By Curt Blades, AEM Senior Vice President and Ag Sector Lead

Allow me to introduce myself as the new senior vice president of Agriculture for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers following the retirement of Charlie O'Brien. It is truly an honor to serve AEM members and partners as the new lead for the agriculture sector. AEM has a rich history of leadership in the agriculture industry on behalf of equipment manufacturers, and I look forward to working with you to build this legacy.

My passion for agriculture is strong. I grew up on a multi-generational family farm in Shelbina, Missouri, where we raised corn, soybeans, wheat and cattle. Aside from still being part of the farm today, almost my entire extended family is involved in the agriculture industry in one form or another. Having lived and worked in agriculture my entire life, I know first-hand the potential barriers that could challenge our ability to continue to feed the world.

In today's hyper-sensitive, social media-driven, soundbite-sparked society, it is increasingly important for agriculture to have a unified voice. With agriculture representing an increasingly smaller percentage of the population and the rest being now several generations removed from a farm, most consumers do not understand the role of modern farming practices in food production. This lack of understanding can lead to unnecessary and burdensome regulations placed on our industry.

Prior to joining AEM, I spent the past 15 years in the ag media market with Successful Farming and Meredith Corporation. In this role, I worked with many AEM members as well as their ag counterparts in crop production, seed, grain marketing, livestock and finance. This background provides a perspective that the issues facing one part of industry eventually impact all of us.

Until recently, much of the heated conversation around food and farming practices has focused on the crop production side of our industry -- specifically around GMOs and the use of pesticides. This debate is also finding its way into the machinery side of the business. Recent pushes around right to repair, robotic milking, renewable fuels standards, data privacy and others are clear indications that manufacturers and machines are not immune.

In the November AEM Ag Sector Board meeting, we identified key priorities for 2018. Among the highest priorities is for AEM to continue to use our leadership in agriculture to establish a unified voice for the industry.

We have a rich history of working with various farm organizations, crop production groups and peer groups in the ag equipment space, some of which include:

  • National Corn Growers Association
  • American Soybean Association
  • National Association of Wheat Growers
  • National Sorghum Producers
  • National FFA Organization
  • Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association
  • Agricultural Manufacturers of Canada
  • Crop Life America
  • Equipment Dealers Association
  • American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers
  • National Milk Producers Federation
  • Agricultural Retailers Association
  • Ag Gateway
  • Agricultural Safety and Health Council of America
  • Progressive Agriculture Foundation
  • Growth Energy
  • State Ag and Rural Leaders
  • National Grain and Feed Association

In addition to speaking with one voice in North America, AEM's voice for modern agriculture may be heard on a global stage with our leadership roles in the Agrievolution Alliance and Agriculture Industry Electronics Foundation.

As we turn our sights to 2018 and beyond with optimism for our industry, AEM will continue to use its strong voice to advocate on behalf of our members and the ag equipment manufacturing industry. In addition, as approved by the board of directors, AEM will continue to exercise our leadership role in the industry to act as a unifying force on issues important to agriculture.

I look forward to meeting many members and partners over the next few months. If AEM can ever be of any assistance to you, please do not hesitate to contact us. The success of agriculture depends on our ability to work together, and I for one am committed to working with you on behalf of the ag equipment industry.

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