Beth Ford talks trade, ag economy at USDA's Ag Outlook Forum

Highlighting importance of trade to dairy, sustainability to ag

Beth Ford Speaking At USDA

Farm economy, trade, sustainability and consumer trust. These topics and more were on the docket at the USDA’s Ag Outlook Forum held in Washington, D.C. Feb. 23-24. With the theme “A New Horizon: The Future of Agriculture,” the forum gathered the industry’s key players to talk about the issues and opportunities we face not only in 2017, but in the years to come.

Beth Ford, chief operations officer and Group executive vice president, represented Land O’Lakes, Inc. on the forum’s main stage, participating in the Industry Plenary Panel alongside Rajiv Singh, CEO of Rabobank North American Wholesale and Luke Chandler, deputy chief economist for John Deere. In front of a crowd of more than 1,000 attendees from agribusiness, media, government, financial firms and more, Beth took the opportunity to remind the group that we’re bigger than butter, highlighting Land O’Lakes’ vast farm-to-fork view of the agriculture industry.

Focusing on hot industry topics–trade and sustainability—Beth provided insight on the keys to overcoming market challenges: Product innovation, trade, risk management, balanced growth and integrated market decisions.

“U.S. milk production growth is likely to continue, driven by solid margins,” Beth said. “The challenge will be creating outlets for that milk and it’s our job to make milk attractive to consumers.”

Beth also touched on the need for recruiting and developing top talent and telling farmers’ authentic stories to earn consumer trust. “We want young people involved in ag and need to do a better job communicating why this is an industry they should consider,” Beth said. “And with consumers, our research shows no one is more authentic or respected than a farmer.”

In addition to her formal comments, Beth fielded questions during the Q&A, commenting on topics ranging from the importance of trade, how we’re leaning into our purpose to attract interest in the ag industry and our approach to sustainability. As a farmer-owned organization, this kind of engagement is just the latest example of advocacy and the role we can play in shaping the future direction of our businesses and industry.

Watch Beth’s full remarks* here and stay tuned as we continue to bring you coverage of these efforts as well as opportunities for you to get involved.

*The plenary panel begins at 2:47:39; Beth’s remarks begin at 3:14:28 and the Q&A begins at 3:54:00.