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If you wish to know more about me please click on the following link www.eldredgeandassociates.com.au If reading this blog for the first time please make sure you go to the first blogs (scroll to the bottom of the page and click on older posts) as it will explain the journey

Sunday, 4 November 2012

USA / Washington DC / Pennsylvania...Living the dream....

I am not interested in power for power's sake, but I'm interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good....
Martin Luther King Jr

Washington DC.......

(This is the final blog from my Nuffield Global Focus Research tour....BUT not the final blog for my research, I will return to assist with harvest, continue with my agri consulting and commence with agribusiness training out in the regional areas in Feb/March 2013, but will have a couple of final trips during mid 2013 to USA, possibly South America and New Zealand thanks for your continued interest and support of reading my blogs it has been an amazing, surreal experience.....)

The famous Reflecting Pools of Washington DC with fellow Aussie Nuffield Ewan.......
It is truly a mystery to me that with all the travel I have done over the years that I have never ventured into USA territory,  so our visit to Washington DC  (and Pennsylvania) where the hub of modern power and democracy exists was a magnificent introduction to leadership, power and a modern day global empire.....

Monument depicting the famous raising of the USA flag in the WW2 battle of Iwo Jima...
From the US presence in wars to the statesmanship and leadership that America is famous for we travelled around Washington DC at night looking at famous monuments and statues and hearing the stories about the legends who have written history as it stands....Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr, the heros of WW2 battle of Iwo Jima, JFK eternal flame...the list goes on and on and standing looking at the famous monuments you cannot help but be captured by the sense of leadership and collective power of famous, influential American individuals in this beautiful city....history came alive during the balmy autumn DC evenings and under the mellow evening city lights........

Abraham Lincoln the President who lead the States during the great civil war of the 1860's, 5 days after the Southern confederates had surrendered Lincoln was assassinated in the theatre by a confederate sympathiser his leadership is revered in USA as being the man who kept the Union of states together
Looking from the Lincoln monument, over the reflection pools to the Washington monument, until the Eiffel tower was built in the 1889 the Washington monument was the world highest building...
One of the worlds great orators, Martin Luther King Jr changed the thinking of modern day America and united a nation to accept all racial differences with his "I have a dream...." speech...those who know me know how I love a great quote.....and he has some of the best.....
Monument to Martin Luther King Jr..
Arriving in Washington DC after  a 14 hour flight from France we dressed up for meetings, caught the subway and pounded the streets meeting with high level officials from the US Senate and House of Representatives, Australian and New Zealand embassy and the powerful US farm bureau, and found out the following:-
1. We were so lucky to be visiting DC while the Presidential elections were on as there was opinions on every street corner, we become interested in the Presidential debates to the point we stayed in one night to watch the debate...Aussies doing that....go figure!!!  There was no definitive feeling of who would win, they all believe it will be very close....
2. There is talk about both the Democrats and Republicans committing to wiping 4 trillion dollars off the US debt over the next decade, and most believe this will be done with massive budget cuts....speaking of budgets, did you know that in the whole time Obama has been President that his budgets have never been passed, such is the discord that exists on Capitol Hill between the Democrats and Republicans
3.  The Direct Farm Payments (subsidies) that US farmers have been receiving for years will be removed in the next farm bill, both the Senate and House of Representatives have delivered their versions of the new Farm Bill however it is unlikely that it will be agreed upon by both side of Government prior to the election...there are many on Capitol Hill who believe that if Obama  loses the election then the "fiscal cliff" under the Republicans will result in the farm bill and agricultural support being slashed in catastrophic portions....what impact this will have on global agriculture is hard to quantify
4. The best support that the US farmers have currently is the crop production insurance schemes, where the US Government will subsidise and underwrite the production insurance...the talk is that even though mid west USA has had massive drought during 2012, many producers will have record income due to this subsidised insurance and the high prices.....again..(a deep sigh)....if only we could have such a system in Australia.....farming would be so less stress free....particularly after another dry spring in southern Australia......

Capitol Hill Washington DC
We hear a lot about the might of the farm lobby in the USA and in meetings with the the Farm Bureau and other organisations we were staggered to hear that they have 6 million members, with the average membership ranging from $30-$70 per annum...in doing the maths if the membership averages $50 x 6 million = $300,000,000....that is a mighty $$ force to be political with...I wouldn't argue with them too much!!  What is also impressive is that they have many, many members that aren't active farmers but have a keen interest in the future of agriculture....
Meeting with speakers in the famous Agriculture Committee room in the House of Representatives where many deals on policy etc have been done that at times impact on Australian producers...for example the Howard government free trade agreement which has resulted in an extra $60 billion trade between Aust & USA
So...after nearly 3 intensive days of meetings the business clothes were popped away for a while and I had a day of riding a bike with 3 other Nuffield's around DC and visiting the famous Washington museums such as the aeronautical/space museum and the American History museum...I really got such a feel for the patriotism and pride Americans have in their democracy and innovations....then it was time to then put on our farm boots and next stop.... Pennsylvania.....
Two of my favourite things, history and bike riding......cycling around the historical sites of Washington DC
Pennsylvania....

We collected our hire cars and onto Pennsylvania we drove, if anyone wishes to visit this wonderful state then I would fully recommend October (their Autumn) as the Autumn leaves are just simply breath-taking...Pennsylvania is an eclectic mix of farming with a strong focus of linking producers direct to the consumer...."farmer markets" abound and schemes that link consumers financing the production costs for the farmer for the coming year are in existence.....these schemes are called Community Supported Agriculture, where for some up front payments from the consumer to assist with production costs they receive a bundle/package of fresh food for the coming year direct from the producer...
One of the most staggering statistics that we came across, and it was mentioned often, is that within 8 hours drive from Pennsylvania they can service the food needs of 80% of the USA population..hence it puts them in an amazing position in terms of domestic market infiltration, this coupled with fertile soils and an abundance of rainfall lead us to see Pennsylvania as an incredible fresh food source for the USA....but before talking about the producers we met....our first stop in Pennsylvania was the historical site of Gettysburg, the pivotal site of the 1860's American civil war where the southern states succeeded from the "Union" and sought to keep their economic wealth and black slaves confined to their control...7 large southern states broke away from the Union and such started the fighting for independence and control.......



Gettysburg became the pivot of the fighting forces due to five major roads converging into one small township, the southern states produced an abundance of cotton and had opened up substantial global markets for their cotton, hence their economic importance to the Union, but with the length and intensity of the civil war were starving without the food supply from the North. The order was given to go North and secure food and but for some critical strategic and tactical decisions history may well have been completely different...a single gunshot from a Union commander upon seeing the masses of Southern infantry coming across the fields slowed the surge of the Confederates, just long enough for Union forces to march through the night to give much needed reinforcements as the Union had few forces in place at Gettysburg at the time, the race to secure "little round top", one of the few rises on the battle field was pivotal for success...and the Union forces won that race...and as in most historical situations the victors are the writers of history....3 days of bloody fighting with just cannons, swords and very basic guns.... over 50,000 casualties in those 3 days...and Abraham Lincoln's famous Gettysburg address....."Four score and seven years ago.......that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
The famous 1863 civil war battle fields of Gettysburg, over 50,000 casualties in a 3 day period
Standing on "little round top", with the battle fields behind...this hill become pivotal in who won the war and it literally became a foot race between the North and South to claim this strategic position.....the North got there first and well....the rest is history...with the North winning the war....
Our gorgeous American mate, Jean, the amazing host who put so much time and effort into our USA adventure and research, we cant thankyou enough Jean xx Sunset with Gettysburg battle fields  behind.....
Our gorgeous host Jean and her magic team organised the most amazing tour of Gettysburg and Pennsylvania agriculture where we mostly based ourselves in Harrisburg and travelled out to many varied producers and agri-organisations as well as lunch with executives at Penn-State University. we were shown around the university campus by 3 magnificent young ag students, I walked about the campus astounded at the massive public/private investment in the infrastructure and resources available for the students.  Penn-State has a hugely vibrant alumni and are on track to raise 2 billion dollars over a 7 year period for the University....40,000 students on the main campus, another 40,000 in satellite campus's and collectively 4000 students studying agriculture, which they tell us will all be snapped up by employers as soon as they graduate, interesting not many graduates will return to farms, they will go into research, state extension or multi national corporations...I would love my children to go and do a semester of study at Penn-State...a bit of a risk as they may not want to return to our local Universities after such an experience....
Harrisburg....the bridges over the river...I have never seen so many bridges and the reflections were breath-taking
I met so many wonderful women around the world....another wonderful woman... Diva the alpaca...a "selfie" photo with Diva from Pennsylvania
Wow...what we learnt from the producers...from the Alpaca farm where passion for the industry is seeing them breeding stock in the hope it can go from a small cottage industry to a main stream industry, the trout farm who last 300,000 stock (fish) in the floods last year and are only just surviving financially, and given we flew out only hours before Hurricane Sandy we have our fingers crossed that they are OK...gorgeous Grandpa Wayne from "Way-Har" milk who in the 1950's took to value adding their milk through a small homogenising unit into a shop that they built on a major thoroughfare, they have now diversified into ice-cream production too...but with Wayne we experienced something from yester-year...old fashioned civility and shopping service that is sadly lacking in this modern era...I felt like I was back in the 1960/70's when browsing through his unique shop, eating his ice-cream and trying the home made peanut butter that was for sale...from there to the ultra modern mushroom production that Pennsylvania is famous for...they are the largest producer of mushrooms for the American market...finishing the day with visits to some wineries and sampling the emerging Pennsylvania wine industry....
Jemma and I in the pick-up truck with founder of "Way-Har" milk - Grandpa Wayne
Trout farm in Pennsylvania - a commercial operation that lost 300,000 fish in last years floods....
What surprised me is that many of the issues we face in Australia in farming, ie lack of profitability, young people not choosing to return to farming as a career, environmental disasters etc are the same for many Pennsylvania farmers...but they have the added complication of urban growth into their rural land zones, hence pushing up the land prices, making farming unviable in its returns and dealing with the complicated issue of "right to farm", we seemed to be in a rural area to turn the corner and immediately be part of urban sprawl....

Bartram garden - Philadelphia
One of the things to be admired about the US farming industry is there intent on bringing all of the community into their production space and educate the "voters" of tomorrow about the importance of the agricultural industry. The farm bureau has mobile agri-labs that they take into schools and educate students about the science and holistic management of the environment, Bartram garden (above) in Philadelphia is an amazing, private collection of rare and endangered old world plant species but they are innovating in their education of the urban population with families being able to have a garden bed to produce vegetables etc...we spoke with one very enthusiastic recipient of the garden bed scheme who spoke about "learning to become a farmer", having harvested 3 crops in a 12 month period off her plot and the joy she experiences having her garden plot and bringing her grandchildren out to play in the beautiful gardens while she tends her crop....the souls of the global community "sing" when deeply connected to agriculture....

Guess what this is??  I will buy a coffee (or wine) for anyone who guesses correctly!!  But you have to come to Clare to collect!!!
As I draw to a close on this part of the "adventure" I have to say thank-you to all those wonderful people who have assisted in giving us an amazing view of the world....those group leaders who organised amazing visits and who put so much effort into linking us with their industry in our journey around the globe...without your effort and I think in most instances, your voluntary commitment to the Nuffield vision and our learning we would not have the experiential knowledge to bring back and share...Nuffield Australia for being the visionaries they are in creating these Global Focus Tours, my fantastic sponsors - GrainGrowers Ltd in being so supportive...you amazing scholars out there that I travelled with, with whom a strong bond has been created...but most of all....Thank-you to my truly amazing family, friends and colleagues who have supported me 1000 percent in being able to do this for seven weeks.....I owe you heaps xxx

Like I said in the beginning of the blog, this is not the end of my travel, I have drilled down the remaining parts of the world I need to explore to get the best real time technology back to us in 2013 and beyond...incredible really in that being a producer, consultant and educator, every step of the journey gave me critical, amazing information to share...but the last day of our 7 weeks, in fact the last interview...I found the most amazing USA company who is developing at a rapid pace real time technology linking production to management in the field....and the CEO final words to us were..."watch this space, amazing things will happen in the next 12 months with agri technology"...cant wait, needless to say he s on the top of my list to visit mid next year in the continued search for the ultimate real time agri-business "tool".....

Lela - another amazing host in Pennsylvania, is hoping to visit me in Australia to have a look at the consultancy and training that is occurring in the regional areas...come on down under Jean and Lela so we can return the hospitality....


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