Regardless of the particular sector of the industry in which we engage, each of us is faced with complex issues on a regular basis. Will additional funding improve the quality of youth education programs? Is regulation the only path to environmental protection? Should producers focus on developing local markets or pursue international opportunities?
First, I don’t have the answer to any of the questions above. I may have positions, but not the answers. So, where should I (or you) go to gather enough information to solidify a position or make an informed decision? Is the best route to seek out information confirming how I already feel? Should I seek out differing opinions? Should I rely on one source for all of my information?
During Seminar III, the VALOR fellows were treated to a panel discussion from experts representing the non-profit, government, and private sectors. C. Gordon Thornhill, Jr., President and General Manager of T.K. Exports, Inc, Gary Flory, Agricultural & Water Compliance Manager for the Valley Regional Office, Virginia DEQ, Patrick J. “Pat” Michaels, Director of the Center for the Study of Science, The Cato Institute, and Dennis T. Avery, Director, Center for Global Food Issues and Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute, shared their thoughts on a variety of issues facing the agricultural industry. Topics ranged from innovation in the face of adverse market conditions to developing coalitions to address complex human and animal health issues to challenges related to population growth and understanding climate science.
These gentlemen provided insight on issues that directly or indirectly face every agriculturalist. They also challenged us to ask questions and seek out information from multiple sources when making decisions, advocating on behalf of the industry, and communicating the value of agriculture. Our sincere thanks are extended to our panelists for their time and comments.