the best of news.”

Not only are many of these varieties of inferior quality when compared to their arabica parents but, as the resistances come from a genetically very narrow source of robusta, when the disease produces a mutation, the world’s coffee varieties will be susceptible and what happened in 2012-2013 will be far worse with far greater world coffee production repercussions.

Fortunately, WCR, working together with PROMECAFE, CATIE, CIRAD and national coffee research institutes like CENICAFE, EMBRAPA and others are in the process of developing new pre-breeding populations that will possess more than 10 times the level of genetic diversity used to produce today’s coffee varieties.  It is expected that the increased diversity will result in new rust resistance genes with arabica backgrounds and thus high quality.

“We’re confident that the work we’re doing together with the excellent work of the national programs in Colombia, Brazil, Kenya and PROMECAFE will alleviate the problem,” Schilling said. “WCR is working together right now with these institutions and NGO’s like FTUSA and other stakeholders to organize an emergency conference to figure out what to do to control and prevent rust in the short, medium and long terms in a coordinated and sustainable way.”

Blog Contributed by: Hannah Booth

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Good Morning Agriculture

At Texas A&M University we have a time-honored tradition that comes in handy in front of any audience. A room full of chatty, loud aggies can be instantaneously brought to focus with one booming word. “Howdy,” shouts the speaker and in the blink of an eye the entire room shouts back in unison, “Howdy!” The task is done. Every pair of Aggie eyes and ears is focused on the one person at the front of the room, waiting for what the speaker has to share. It’s incredible that one little word can capture the attention of a large group of students.

Fellow Aggies, it’s time to give the world a “Howdy” loud and clear. It is time for the world to know what the agriculture industry and its members are really about. It is time to shout, “Good Morning Agriculture!” Let’s all wake up and tell our story. We need to spread the word that agriculturalists are the true providers and stewards of the world. People often are misinformed or don’t have the knowledge they need to understand what we do and why we do it.

As a group of AgVocates we need to focus on being more proactive than reactive. Education is the key to harmony for agriculture. The majority of people who oppose our practices so fiercely are often times those who simply don’t know. All of us should aim to educate as opposed to immediately condemning their ideas of what agriculture truly is.

The Farmers Fight organization has deemed the theme of their second annual Farmers Fight day on campus “Giving the 4-1-1 on Agriculture”. In conjunction with their theme, the members of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Student Council have decided to promote agriculture as well as the Farmers Fight movement by producing a series of informative videos leading up to the day of Farmers Fight on campus.

However, this cannot be done without you. We want to know what topics you would choose to educate the public on. What area of agriculture are you the most passionate about and what does the general public need to realize about that area? The Council wants to know what the students of Texas A&M want the world to understand. This is your chance to choose what you want put on the table to be shared with the public. To submit your ideas and thoughts for these videos please send them via email to

United as a group of passionate advocates of agriculture, we can capture the public’s attention. Together lets shout “Howdy” and let our voices be heard not only at Texas A&M but around the world.

Blog contributed by: Chloe Geye

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Year of the Farmer

April 12, 2012 was a date that young agricultural enthusiasts across Texas A&M University’s campus will never forget. It was the day that launched the now-renowned Farmers Fight, a group of passionate students on a mission to make a difference and share their agricultural story. While our campus connection and community outreach events were successful and a few of our social media efforts even went viral, those of us involved knew that this was only the beginning.

Since April, hundreds of advocates have been diligently planning to continue and grow Farmers Fight. By adding new dimensions to the movement such as the National Advocate Conference (coming to College Station October 2013) and through continuous networking with industry professionals at events like the NCBA Convention, visibility of our efforts and mission have spread across the nation. We remain united by a love and appreciation for agriculture and a desire to educate the public on the role this industry plays in everyone’s life.

And so a new year has begun. A year that offers promise to agriculturalists for a brighter future. A year that has even been dubbed “The Year of the Farmer” by National FFA, Ram Trucks and Case IH. This is the year to make an even bigger, bolder and broader impact on the world as we advocate agriculture.

Together, we will help the public “Get the 4-1-1 on Agriculture.” Now, you might already know this, but Farmers Fight will be at it again to promote agriculture on the Texas A&M University campus, this time on April 11, 2013.

We are excited for what is yet to come for Farmers Fight and, as always, we are open to suggestions and welcome new advocates with open arms. As Margaret Mead once said, “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”  

Students interested in getting involved with Farmers Fight are encouraged to attend the general advocate meeting on Wednesday, February 17, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. in AGLS 115. For questions, please e-mail
Blog Contributed By: Mollie Lastovica, Farmers Fight Communications Lead Advocate

Thursday, August 9, 2012

ALEC Aggie Reps ‘12

The Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications (ALEC) Aggie Reps main responsibility is to meet with prospective students and their families at different recruiting events in order to tell them more about our department and our four majors. Besides recruiting, Aggie Reps focus on improving faculty-student relations and creating a positive image of our department across campus and the community. The ALEC Aggie Reps, like many other student organizations, choose to participate in service events that fuel our passions. Farmers Fight is appealing to students in our organization because we understand that we are the voice of agriculture. Our four majors produce journalists, broadcasters, teachers, salesman, marketing and advertising professionals, as well as graduates with countless other proficiencies and interests.

Due to the wide range of professions ALEC graduates seek, the Aggie Reps understand our need for AgVocacy! Why wouldn’t we embark on this opportunity to educate those around us? We are sending graduates to countless career fields all over the state of Texas, the United States, and some even begin their “real world” lives in countries on complete opposite ends of the world. It is up to us to tell the story of agriculture. Even if our students have no former background in agriculture, they understand the importance of producing safe, nutritious food for the world, committing to technological advances, and the economic value of agriculture, conserving natural resources, and educating the general public about various sectors of agriculture. As our world’s population increases, our farms and ranch land decrease – this is not just a danger to our food supply; this is a danger to our daily lives and to our well being.

The ALEC Aggie Reps Farmers Fight AgVocacy Team feels that it is important that those with no former background in agriculture understand how we are all “connected” to agriculture and the hard work of ranchers and farmers. Our most basic needs can be traced back to the cotton fields of Texas or the dairy farms of California. Our desire to enjoy nature and our natural resources is also directly tied to the efforts of agriculturists understanding the importance of sustainability throughout America and the world.

Our challenge to you as a consumer is to document your every action in a single day and attempt to find just ONE thing that does not tie back to agricultural efforts. If you have questions about a product or action, feel free to leave a comment. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

FAST believes in AgVocacy

Future Agriculture Science Teachers, FAST, is an organization that prepares students with a planned career in teaching Agricultural Science for their future. Through many social events and leadership opportunities, members gain social skills and networking ability. FAST members can participate in Texas FFA judging contests such as Dairy, Horticulture, Ag Mechanics, and many more to gain knowledge on how the events are organized.

FAST believes AgVocacy is greatly needed and is relevant to this organization because the members are the next generation of Agriculture leaders for students in FFA. FAST members have the opportunity to influence kids to take a stand and represent Agriculture through the way that we teach, act, and represent our FFA Chapters in our future careers. We have the unique opportunity to be directly involved in kids’ lives and to inspire each and every one of them to become an AgVocate and to be involved in Agriculture. Through our participation in Farmers Fight on April 12, 2012, we believe we inspired people on campus to rethink what has been heard by false sources about Agriculture and instead think about how much Agriculture affects every one’s life. At our booth, our theme was “ARE YOU SMARTER THAN AN AG STUDENT?” which was inspired by the T.V. show “ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A 5TH GRADER?” We would ask people passing by to play in which we would ask them an Agriculture related question and participants received candy with an Ag Fact taped on the candy. Participants that got their questions right recieved the satisfaction of knowing that they are smarter than an Ag student for that day. Whether you are smarter than an Ag student or not, we all have a greater challenge ahead of us in feeding a world with an ever growing population. So “Stand Up” and become an AgVocate and do your part to protect the need that affects everyone which is Agriculture.

Blog writer: Tanner Kilpatrick