Rebuilding our industry from rock bottom

Are we living in a state of crisis? We must ask ourselves this, when we live in a world where we have to bailout Ford and General Motors, the $50 billion collapse of the semi-exclusive fund run by legendary investor Bernie Madoff, and key people such as, Richard L. Bond, President and CEO of Tyson, are gone. We live in a world where the doom and gloom continues… 7.2 percent unemployment, 11.2 million people without work, and 500,000 lost jobs each month since October. This is the world we live in today.

And the crises carry on. Pilgrim’s Pride bankruptcy, Ireland’s dioxin pork scare and milk selling only for nine cents a pound are just a few of the headlines that are common today in our industry. Some have much more serious implications than others. For example, the melamine contamination trial is underway in China and two executives are already facing execution.

We must ask ourselves, where are we going? What are the pillars upon which we can rebuild our industry? How can we turn this crisis into an opportunity? This was the core message behind Alltech’s 2009 North American Lecture Tour. There are six main pillars that we can rebuild upon as an industry. These are crisis management, education, innovation, branding, cause and fun.

As Henry Kissinger once quoted, “Next week there can’t be any crisis, my schedule is already full,” what crisis management plan does your company or organization have in place? There are two types of organizations- those that have had a crisis and those that will. Every organization must have a plan.

The former European Union Commissioner for Food Safety, David Byrne, once stated the key to crisis management is that your employees know that “someone is in charge, there is a plan, and the plan is working.” If there is no crisis management plan in place, we do not get a farm to fork approach. We have farm to farce, as we watched Ireland’s entire pig population destroyed within one month. How long will their reputation remain destroyed in the industry? Does your organization have an audit system or a total traceable quality control system? Every company, every institution, every industry needs a crisis management system.

Innovation is another important pillar to rebuilding our industry. Agriculture is at a crossroads. We can either embrace new technology or be left behind. It is no longer good enough to produce safe and cost-effective food. The consumer is demanding that we look at our environmental impact and be accountable for our actions.

While the farmers have always derived their living from the land, it is paramount that we take the next step to ensure our future—and the future of agriculture. By encouraging our young people’s education programs, reducing greenhouse gases, studying the science of nutrigenomics, and taking technology straight to the farm, we can begin making the first steps to innovating our future.

As an industry we also need to continue to brand ourselves, to have a cause and give back, to create fun and last but not least to build trust and integrity. To quote our new president, Barack Obama, I conclude with this, “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America.”