Tom Vilsack, former agriculture secretary calls on younger generation to improve the ag industry | MyWindsorNow.com

Tom Vilsack, former agriculture secretary calls on younger generation to improve the ag industry

Samantha Fox
sfox@greeleytribune.com

Tom Vilsack

With a new generation heading into the workforce in a position where they can start making a change in the agriculture industry, former U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack called on them to work to make that difference.

Vilsack was the opening keynote speaker Wednesday at the CSU AgInnovation Summit 2.0. Vilsack, who was the longest-tenured member of former President Barack Obama's original cabinet, used his time to explain why young people can use food and agriculture as the first platform to bring people with different viewpoints together for a common good.

"My pitch here is for young people to get engaged," he said.

AGRICULTURE MARKETING

An obstacle that hurts the agriculture community is marketing. Vilsack, who now serves as the CEO and president of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, pointed to labeling as a problem he thinks can be easily solved.

Some companies will label milk with "no antibiotics" while others don't. The catch is, no milk has antibiotics in it.

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What it comes down to is the label is misleading.

"Let's be honest. Let's not try to (hurt) another's product," Vilsack said.

FOOD WASTE, ACCESSIBILITY

Food availability and waste are both problems Vilsack said people should be able to agree to solution for.

"It's going to be hard for us to find anyone (on the political spectrum) who thinks food waste is a good idea," Vilsack said.

Vilsack said there also are a number of people who struggle with a lack of accessible food, and young people need to find a way to work together to solve the problem so there isn't a lack of food availability.

Vilsack said more accessible food will lead to fewer health concerns, and fewer health concerns lead to less time away from school. But that's not of benefit to the community, he said.

That's just part of the reason access to food is important.

Food also is important to the U.S., and most other cultures. Vilsack pointed to food being an integral part of celebration, such as weddings, but also in times of sadness, such as funerals. It brings communities together, Vilsack said.

But more than that, Vilsack said, the problems with food accessibility or waste is a way to get people to work together, despite the country "being more polarized."

Vilsack said solutions can come from the upcoming generation.

"A progressive kid down the hall can get together with a conservative kid and do something about it," according to Vilsack.

CSU AgInnovation Summit 2.0

The summit continues Sept. 7. Follow along here. Reporter Samantha Fox will live tweet from the sessions. Follow her at @FoxonaFarm.

Thursday’s schedule:

7:45 a.m.

» Opening remarks.

» Panel: National Western Center: A global destination for agricultural heritage and innovation.

» Panel: Financing the future of ag innovation in Colorado.

10 a.m.

» Keynote address: Customer-centric food innovation by Chris Hjelm, executive vice president and CIO for The Kroger Co.

» Panel: Call to action.

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