The annual Purdue Ag Alumni Fish Fry drew a super bowl sized crowd to the State Fairgrounds on Saturday. The keynote speaker was Howard Buffett, President of the Howard G Buffett Foundation, an organization dedicated to solving hunger and promoting soil conservation. In his remarks, he chastised farm groups for not making conservation a higher priority and urged the farmers in attendance to donate the profits from 1 acre of their land to local food banks to help fight hunger. Buffett claimed that farmers were not doing enough to conserve soil and made a strong case for the use of cover crops as a way to hold the soil in place as well as to increase soil fertility and crop production.
After his remarks, he told HAT the real solution to hunger is giving people the resources to feed themselves, “In the end, it s about jobs and having an economy that will allow individuals to support themselves; I mean you can’t give away anything forever.” But, in the mean time, he said finding the federal funds to support the food stamp program and conservation programs is a must. He admitted that, ironically, increases in funding for food programs have come at the expense of funding for conservation programs. Buffett admitted finding support for both these program areas in Washington is difficult, “I have never seen the political landscape so polarized in my lifetime.” He said investing in conservation is investing in the future and that is hard as well in Washington these days, “We have to grow up and get over some of this stuff and figure out how we are going to fund the important things that government should fund.” He says two of those things include taking care of the less fortunate in our society and insuring agricultural production well into the future.
He warned farmers that they have to get serious about soil and water conservation or the regulators will mandate changes that may not be good for agriculture. He said the settlement of the Chesapeake Bay case should serve as a wake-up call for Midwestern states. Buffett said that 41% of all US watersheds drain into the Mississippi River, so those states will be prime targets for those who want to regulate agricultural production, “Farmers need to get better educated and quickly. They will need to change the way they do some things.” He urged farmers to be proactive and be part of the solution so that it will be something that is good for agriculture, “Otherwise we could lose the ability to use productive tools on our land.” Buffett praised the work that Purdue is doing to give growers the tools they need to increase productivity and protect natural resources.
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About Howard Buffett
Howard G. Buffett grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has been active in business, politics, philanthropy, agriculture, conservation and photography. He currently spends the majority of his time managing the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, a private philanthropic foundation. Mr. Buffett operates a 1,240-acre (502 ha) family farm in central Illinois, manages a 400-acre (162 ha) family-owned farm in eastern Nebraska, and oversees two foundation-operated research farms: 1,300 (526 ha) acres in Illinois and 9,200 acres (3,723 ha) in South Africa. Mr. Buffett has served in a number of public positions. In 1989, he was elected to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners in Nebraska, he has served on two Office of the United States Trade Representative committees, and as Chairman of the Nebraska Ethanol Authority and Development Board. Mr. Buffett also has served in senior executive positions at Archer Daniels Midland Company and the GSI Group.
Mr. Buffett currently serves on the corporate boards of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., an investment holding company; Lindsay Corporation, a worldwide leader in the manufacturing of agricultural irrigation products; and Sloan Implement, a privately owned distributor of John Deere agricultural equipment. Mr. Buffett has served on the boards of Archer Daniels Midland Company, a leading global food processor; Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc., the largest Coca-Cola bottler in the world; and ConAgra Foods, one of North America’s largest food service manufacturers and retail food suppliers. He serves or has served on numerous non profit boards.