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Dairy Today September 2013 : Page 32

Elite Producer Business Conference Sustainability Equals Profitability Panel discusses how environmental sustainability leads to profit B Y Jim Dick RE ll Dairy Today has teamed up with Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy to pull together a panel on environmental sustainability and profitability at the 2013 Elite Producer Business Conference in Las Vegas, Nov. 11 to 13. Following is a question-and-answer sample with two of the panel speakers. “We have to develop mechanisms that ensure we can be sus-tainable profitably.” —Andy Werkhoven, Dairy farmer, Monroe, Wash. What is the World Wildlife Fund’s interest in agriculture, i.e, how does agriculture impact wildlife habitat? We currently use between 30% to 40% of the earth’s land surface for food. Each year, we continue to expand food production into natural habitat. If we don’t do some-thing to curb this expansion, there won’t be any natural habitat left. With burgeoning human popula-tion growth expected to climb to 9 bil-lion people by 2050, isn’t it inevitable that wildlife habitat will succumb to human food and fiber needs? If we continue ‘business as usual,’ it is inevitable. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can do more with less by changing the way we grow, produce and deliver food. In fact, we can triple food pro-duction using the same amount of land by 2050. While not easy, this can be achieved by improving management practices, selecting crop strains for hardiness, imple-menting new technology, using land to full capacity, negotiating property rights, and eliminating waste and overconsumption. Bryan Weech, World Wildlife Fund How can intensive agriculture in North America preserve rain forest hab-itat in South America, Africa and Asia? Intensive, smarter agricultural prac tices in North America can curb that trend in two ways. First, by max-imizing the land we have and pro-ducing more locally, we can import less, directly removing the financial incentive for farmers in other parts of the world to clear important forests and natural habitats. Secondly, these techniques in North America can be perfected and refined to a point where we can export our processes to producers in other countries. What are WWF and other conserva-tion organizations asking or expecting from farmers? We are asking farmers to employ techniques that are ultimately in their best interest—socially and economi-cally. WWF wants to help farmers produce more product and, therefore more profit, using less—less space, less water, less waste, less everything that is keeping their land from giv-ing maximum returns. We also want farmers to take conservation into consideration in their everyday man-agement decisions and strive toward continuous improvement. Andy Werkhoven, dairy farmer, Monroe, Wash. Is long-term profitability compatible with sustainability? It has to be. It has to make money or it doesn’t happen. That is the crux of the struggle. We have to develop mechanisms that ensure we can be sustainable profitably. I can’t see my way through it in every case. PHOTO BY THE AUTHOR 32 Dairy Today

Sustainability Equals Profitability

Jim Dickrell

Panel discusses how environmental sustainability leads to profit

Dairy Today has teamed up with Innovation Center for U. S. Dairy to pull together a panel on environmental sustainability and profitability at the 2013 Elite Producer Business Conference in Las Vegas, Nov. 11 to 13.

Following is a question-and-answer sample with two of the panel speakers.

Bryan Weech, World Wildlife Fund

What is the World Wildlife Fund’s interest in agriculture, i. e, how does agriculture impact wildlife habitat?

We currently use between 30% to 40% of the earth’s land surface for food. Each year, we continue to expand food production into natural habitat. If we don’t do something to curb this expansion, there won’t be any natural habitat left.

With burgeoning human population growth expected to climb to 9 billion people by 2050, isn’t it inevitable that wildlife habitat will succumb to human food and fiber needs?

If we continue ‘business as usual,’ it is inevitable. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can do more with less by changing the way we grow, produce and deliver food.

In fact, we can triple food production using the same amount of land by 2050. While not easy, this can be achieved by improving management practices, selecting crop strains for hardiness, implementing new technology, using land to full capacity, negotiating property rights, and eliminating waste and overconsumption.

How can intensive agriculture in North America preserve rain forest habitat in South America, Africa and Asia?

Intensive, smarter agricultural prac tices in North America can curb that trend in two ways. First, by maximizing the land we have and producing more locally, we can import less, directly removing the financial incentive for farmers in other parts of the world to clear important forests and natural habitats. Secondly, these techniques in North America can be perfected and refined to a point where we can export our processes to producers in other countries.

What are WWF and other conservation organizations asking or expecting from farmers?

We are asking farmers to employ techniques that are ultimately in their best interest—socially and economically. WWF wants to help farmers produce more product and, therefore more profit, using less—less space, less water, less waste, less everything that is keeping their land from giving maximum returns. We also want farmers to take conservation into consideration in their everyday management decisions and strive toward continuous improvement.

Andy Werkhoven, dairy farmer, Monroe, Wash.

Is long-term profitability compatible with sustainability?

It has to be. It has to make money or it doesn’t happen. That is the crux of the struggle. We have to develop mechanisms that ensure we can be sustainable profitably. I can’t see my way through it in every case.

But here is a good example when it did work: When we started working with the local Native American tribe to get development rights so that we could keep property in agriculture. That was a long process, but it kept viable agricultural ground in agriculture, at a price where it made sense.

What have you done on your farm to improve energy and water efficiency, conservation and use?

Right now, we are working mostly in the areas of water efficiencies. We are trying to hold back water from the rainy season and use it as irrigation during the dry summer season.

We are trying to do more precise nutrient management—10-acre by 10-acre lots. We do lots of soil sampling, use flow meters on equipment and then sample what we are putting back on.

Describe the partnerships you’ve entered into to improve sustainability, and how have you worked them out?

Ten years ago, we developed a collaborative partnership between the farm and neighboring dairy and beef producers of the Sno/Sky Ag Alliance, the Northwest Chinook Recovery (an organization working to restore salmon habitat) and the 3,500-member Native American Tulalip Tribes. We discovered we had more in common than we had different, and we formed Qualco Energy, a nonprofit entity that manages a digester.

Initially farmers were scared and uptight about working with a Native American tribe. Everyone has stereotypes, and it’s not always easy getting over those. Some of us did, and some others didn’t. The economy tanked before the partnership was set up, and it gave some people an easy excuse to drop out. But we hung in there and we are glad we did—not a single regret.

2013 ELITE PRODUCER BUSINESS CONFERENCE

Dairy Today’s 2013 Elite Producer Business Conference (EPBC) will again be held at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, Nov. 11 to 13.

For the first time, the EPBC will start at 3 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 11, and wrap up 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13. The revised start and end times allow attendees to participate for the entire conference and still make cross-country flight schedules.

Michael swanson, chief economist for Wells Fargo, will keynote the meeting with his much-in-demand views on global dairy economics.

Along with a panel on how dairy sustainability feeds profits, we’re featuring producer panels on vertical integration, relocation and satellite dairies and our ever-popular panel with Dairy Today’s Dollars and Sense farmer panelists.

For more on the 2013 Elite Producer Business Conference, go to www.dairytoday.com.

Read the full article at http://digitaledition.qwinc.com/article/Sustainability+Equals+Profitability/1502436/174913/article.html.

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