The 50th annual World Ag Expo kicked off this week in Tulare, California. Here are some of the top five moments heard and seen at booths and sessions throughout the show on February 15, 2017.

1. A Blogger’s Experience

Natalina Sents

Natalina Sents, millennial blogger writing about agriculture and entrepreneurship

As one the largest agricultural gathering in the United States, the World Ag Expo brings out many creative people in the industry. Blogger Natalina Sents, who writes “Why I Farm” and is currently on a 50-state farm tour, made a stop in Tulare to speak with California growers.

More than 40 weeks in, Sents has criss-crossed the country visiting states like Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin and North Dakota. In her California stop, Sents is visiting World Ag for the first time.

“Being from Iowa, I grew up around farming,” she said. “I’m amazed and surprised of the equipment here, and I thought I have seen it all.”

2. Dairy Nutrition Adjustments

California is ground zero for U.S. dairy, and the World Ag Expo was full of dairy topics in the second day of the Tulare show. Dairy nutrition is historically tricky in terms of costs. Robert E. James, Ph.D., of Down Home Heifer Solutions, showed how investments in better housing and feeding systems can reduce cost per unit of gain and treatment costs:

  • Limit feeding calves — milk or milk replacer is not low cost
  • Biologically normal feeding rates of milk or milk replacer – meet their nutrients requirements
  • Lower cost per unit of gain
  • Improved health — digestive and respiratory disease
  • Better first lactation yield
  • Provide liquid diet of consistent high quality
  • Test waste milk for solids and nutrient content
  • Supplement waste milk with known quality milk replacer
  • For high-health risk herd, consider milk replacer – power or liquid
  • Provide economically justified environment to manage maintenance costs
  • Provide proper housing — ventilation, bedding, etc.
  • Be proactive rather than reactive: It’s the thing to do for the calf, producer and the consumer.

3. Handling Crisis

Holly Carter, of Carter & Co. Ag Communications, knows of the tales of bad public relations and perception for several farms and businesses. She shared her experiences and showed how to react in crisis situations:

What is Crisis Communications? A plan that is designed to protect and defend an individual, company or organization facing a public challenge to its reputation.

5 recommendations when dealing with the media:

  1. Always remember that public welfare is a top priority
  2. Know where your vulnerabilities are
  3. Prepare holding statements
  4. Train and keep training
  5. Simulate crisis – like a “fire drill,” where businesses practice fielding sample questions from reporters.

4. Drones 101

In his session “Mapping Drones in Precision Ag: How to Get Started,” Nathan Stein, senseFly Ag Solutions Manager, and Daniel Murphy, senseFly Technical Support Engineer, said that drones are an investment. Whether a farmer is looking for something that’ll fly and cover over 50 acres or 300+ acres, there is a drone out there for those reasons. Stein explained what farmers need to keep in mind when in the market for a drone: 

  • Drones are a tool, not a complete solution.
  • Fusing good information and agronomy is an excellent practice.
  • It’s very common to use observations to diagnose issues.
  • Drone should be reliable, simple, have automatic flight and integrated payloads. 

5. Farm Loans Availability and Eligibility

Farm loans are available, farmers just have to look for them, said James Harris, USDA Farm Service Agency, during his session “Growing Sustainable Farms: Increase Profits, Mitigate Risk.” Harris explained what is available for farmers in terms of loans. Farm Service Agency’s loan programs are designed to help family farmers to start, purchase or expand their farming operation. 

Farm programs and eligible farm loans for:

  1. Average adjusted gross income < $900,000
  2. Highly erodible land/wetland conservation
  3. Establish farming ground in county office
  4. Certify planted acreage/crops annually
  5. Socially disadvantaged/low income/beginning farmer
  6. Farm operating land

“We want you to succeed,” Harris said. For more information about specific loans, visit fsa.usda.gov.

6. Three Ways to Change Women’s Role in Ag

During the session: “The Changing Role of Women in Agriculture,” three women in the agriculture industry spoke about their careers and their role as women in the ag field. Glenda Humiston of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, Doris Mold of American AgriWomen and Karen Ross, the California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary, spent some time offering their experiences and advice to young men and women in the industry. Ross shared the following three key points about the roles of women in agriculture and how they will continue to evolve:

  1. Young women and young people cannot aspire to something they’ve never been exposed to. From the youngest age possible we need to show people the possibilities of what they can be. That’s not being done well enough yet in agriculture and we’re not thinking about all the ways there are ag-based careers. Our future is in the hands of young people.
  2. Because women haven’t always had career examples, women don’t necessarily start out seeking leadership opportunities in places where we wouldn’t think they would be. Seek out opportunities to serve.
  3. Mentor starts with M. E. N. Men can help encourage and bring women’s experiences and perspectives to the table. Collaboration is key to get new perspectives & stories. Today, the vast number of leadership authority positions are men says Ross, and the most important thing men can do is make sure they are open to women being there.

7. Directly Effect Legislation with Lobbying

Effective lobbying on Capitol Hill with legislators all starts with a personal story with real-world perspective, which has so much more impact than a paid lobbyist. A personal point of view is the most powerful point of view, said Heather Hampton+Knodle of Knodle, Ltd. during the “Grassroots Lobbying” session. Legislators take notice when their constituents take their own time and money to visit them or talk about current legislation that is important to them or directly impacting them. Even if there isn’t a pressing issue, Knodle suggests making the effort to build the relationship with the legislator and their staff. Having a working relationship now will help serve as a starting off point in the future when laws and bills need to be discussed. Meet with legislators at their office or at event when they will be speaking on a pertaining issue. Every single issue needs to be lobbied because the opponents of the issue are working just as hard for their point of view, says Shannon Grove of California State Assembly and Continental Labor and Staffing Resources.

Grove and Knodle  offered these three tips when planning a meeting with a legislator:

  1. Be prepared with truthful info
  2. Appreciate their time
  3. Be concise

Read more: Live from World Ag Expo Day 3