New Year’s resolutions for livestock producers

Yes, it’s that time of year again: time to make the list — not check the list — of New Year’s resolutions for 2014. A few suggestions you may wish to consider as you go about developing your list of resolutions include the following:

I will follow the 4R scientific principles of nutrient stewardship.

Right source — Ensure a balanced supply of essential nutrients, considering both naturally available sources and the characteristics of specific products, in plant available forms.

Right rate — Assess and make decisions based on soil nutrient supply and plant demand.

Right time — Assess and make decisions based on the dynamics of crop uptake, soil supply, nutrient loss risks, and field operation logistics.

Right place — Address root-soil dynamics and nutrient movement, and manage spatial variability within the field to meet site-specific crop needs and limit potential losses from the field.

If I have a nutrient management plan for my farm, I will follow it. If I do not have a nutrient management plan for my farm, I will develop one and have it approved this year.

I hereby pledge to be a good neighbor by scheduling and managing manure application times to avoid possible conflicts with neighbors’ outdoor activities. If I need to apply manure during the weekend, I will target fields for application that least expose neighboring homes to odors. I will consider hosting an open house, picnic or barbecue that helps inform and educate neighbors about my farming operation, and farming and agriculture in general. I will be helpful by volunteering to clean out my neighbors’ driveways with my snow plow.

While I admit that it’s difficult, when I have a conversation with someone about food and farm issues, I will work to understand that consumers are not personally attacking and criticizing farmers and ranchers. I will work to understand that they are disconnected from farm to fork and they’re asking what they believe to be reasonable questions about something they feel and believe impacts their health. Therefore, I pledge to engage in conversations that build trust in food, farming and agriculture instead of engaging in a war of words.

I also pledge to recognize that shared values are three to five times more important in building trust than demonstrating competence. When I interact with consumers, I will base my messages on shared values as they are much more effective than messages based upon technical skills.

When a consumer asks me a question about food, farming and agriculture, I will always be mindful that they won’t care how much I know until they know how much I care about their concerns. I will work to acknowledge their concerns, engage them in meaningful dialogue, and share information with them that addresses their real concerns. I recognize that this is an effective model to build trust.

When I engage in conversations about food, farming and agriculture, I will recognize that the most important elements of the conversation are listening and the questions I ask that help develop a better understanding of their concerns.

When I have a conversation about food, farming and agriculture, I will focus on speaking with, not at, members of my audience. I will engage in the conversation, be meaningful and genuine in what I say (which means I will not use memorized talking points). More importantly, I will recognize their concerns, and that their main concern is that they just want to know a little bit more about their food.

When I engage in a conversation about food, farming and agriculture, I will always look to find common ground in regards to listening, being respectful, showcasing valid information and insights, and offering viewpoints and opinions for others to consider. I accept the fact that I may not change the individual’s opinion, but hopefully through our conversation I will have answered some of their questions and bring new thought leadership to an area that they may not have considered before.

Since the typical American farmer produces enough food to feed 151 people, I hereby pledge to have conversations that build trust in food, farming and agriculture with 151 individuals during 2014.

I hereby recognize that farming and agriculture has a role to play in protecting natural resources, especially water, and that I want my family and our farm to be a part of the solution. I will refrain from pointing fingers and suggesting it’s someone else’s fault.


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