A Benefit to Customers and Producers Alike
Many agricultural producers are worried about consumers’, packer/processors’ and governments’ demands for increasingly strict, detailed traceability of agricultural products and production practices. Farmers are justifiably proud of the safe, high-quality, nutritious food they produce. Many are both offended by and resistant to the idea that they should have to track, trace, prove and transparently show their products’ production and movement histories, and are concerned that traceability will cost rather than benefit their operations. While it is never pleasant to have change pushed upon you, consider this: implementing advanced traceability systems on-farm can offer important marketing and agronomic benefits.
All producers should keep in mind that buyers’ confidence will ultimately make or break one’s farm business. Though a farmer may be within his or her rights to politely decline demands for information, consumers today have a smorgasbord of starch options, as well as easy access to a global village of competing producers. Meeting buyers’ and consumers’ information and traceability needs in order to build their confidence in one’s products is a critical step towards ensuring a lasting agribusiness and, more broadly, a viable industry.
Traceability also has the potential to offer significant and direct on-farm benefit.
New traceability technology can automatically create a detailed load-by-load harvest map of one’s field, linked (in some cases) to an equally detailed map showing exactly where each load is placed in storage.
This technology replaces cumbersome, time-consuming, potentially inaccurate manual record keeping. It can also help track traffic flow efficiency, and carries the potential to improve one’s storage bin management and agronomic understanding.
Knowing exactly where a load in storage was grown means storability concerns may be linkable to in-field growing conditions. As such, storage performance can help shape future agronomic and management choices. Producers are paid for quality. An investment that helps a producer better understand how growth factors translate to quality in the final, delivered product is enormously valuable.
Finally, this technology can help alleviate buyers’ concerns following shipment issues. Imagine if a load arrives to the packer/processor damaged or otherwise substandard. Having the tools to quickly prepare a report identifying the origin of the lot in question, and clearly showing the next lot will be from a different field or area may satisfy the buyer and ensure business is not delayed or lost.
Traceability has been considered a headache and hindrance for so long: my hope is that producers realize traceability technology can actually make their businesses easier and better.