About Chris Chinn

My husband, Kevin, and I are 5th generation farmers. We live on our family hog farm in Missouri with our two children. Our dream is that our children will have the opportunity be the 6th generation of farmers in our family.

Do Media Relationships Really Make a Difference?

Relationships and storytelling do matter when it comes to getting the attention of the media. The Viewing Ag From a Media Perspective workshop focused on how farmers and ranchers can get their stories told in the media.

Allen Bjerga from Bloomberg News moderated this session which generated great information about understanding the challenges journalists face daily in their jobs. An important reminder Allen gave attendees was the media’s job is to be unsupportive of agriculture because they are not supposed to choose sides. The media’s job is to share the facts and let their audience hear both sides of an issue.

Jerry Hagstrom of the Hagstrom Report shared tips on how to deal with media. Try not to sound angry was his first suggestion. He followed that up by truthfully telling attendees that people are not satisfied in hearing we have an affordable and abundant food supply. There is a growing demand for people wanting to hear how food is produced.

Lynn Brezoski with the San Antonio Express News offered her advice on how farmers can be more effective in reaching out to the media. She told attendees to initiate the contact on issues that are important to them and impact agriculture. She said that can be as simple as sending an email sharing what’s on your mind. Invite the media to your farm or ranch to see first-hand what your operation looks like and how it works.

My biggest take away-came from Allen Bjerga, and I think it is key to building media relationships. “Respect the role everyone plays in the conversation. Respect the role of the journalist and the job they have to do in asking tough questions.” He reminded the audience that if you ignore a reporter, you may be facing an undercover video later. Respectable media are trained professionals and their questions are normally more fair than undercover investigations.

Another reminder from all three journalists was the media is still trying to figure out how to deal with social media. Be patient, they are learning just as consumers and farmers or ranchers are learning. So how should farmers tell their story whether using social media or traditional media? Transparency was the answer, it’s your best tool in telling your story according to Bjerga. He went on to say, “Savvy farmers and ranchers are installing webcams on their livestock operations and being proactive and transparent.”

What about when the media gets it wrong? When the media gets it wrong, truly wrong, (and that doesn’t mean you simply disagree with the facts) politely point it out to the author. If you don’t get a response, politely point it out again. This is one example of how you build a relationship with the media. You may not get your story told but your better off than if you did nothing or if you attacked the media outlet.

Another key reminder for attendees was time is important for journalists. Whoever gets back to the media the quickest will be a part of the story because journalists have a deadline to meet. If you want your voice heard, be a part of the conversation. And last, but not least, remember the media has a job to do just like farmers and ranchers. Being civil will get you a long way with a professional media outlet!

chrischinn is a Farm Bureau member in Missouri, serves  on the Missouri Farm Bureau board of directors and will represent her state at the delegate session in San Antonio. She is a hog producer, 5th-generation family farmer and former chair of the national AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. She is one of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance’s “Faces of Farming.” Find her on Facebook and Twitter (@ChrisChinn).

President Stallman Motivates Members To Get Our Chore List Done

President Stallman’s annual address to Farm Bureau members this morning focused on the rich agricultural heritage of our nation. “Farm Bureau has a strong heritage and for 95 years this organization has brought farmers and ranchers together to accomplish collectively what they could never do alone….achieving national solutions to the problems that threaten their farms and their livelihoods.” No matter how big or small a challenge may be, Farm Bureau has always stepped up to meet the challenge.

An exciting opportunity came to Farm Bureau in 2013, Farm Bureau acquired a new business – IDEAg – a group of agricultural events and publications that furthers the Farm Bureau mission of enhancing the lives of rural Americans and strong agricultural communities. AFBF now owns several farm shows and the new business also includes Feed and Grain magazine which is the top publication for the nation’s feed industry. President Stallman told members these events and publications will offer new opportunities to broaden Farm Bureau’s reach and deepen our connection with farmers and ranchers.

President Stallman is excited about Farm Bureau’s partnership with the Farmer Veteran Coalition. This program creates opportunities on farms for those returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nebraska’s Dustin Ladenburger, a third-generation cattle and crop producer and a Young Farmer and Rancher alum, is involved in this program. He is helping Kevin Comer, an eight year veteran of the Army Reserves, fulfill his dreams of becoming a farmer. Stallman encouraged Farm Bureau members who want to help veterans become farmers to talk to their state Farm Bureau or to visit the Farmer Veteran Coalition website.

President Stallman discussed Congress and the unproductive work year Congress had. Congress has fallen down on the job of addressing the nation’s needs – including the needs of farmers and ranchers. President Stallman sees three big needs for agriculture on Congress’ chore list. They are the farm bill, reliable waterways transportation and agricultural labor reform. “These are all crucial issues on which Congress has started the job, but still has to finish it.”

Stallman reminded members to think about what what they do on their farms when an employee doesn’t get a job done. “Members of Congress, and even the President and his appointees, get a paycheck from Uncle Sam. But they don’t work for the government. They don’t work for the political parties. They work for YOU. You are the boss…and it’s up to you to hold them accountable.” Stallman reminded members their wisdom and voice are needed and he has confidence that Farm Bureau members will spur their Senators and Representatives to act. And if members of Congress don’t act, we need to hold them accountable and replace them.

A growing concern today for farmers is precision farming data privacy and who owns or controls all of the information they are sending back to the companies providing the technology. Modern technologies clearly have great benefits for farmers but farmers are concerned about information security and who else might have access to their information. Hopefully our delegate body will explore these concerns during the policy development process this week.

Ballot initiatives and regulations requiring unnecessary labeling of foods that contain ingredients produced through biotechnology continues to be a challenge facing agriculture, President Stallman said. EPA also continues to try expanding their regulatory reach under the Clean Water Act. Last year they proposed extending federal regulatory authority to every water body in the country, even if its not navigable. The result will be many farmers and ranchers will need costly permits to do anything on their land and some farmers may not be able to get a permit. As Stallman so eloquently pointed out, EPA may be experts in many things but they are NOT experts on how to run our farms and ranches.

In closing, Stallman reminded members that each member has the power to be part of the Voice of Agriculture and that each member CAN make a difference! That’s why Farm Bureau has such a rich heritage. And now, its time to get our chore list completed.

chrischinn is a Farm Bureau member in Missouri, serves  on the Missouri Farm Bureau board of directors and will represent her state at the delegate session in San Antonio. She is a hog producer, 5th-generation family farmer and former chair of the national AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. She is one of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance’s “Faces of Farming.” Find her on Facebook and Twitter (@ChrisChinn).

All Good Things Must End

All good things must end and the closing session of AFBF’s 94th Annual Meeting is upon us. The meeting kicked off with a presentation to the retiring board members of the AFBF Board of Directors. Next up was Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack who emphasized the importance of a five year farm bill being passed. Vilsack commented that rural America was losing relevance and we needed to look for ways to expand our reach in less conventional ways.

Another highlight of closing session was retired astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly from NASA who has made four trips into space. He talked about how practice, persistence and the drive to never give up are what contributes to success. He also says there is no excuse for not properly communicating with those you work with.

He shared his account of his wife, Gabby Giffords, being shot in Arizona while she was visiting constituents. He said he never dreamed his wife would be the one to almost lose her life by serving our country, he was the pilot, not Gabby. He said every day as Gabby leaves the house and goes to rehab her last words to him are “fight, fight, fight.” Kelly said one of the highlights of his life was seeing his wife return to the U.S. House floor to cast one of her final votes. Hearing her voice on the House floor was inspiring to so many.
Following Kelly’s speech, the Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee was introduced. The winners of the Y&R contests were announced next. Chairman Glen Cope announced the new chairman for the coming year which will be Zach Hunnicutt from Nebraska. President Stallman then handed Zach his diamond pin which is tradition. Stallman thanked everyone in attendance and invited everyone to come back next year to San Antonio, Texas.

Chris Chinn is a Farm Bureau member in Missouri, serves  on the Missouri Farm Bureau board of directors and will represent her state at the delegate session in Nashville. She is a hog producer, 5th-generation family farmer and former chair of the national AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. Find her on Facebook and Twitter (@ChrisChinn).

Transportation and Agriculture

This session discussed the transportation issues facing farmers today and the difficulty in interpreting the existing regulations and how they apply to farmers. Funding for infrastructure is also a major issue in most states and this problem isn’t going away.

The expert panel for the session was made up of people who address these issues for agriculture daily. The panel included Samuel Kieffer from Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, Garrett Hawkins from Missouri Farm Bureau, Michael Wright from South Carolina Farm Bureau and Kevin Rund from Illinois Farm Bureau.

The panel discussed how infrastructure associated with agriculture is disadvantaged today because earmarks in funding for rural infrastructure has disappeared. This means we need to find a different way to fund infrastructure for agriculture.

Another important issue facing agriculture transportation is barge transportation on waterways. The current drought has made barge traffic very difficult and almost nonexistent in certain areas. Due to low water levels this past year, barges have reduced their load capacity just to maintain barge traffic. One barge can transport as much as 1,050 semi tractor-trailers and 216 rail cars. A barge is more efficient in the number of miles it can travel per gallon of diesel compared to trucks and rail.

This session offered an in depth look into what states have been facing regarding transportation. There was a focus on the importance of barge traffic to agriculture, in addition to the importance of our port system in the United States. If our ports are not kept up to date we will lose out to more modern ports like Cuba.

The panel emphasized we need certainty in funding for long term planning for our aging infrastructure system. Farmers need to engage in these conversations and talk about the important role transportation plays in their farming operations.

Chris Chinn is a Farm Bureau member in Missouri, serves on the Missouri Farm Bureau board of directors and will represent her state at the delegate session in Nashville. She is a hog producer, 5th-generation family farmer and former chair of the national AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. Find her on Facebook and Twitter (@ChrisChinn).

Social Agriculture – What Is It?

I attended a great session about social media in agriculture today which explained what social media really is and how agriculture uses it. Katie Pinke shares her family farm story because she wants people to know how their food is raised. For Janice Person it’s important for her to know the people answering questions about agriculture are truly involved in agriculture. Ryan Goodman started blogging just so his family knew what he was doing during a summer work experience on a farm in another state. Zach Hunnicutt loves auto-steer on his tractor because it allows him time to keep his social media followers updated on the happenings on his farming operation.

Katie Pinke also used social media to reach out to other moms across the United States about the new changes to the school lunch programs. This created a movement from moms inside and outside of agriculture and parents everywhere contacted their elected officials and schools about their concerns and to have input on these changes. Social media allowed these farm moms and non-farm moms to unite and make a difference.

Zach Hunnicutt likes giving people a tour of his farm every day through social media and pictures he take on his smartphone. This allows him to explain what is really happening and why he makes the decisions he makes on his farm. This allows Zach to form relationships with others outside of agriculture so that when they have questions they will turn to him.

Another great reason he uses social media is to keep up with the weather and markets. For example, during a dangerous storm path Twitter was the only way Zach coould keep updated on a tornado due to not having electricity on the farm.

Janice Person stressed that social media is more about transparency for agriculture and forming real relationships rather than how many people follow you or what important job title those followers may have.

Consistent use of blogs, Twitter and Facebook is the key to being effective, Consistent social activity will spread the agriculture story the fastest. Thanks to being consistent in social media, Hunnicutt has formed good relationships with media outlets. Ryan Goodman has done the same thing and has guest blogged for CNN’s Eatocracy blog. This connection also opened doors for the local media to use Ryan as a valuable resource for agriculture stories during the recent drought.

This session offered many great ideas about how agriculture can better utilize social media to tell our story. Attendees left this session energized and armed with great ideas to help share the agriculture story.

Chris Chinn is a Farm Bureau member in Missouri, serves  on the Missouri Farm Bureau board of directors and will represent her state at the delegate session in Nashville. She is a hog producer, 5th-generation family farmer and former chair of the national AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. Find her on Facebook and Twitter (@ChrisChinn).

Opening General Session Kicks Off With a Full House

The 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Farm Bureau kicked off this morning with a very full house. We began our meeting with a prayer and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Edens Edge performed the National Anthem and they did a magnificent job. The music didn’t stop there though. We were entertained by Edens Edge for one more song. I tried to take pictures but I was in the back of the room so they are not top-quality.

American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman addressed the members after Edens Edge. Edens Edge is a tough act to follow but President Stallman did great! He opened by talking about how much country music has changed over the years, just as the tastes of consumers have changed. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that consumers need farmers!

Stallman emphasized that farmers are relevant! Members advocate and communicate with our elected officials throughout the year. He stressed that AFBF works to represent the concerns and needs of its members.

Stallman told members we need to meet consumers on their turf to address their concerns and help them understand what happens on our turf. It’s vital every farmer and rancher tell their own personal story. He encouraged members to stop by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance booth and sign up to tell their stories.

Farmers and ranchers know better than anyone the important role the farm bill plays in the lives of all Americans. Stallman talked about how important it was to get a meaningful farm bill passed. He also talked about the need for a reliable work force for agriculture and how Farm Bureau would continue to fight for this in the coming year. Farm Bureau will continue to work for permanent repeal of the estate tax and we welcome the stability of allowing farmers to plan their estates so the next generation can farm.

Stallman reinforced that parents know best when it comes to our children and that’s why we worked hard to communicate with the Department of Labor that we didn’t need new laws for our kids who work on the farm. Parents all across the country sent letters and the Department of Labor listened.

Stallman asked members how many of us would stand up for farmers and ranchers everywhere, even if it meant going against a government agency. One farmer, Lois Alt, had the courage to stand up to the EPA and fight for her farm. EPA wanted Lois to get a Clean Water Act Permit but she didn’t understand why. When she asked EPA why she needed the permit, she was told to just get the permit or she faced fines of over $37,000 a day or jail time. Lois took on the EPA in a court battle to fight for all farmers and her family farm. West Virginia Farm Bureau and AFBF were there to help Lois and the court allowed Farm Bureau to sign on to her lawsuit. Days before the case went to court, EPA dropped the charges. Farm Bureau will continue to stand with farmers and ranchers.

Stallman closed by talking about the Centennial Project Development and how it would ensure Farm Bureau remained strong for another 100 years. Stallman thanked members and vowed Farm Bureau would continue to fight the good fight for its members.

Following Stallman’s annual address we watched videos of Farm Bureau members across the country helping others in their communities. Next, the AFBF Women’s Leadership Committee was introduced, followed by the American Farm Bureau Foundation of Agriculture Board of Directors. Terri Gilbert of Kentucky chairs the Women’s Leadership Committee and Stallman also serves as Foundation president. Videos were shown showcasing the work of these two groups over the past year. Both groups focus on showcasing agriculture so people have a better understanding of how farming and ranching today.

DuPont Pioneer donated $250,000 to the My American Farm project, which helps to educate children about where food comes from. This donation will help enhance the project and expand its reach (www.myamericanfarm.org).

After the generous donation by DuPont Pioneer, Edens Edge performed their first hit single “Amen.” The lead singer also thanked her uncle, a farmer in Arkansas, for helping arrange their guest appearance this morning. I loved hearing how they were connected to agriculture. And they were proud of their heritage–that’s even better!

The Top 10 Finalists for the Excellence in Agriculture Award and Achievement Award were announced for the YF&R contests. The auditorium was full of cheers and excitement. More awards were announced recognizing state Farm Bureaus for 2012 achievements.

This was a great opening session and I’m excited to attend the sessions this afternoon. The afternoon session line-up offers variety and still covers areas important to all of agriculture. Nashville hospitality has embraced this meeting and even though the convention center is big, there is always a smiling face to help you find your way!

Chris Chinn is a Farm Bureau member in Missouri. She serves on the Missouri Farm Bureau board of directors and will represent her state at the delegate session in Nashville. She is a hog producer, 5th-generation family farmer and former chair of the national AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. Find her on Facebook and Twitter (@ChrisChinn).

Rain Delay on Our Way to AFBF Annual Meeting

Our drive to Tennessee is taking us longer due to heavy rains in Illinois and Kentucky. We have been driving in rain for the last two hours. We are near Paducah, Ky, and the rain is so heavy vehicles are pulled over to the side of I-24. The wind has really picked up making it more difficult to see as well.

This rain would have been a welcome sight at our farm this last summer. And we would still welcome rain now as would many farmers across the country! Enjoy your rain, Kentucky!

chrischinn is Chris Chinn, a Farm Bureau member in Missouri, serves  on the Missouri Farm Bureau board of directors and will represent her state at the delegate session in Nashville. She is a hog producer, 5th-generation family farmer and former chair of the national AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. Find her on Facebook and Twitter (@ChrisChinn).