Flashback: From the Harvester, January 1978

In response to growing attention on the global availability of food, and in recognition of the 40th Anniversary of National Agriculture Day, March 19, 2013, the Agriculture Council of America has announced a full two-day lineup of high-profile events in the nation’s Capitol.

The Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association believes in telling the story of agriculture to the consuming public. To this end, FFVA was a charter supporter of the Agriculture Council of America and has maintained this support each year.

The non-profit Agriculture Council of America was formed in 1973 for the sole purpose of taking agriculture’s story to the nation’s consumers. Its headquarters are in Washington, D.C.

ACA’s goals are to:

-  Re-establish your right to more control over your future

-  Build nationwide support for farmers and agribusiness

-  Preserve the incentive system of U.S. agriculture

-  Assure the consumer dependable supplies at reasonable prices

The people who are now supporting these goals cover the whole spectrum of American agriculture: individual farmers and ranchers, farm and commodity organizations, companies that supply the farmer – both local and national, farm credit banks and many members of the farm media.

Since its beginning, ACA programs have involved an increasing number of farmers and consumers in all parts of the U.S. Programs like:

-  In a comprehensive effort to define specific ways farmers and consumers can work together for mutual benefit, ACA launched a National Tour. Farm couples traveled to 15 major metropolitan centers meeting with mayors, civic clubs, organized labor, university students and grass-roots consumers. They polled consumers for their ideas on food issues and on how farmers and consumers can work together. Over 79 percent felt farmers and consumers had similar enough interests to warrant joint action to improve the food system.

-  Acting on the results of the national tour, a farmer-consumer roundtable was formed and met for the first time last spring. Farmers, processors, retailers, labor and consumer representatives exchange ideas and got a new understanding of the responsibilities of each link in the food chain.

-  Extending the proven success of this direct communication, Operation Outreach was tested in Greensboro, North Carolina, in cooperation with the Farm Credit Banks of Columbia, South Carolina. High levels of consumer interest and extensive media coverage of this regional version of the National Tour has prompted the Columbia Bank to make plans to conduct the effort in other areas of the Southeast.

-  Tried and true as a means of direct farmer-consumer communications is one of ACA’s first programs – the City-Farm Swap. Swap programs have been held in the past in Washington, D.C., Kansas City and Chicago. In 1977 the exchange was repeated in New York and introduced to Minneapolis. Washington, D.C., held its fourth Swap and Dallas its first. Efforts are being made to instruct local groups on how to coordinate their own exchanges.

-  The agricultural community has a need to communicate its story not only to grassroots consumers but also to national decision-makers. This is made possible through ACA’s Farm Line – a toll-free call-in program on issues of specific interest to agriculture. Lindsley Wright of WDBO-TV, Channel 6, Orlando, was invited to take calls on the October ACA Farm Line. FFVA was one of the prime sponsors of his trip to Washington to take part in the program. With a new administration and new leadership in the Department of Agriculture, ACA held a Farm Line in May called “Citizen’s Guidelines for USDA;” the phones were manned by Secretary Bergland and other key personnel from USDA.  On Oct. 5, major urban media representatives took calls from producers and farm-related businessmen to examine the current economic situation of American agriculture. Plans are underway to focus attention on other key issues such as energy, antibiotics in animal health and more.

-  The farm media plays an integral part in the success of the Farm Line and other ACA programs. A new group was formed in 1977 called the Media Council. It’s headed by Royce Bodiford of KGNC in Amarillo, Texas, for the broadcasters, and by Lane Palmer, editor of Farm Journal, for the print media. The members provide advice on ACA program content and effectiveness and will help ACA to focus on media opportunities. The council plans to have some programs of their own, too: a Media Swap, where farm and urban media will exchange programs, columns and ideas.

-  The Media Council will be helping with a new proposal to hold Media Seminars for the urban media. It’s become increasingly apparent that the urban media needs sources for information about agriculture in their own areas and nationwide. Through seminars coordinated jointly by ACA and the State Departments of Agriculture, the urban media would be brought up-to-date on the national economic situation for agriculture and would become acquainted with the agriculture that is unique to their own states. ACA hopes the urban media would continue to be in contact with the state agencies and use them as a source for agricultural information.

-  Newest on the list of ACA special programs is the Forum on Regulation, a separately funded project to confront the regulatory problem and launch a nationwide effort to bring about more reasonable regulation. Plans call for a “Citizen’s Audit of Federal Regulation” using a citizen survey that can even be filled out during a special toll-free telethon. The goal of the project is to develop new principles that would ensure a better regulatory process.

-  Plans are now underway for an event that will confront the farm economic situation – a type of Farm Summit. To draw attention to the situation and bring together the key leaders in agriculture and the people who make decisions affecting agriculture with the hope that, working together, they can come up with a fresh approach to some of the very difficult problems just about everybody in agriculture is facing.

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