Professional Development/MAB Alumni Reunion - Kansas City 2005
MAB’s first-ever retreat was April 7 and 8 in Kansas City. Participants engaged with industry leaders during Thursday’s roundtable discussion. On Friday, Carlos Piana, an Ecuadorian exporter, gave his thoughts on the trade agreement currently being negotiated between Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and the U.S.; and Tracy Brunner, Lon Frahm and Mark Seitz spoke of agriculture in MERCOSUR. Dr. Vincent Amanor-Boadu concluded the day with a workshop on network development. Below you will find thoughts from Mark Seitz, an Area Agent - Commercial Horticulture NCSU Cooperative Extension Service, speaker and member of the planning committee.
"On behalf of the planning committee, I want to take a moment to review some of the events of the MAB Reunion weekend in Kansas City April 7-8, 2005. For those of you who missed the two day inaugural MAB Reunion, you missed a wonderful program without any exams! The panel discussion on Thursday afternoon brought back memories of a few spirited discussions my class had in Dr. Barkley's international trade policy class and in Dr. Biere's logistics class. Personally I have to say I was impressed at how much I actually remembered from those classes as the conversation swirled around the room. I guess all that tuition money paid off after all.
Friday morning's session offered some enlightening conversation about the future of U.S. agriculture in the face of growing competition from foreign competition, particularly South America. Tracy Brunner and Lon Frahm offered a video summary of the MAB trip in 2004 to Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. This presentation provided an excellent summary of what is happening in the cattle and soybean industries in those countries. For those of you who missed Tracy's video, I highly recommend you contact him and ask for a private viewing. It was one of the best travel documentaries and assessments of the agriculture industry in South America I have ever seen.
Carlos Piana's presentation on the trade negotiations between Ecuador and the United States sparked a number of conversations on trade policy that will greatly affect how U.S. and Andean farmers do business in the next 20 years.
My talk about the current state of Brazil's agribusiness industry focused on how Brazilian agribusinesses, and other industries, are benefiting from a mix of high-tech machinery and low-cost labor. Brazil's future is bright as long as the country's financial markets remain stable. Time will be the judge of that, but in my opinion they are on the right track and will be a tough competitor.
Dr. Vincent Amanor-Boadu provided some fantastic insight into how strategic alliances work and how important the people are that know you are in making a strategic alliance successful. "Dr. Vincent" covered a multitude of topics too numerous to delve into for this summary. His presentation stimulated a lot of thoughts and ideas in my head, which I am doing my best to put to good use in my work here in North Carolina. I would share more detail with you, but it is always a good practice leaving out a few details to get your readers to want more. In this case I'll leave the details of "Dr. Vincent's" talk for the next reunion, or your next conversation with a classmate, or in your next phone call with Lynnette or Meagan when you're calling to sign up for the next reunion.
At the end of the day, there seemed to be a general consensus that our industry faces numerous new and on-going challenges such as: the availability of cheap labor mixed with high-tech machinery overseas, food safety and food security issues both at home and abroad, trade policy, and the need for U.S. agribusiness to significantly improve supply chain management both at home and overseas in order to remain competitive in the global market place.
Did we raise more questions than we had answers for? Probably. Is the way we do business changing? Definitely. Is trade policy going to affect how we manage our farms and businesses in the future? Absolutely. In spite of our best efforts these problems are not going away but with programs like this and those in the future, we all stand a better chance of finding ways to stay in the game.
For those of you who made the trip and on behalf of the planning committee, I thank you for taking the time to attend. Your time, insight and contributions made this an excellent conference. For those of you who missed it - you missed a good show. I hope to see you at our next reunion both to get reacquainted with your MAB classmates and to share some of your insight into the challenges that we face in the industry we all know and love."