Make time to talk about your farm

I’m pleased to now be contributing a monthly column to Illinois’ Prairie Farmer, called “What’s Your Story?” It’s all about tips and reasons to help producers reach consumers and decision makers. If those groups are better informed, policy creation and buying decisions should be more balanced.

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Settle in for higher food prices this fall

Farmers need to get out in front of public anger over rising food prices. They’re an easy target, especially when most consumers don’t realize just how much the price of fertilizer and energy – both major expenses in food production – have sky-rocketed. Photo:

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Farming’s renaissance hinges on research and investment

U.S. agriculture ecretary Tom Vilsack is pumping about $1 billion in USDA funding into pilot projects designed to move food production closer to net zero emissions, without reducing yields. More than 1000 prorojects have been submitted to-date. Vilsack says he expects to see “enormous opportunities” come out of this initiative. Photo:

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Food giants shouldn’t dictate farming for the future.

McCain Foods Limited and MacDonald’s Canada are putting up $1 million to show potato farmers how to adopt regenerative growing practices that are good for the environment. Encouraging growers to reduce tillage and chemical applications and increase biodiversity are positive moves. But although the environment comes out a winner, consumers are losers when sustainably grown potatoes are turned into fast-food french fries.

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Food trends meet the back-to-school lunchbox

When it comes to school lunchboxes, keep things simple with fruits and vegetables. There’s plenty of great information available on every food topic, but what’s most important is that kids enjoy eating what you’ve sent and it’s good for them too. Photo:

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Odd timing for food safety to fall off consumers’ top worries

It seems that most people are confident in existing food safety systems…even if they have little faith in the government. For example, a recent US survey showed that public concern about the safety of fresh produce, which is government regulated, has declined in recent years. Unfortunately though, that confidence hasn’t inspired people to change their diets – too few of us consume enough fruits and vegetables. Image:

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Rift with Ottawa sparks new angle on climate

There was good news and bad for Canada’s agri-food sector at last week’s federal-provincial-territorial agriculture ministers’ meeting. The federal Liberals announced $250 million to compensate farmers for the environmental benefits their lands provide, but wouldn’t budge on the 30 percent fertilizer reduction mandate the industry says is too much, too soon.

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Name change keep cattle producers in step with Canadians

After more than 90 years, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association has changed its name and visual identity to better reflect its make-up and commitment to sustainability.
Rebranded as the Canadian Cattle Association, and with a new logo, the organization has shown its determination to be in step with its members and consumers.

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Cows cannot reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions

It’s true that cattle produce greenhouse gas, but not as much as they’re often blamed for. And there’s help on the way to reduce that even further. Feed supplements are now on the market that will reduce the gas emissions, and many more dietary alternatives will soon be available. Image:

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Governments need a solid plan to support agriculture

Every five years, the federal government sets out a national agri-food policy framework. It’s like a roadmap with priorities – and the next one is due in 2023. The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses says the framework needs to enable Canadian agri-businesses to become more competitive in world markets. But first, they say, the sector faces other challenges that need governments’ immediate attention. Image:

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Urban Cowboy

Raising awareness and promoting dialogue about current food and agriculture issues.


Headshot of Owen Roberts

Owen Roberts is a faculty member in the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications program at the University of Illinois. As an agricultural journalist, he is the past president of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists and a lifetime achievement award recipient from the Canadian Farm Writers' Federation. His programs and research papers have been recognized nationally and internationally through awards from the Journal of Applied Communications, the National Agri-Marketing Association, the Association for Communications Excellence, and others.

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