Sit down with Mark Henderson and he gets right to the point. There are grave challenges facing agriculture, because there are organized groups who have a different concept of what agriculture ought to be like on their agenda. But don't expect Henderson to cower to this pressure. He believes farmers have an unbelievable story to tell. What needs to happen now is they need to start telling it to the public, he insists.
Henderson is executive director of the Indiana Soybean Alliance, Indiana Corn Marketing Council and Indiana Corn Growers Association. He's wrapping up one year on the job, and recalls what brought him out of partial retirement to take on this challenge. He previously was a researcher with Dow AgroSciences.
"It's a great opportunity to tell agriculture's story," he says. "What a story we have to tell!
Henderson doesn't have a problem with farmers growing livestock to sell as meat or vegetables for local direct markets. He believes it's a different thing, however, when various groups imply and even push for all of agriculture to go that direction. "They're pushing agriculture the wrong direction," he says. "Some of those people never turn on organic farmers if they think their operations are too large."
Even some fo the initiatives coming out of USDA recently have been slanted heavily toward local food production and development of local markets. There's a large difference between providing products to meet someone's personal preference who ahs the money to afford it, and reversing the direction of agriculture.
"Agriculture does everything it does today on less energy, less labor, less fertilizer inputs than ever before. And at the same time we're taking better care of the environment. That's a great story. It just needs to be told."
Henderson also believes ethanol produced form corn ahs gotten a bad rap. The darling for just a short time, suddenly everyone seems enthralled with cellulosic ethanol, he notes. But currently it's a concept, hardly an up and going production system. USDA offers programs through FSA offices for producers to get cost-share for delivering cellulosic ethanol to processing plants. There's just one problem- there's only one approved processor in Indiana, and it's for wood products.
The groups Henderson works with are doing what they can to get the true message about agriculture out to the public, he notes. Look for new promotional and educational efforts coming soon.
For more of Henderson's comments, watch for upcoming issues of Indiana Prairie Farmer magazine.