The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance was unveiled last November in Kansas City, Mo., during the National Association of Farm Broadcasting Convention. Much has happened in the year since they announced the formation of the group and they have gathered in Kansas City once more to hold their first annual meeting.
"It's a very exciting time when you look back over the past year and just see the big advances that have been made in the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance," said Bart Schott, a farmer from North Dakota who represents the National Corn Growers Association on the board and was elected vice chairman of the USFRA Board of Directors during Monday's board and committee meetings. "It's really exciting to be a part of it and getting through this first day of meetings."
During the meeting the board discussed budget issues for the coming year, heard from public relations firm Ketchum about plans for 2012, and several breakout sessions into committee and task force meetings.
Schott says that what they wanted to do during the first year was get everyone to the table that is in production agriculture. The number of associate members has more than doubled since the launch with more than 59 organizations belonging to USFRA. They also held The Food Dialogues, a series of town hall social media meetings across the country to open a discussion between farmers and consumers.
"Now to follow up on that is to train farmers and ranchers to message with consumers on questions that they have," Schott said. "So that will be part of the 2012 program."
Schott says it's like a training camp to prepare an army of farmers and ranchers to go on social media to address questions and concerns of consumers and learn to be an advocate for farming practices.
"We've come a long way and we've got a long way to go but we are making a difference through social media with engaging the consumers in a dialogue and a conversation," Schott said. "This good food/bad food debate is not going to go away and the consumers want to ask questions. To have an open dialogue with consumers is going to be very important in this movement we have today."
The USFRA Annual Meeting continues Tuesday with several general sessions. Check back for more coverage. To listen to the complete conversation with Bart Schott following the first day of the meeting, use the audio player on this page.