Dourie Farming Company Ltd.

The USA Diaries Part 3

Thursday was learning more communication stuff, video, photos, perfecting elevator pitches and so on.  Intense stuff, roleplay etc, lots of stuff that makes you feel completely uncomfortable but it was silly and fun. There's a lot of discussion in the classroom all the time. It's not just sitting listening .  There were discussions about geopolitical stuff, about what farming needs, trying to understand what the common problems are, and how we as farmers can get a seat at the table.

A great phrase that I would like to use is 'Shoes on the carpet shouldn't tell boots on the ground, what to do'. We need to get boots on to carpet, so that we can get a seat at the table and tell our own story so that it's farmers that are influencing policies firsthand. And it's not people who are not connected in any way - the shoes on the carpet - who are making the decisions about an industry that they know nothing about. Sometimes we're on the menu to be eaten. And that is not what we want. So we're needing boots on carpets, farmers firsthand, creating the policy.

Carbon credits and farming in the US and UK

Friday was our final day in the classroom. The board of the Global Farmers network was there to observe what we were doing and to understand how the money is used and how the programme operates. Paul Temple of Yorkshire was there, who I believe will be the next Chairman. We had to present an elevator pitch and our wider project pitch. My pitch was about delivering the farmers’ place in society, about the reality of farming, forming a carbon cooperative and collecting and protecting data. My focus was on farmers doing it for farmers and getting our agricultural carbon market sorted out and accessible for farmers. I started at half seven in the morning with a meeting with Bayer, the European seed giants, followed by project work. We then went into a meeting for farmers trying to understand the agricultural carbon credit market; and what we need to do at a global level to make sure that the international laws are put in place. The problem is agricultural carbon credits don't work well, which is linked to the Paris accord. I think we need to be able to truly understand our emissions against our sequestered carbon. There is more complex talk about your compliance curve, your business-as-usual carbon, or additionality, as well as your ability to sell the excess (if you have that excess), and then to get a market. There is only a voluntary market at the moment, not a regulated one. And I want to sort that out for British farmers.

I am still processing all that, but I really see that as a new income stream, that farmers have the right to. We are not valued by society, because we constantly give food for the cost of production. We are paid for everything that goes above the ground, but nothing that grows beneath the ground. I want to get carbon onto our financial balance sheets because I believe that it will help finance farming going forward. Society values nothing unless it has to pay for it. Once society has to pay for carbon, it will value farmers. It will deliver a system that makes people recognise the good that farming is bringing. Data will reveal the intrinsic value of what farming brings to society. That is my mission off the back of the global farming network.

After we finished that meeting, we went to the John Deere headquarters in Washington. Because the first meeting ran late, the John Deere one turned into another amazing rooftop reception looking onto the White House. All these farming buildings look onto the White House, demonstrating the amazing representation farming has in Washington. Farmers in the US are well represented. You hear senators say things you would never hear about farming in the UK, constantly reinforcing how they value farming.

After the John Deere reception, it was back to the IFPRE building for the final presentation of awards. You could call it a passing out ceremony of sorts, with some back slapping, handshaking, "yee-haw-ing" and so on. The Americans are very good at making you feel like you have done well. It had been a very intense week, and you are with people you have made friends with and shared a lot with. It’s a touching and emotional situation.

We went out for a steak dinner, although none of us needed more food, having been fed so well every day.

We started to say goodbye to people as everybody was going off on planes the next morning. It was quite emotional, but I will stay in touch with these people and hope I get to visit them in their various countries.

Travel experiences and conservation efforts

I spent the morning Saturday morning with Diane Masure who's an amazing French woman. She has lived in about 20 countries and for four years in Scotland. Her husband is a water irrigation specialist who has worked all over the world. In every country, she learned the language. Her great-grandfather was called [Samuel] Kier and he is the guy who found the method to make petroleum. Kerosene is named after him. Diane feels an underlying environmental guilt because of our grandfather's amazing discovery. She leads a Conservation Cooperative in France, and she has managed to create a carbon market with a small group of farmers. 15 of them are selling their excess carbon and they have a lot of excess carbon because they farm in this 'no-till' conservation manner. I plan to work with Diane in the future.

We had a bit of time to kill so we went around the Smithsonian Museum of American History and then to the Washington Botanical Gardens. We said our goodbyes and at 12 o'clock, I headed off to the airport and flew up to Billings.

Today, I'm off on the second bit of my trip which is to go to the ILAC conference - The International Leadership Alumni Conference. And with that, I'll get to tour some ranches - at the very end of I get to Yellowstone National Park. I hope to see bison and elk and traditional branching Angus.

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