At the beginning of March, I had the opportunity to travel with 11 other Illinois Farm Bureau members and staff to France, Brussels and the United Kingdom for a ten-day Market Study Tour. Our objective was to learn more about their farm operations and agribusinesses, proposed EU policies and the impact on the US, and opportunities and challenges in the UK post-Brexit. We toured a variety of operations and had the opportunity to connect with industry groups at the Paris International Ag Expo (Farm Progress Show is tiny compared to the Expo!).
What struck me most was a difference in philosophy. As Illinois farmers and agriculturists, we often talk about efficiency, getting more bushels per acre, picking up acres, and feeding the world. Whereas many farmers and farm groups we talked to were not growth focused, but rather focused on extracting more value for their operation as is and maintaining a certain quality of life or work life balance. Discussions were less about how do we feed a growing population, but how do we set the right standard for environmental objectives. To add to that, the UK is still grappling with the fallout from Brexit and how they begin to regulate themselves and operate independently of the EU.
Despite differences in operation type or philosophy, we do face similar challenges. Pressure is building around carbon, climate, and sustainability and we are all looking for a way to be part of a solution and to be incentivized for the practices we implement. Plus, finding a way to connect with consumers who want transparency and a better understanding of where their food comes from. Throughout our conversations, there was a consistent desire to work together on these challenges and allow for consistency across borders.
On our last day in France, we had lunch at a local restaurant in Normandy with a group of farmers. Beyond the occasional need for help with translation, it felt just like gathering with a group of farmers here at home. It reminded me how we aren’t so different and our opportunity to work together through organizations like Farm Bureau. We might not have all the solutions worked out today, but we’ve gained a few friends and advocates across the Atlantic.
By: Kristen Faucon, McLean County Farm Bureau Professional Member & Member Business Administration Manager, GROWMARK