Iowa farmers have always re­­sponded to market signals coming from grain buyers or livestock processors to determine which crops and livestock to raise and how much to produce. But today, the signals are also coming from different parts of the food chain as supermarkets, restaurant chains and others begin to dictate livestock and crop production methods, according to Dave Miller, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) director of research and commodity services.

“The market is changing, and it’s not coming from government regulators, but from inside the food industry itself,” Miller said. “Whether its pushback against livestock technologies, such as sow gestation crates, or genetic modification in crops, farmers need to be aware of these changing market drivers and to develop strategies to position their operations for a new market environment.”

The 2014 IFBF Economic Sum­­mit will provide participants a unique opportunity to learn firsthand about the changing market drivers in crops and livestock from people inside those industries, Miller said. “I think farmers and others who attend the summit will come away with a better understanding about why these issues are driving decisions at some of the major players and what it means for agriculture,” he said.

The third annual IFBF Econ­omic Summit is set for July 21 and 22 at the Iowa State Center in the Scheman Building on the Iowa State University campus in Ames. The summit will be moderated this year by Mike Pearson of public television’s Market-to-Market and is patterned after the popular summits from 2012 and 2013.
The 2014 IFBF summit will have an agenda packed with exclusive information for participants and will provide opportunities for participants to discuss changes in the food industry and consumer perceptions, as well as ag politics, trade and a wide range of other areas.

The changes occurring today in the food industry offer some of the great challenges, and potential opportunities, that farmers have seen in generations, Miller said. “At the farm level, there are just a lot of questions about how do I respond to these new signals and how do I position my farm and make investments to meet these changing markets,” he said.

The push for changes in animal care issues, for example, is fueled in large part by the increase in pet ownership over the past 10 years. Just last year, 68 percent of U.S. households owned a pet. This has resulted in an overall change in attitude and sentiment toward animals, as the majority of the population now considers their pet to be a member of the family. “Some groups take advantage of those trends in changing sentiment, which is creating a ripple effect down to the farm gate.”

It’s the same for the use of biotech in the development of improved crop genetics, a process that is opposed by some consumers, he said.

“These are subsets of consumers, and farmers may not understand those positions,” Miller said. “But clearly some major food processors, retailers and restaurant chains are positioning themselves to respond to those market demands. That is having an impact on farmers, who are looking for answers on how to respond,” he said.

Two of the speakers at this year’s IFBF Economic Summit will bring unique insights into these issues, Miller said. Dean Danilson of Tyson Foods will discuss technology in food animal production and how animal care concerns have become a driver for change in the livestock production. In addition, Russ Sanders of DuPont Pioneer will discuss the next generation of seed genetics and how biotechnology issues will affect the pipeline of improved crops.

“People at the conference will come away with a better understanding of how these issues are driving decisions at two major players, Tyson and DuPont Pio­neer,” Miller said. “I’m certain that insights provided by these key industry players will be very valuable to folks who attend the summit.”

Here's an agenda of all scheduled speakers and information on registration and lodging. The cost of the summit is $50 for Iowa Farm Bureau members and $150 for non-members.