Farmers are giving each other the silent treatment over risks to their industry

Technology. Food safety. Changing dietary preferences. Those are some of the pressing issues farmers in America discussed at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., on Thursday as part of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting, which took place this week.

Record numbers of people are seeking to connect with farmers in some way, including a scheduled Facebook Live event where farm directors will answer questions live, and an online “My Pick Up” with FarmVille players.

And one of the key topics among farmers this year is supply chain issues.

David Graves, owner of a California apple farm and head of the Golden Delicious Association, said it was bad enough to have growers cite it as a source of anxiety, but it was much worse to have Apple’s sole manufacturing plant shut down due to damaging floods last year.

Graves said that Apple, now facing pressure to produce its devices more efficiently, could learn from the Colorado pine beetle in its design process to mitigate such labor disruptions and problems related to transportation that had a deep impact on farmers last year.

“The more people that are thinking about these supply chain issues and the stakeholders that need to be on board with our industry – that’s when supply and demand for our crops will balance out,” Graves said.

These supply chain disruptions and similar setbacks, such as floods, droughts and recent court battles over U.S. immigration policy that have pushed food prices up, have created an “independent risk class” among the people who need to be involved in the food supply chain, such as the farmer and local food activist, he said.

Graves said the “perfect storm” of these factors coming at the right time is forcing producers and others in the food chain to think differently about their role in running a successful supply chain.

“All of us have to be in that game, whether we like it or not, because our livelihood is based on it.”

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