May 27, 2020
Land O’Lakes president and CEO Beth Ford joined Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart on May 27 to discuss the challenges in farming, food production and distribution during the coronavirus pandemic.
Highlights
Dairy farms are dumping milk and some farmers have had to destroy their crops because of distribution challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Land O’Lakes CEO Beth Ford says the reason farmers have had to throw out their stock is because ‘there’s no home’ for products that were once purchased for the food service industry. “There’s a different between manufacturing a 600 lb. block of cheese, and cheese that you buy at the grocery store…The processing can’t shift to just meet all of the demand at retail…There’s no home for it.’
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When asked if she thinks manufacturers will shift to making other products to adjust to the demands of the current market, Land O’Lakes CEO Beth Ford said she doesn’t think an immediate shift is likely. ‘The reality is to change a manufacturing platform at scale is not an inexpensive endeavor, and it takes a while to do that, so you’re not going to see an immediate shift.’
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When asked why the federal government supports agribusiness and not smaller farms, Land O’Lakes CEO Beth Ford said Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and the USDA have tried to come up with a program that helps farms of different sizes, one that is based on output per acre without capping larger farmers to avoid depressing prices in the marketplace. She also noted that many large farms are also family owned.
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Nearly 19 million Americans in rural communities lack internet connectivity. Land O’Lakes president and CEO Beth Ford says the country needs to invest in broadband access. ‘We must have the playing field, the operating environment stabilized by having investment in these communities because without that, you cannot have a stable Ag community.”
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Beth Ford
President and CEO, Land O'Lakes
Beth Ford serves as President and CEO of Land O’Lakes, Inc., a Fortune 200 food production and agribusiness company that is also a nearly 100-year-old farmer-owned cooperative. Beth's 34-year career spans six industries at seven companies. Since joining Land O’Lakes in 2011, she has held a variety of roles leading the company's farmer-to-fork business offerings. Today, she is a passionate advocate on behalf of farmers and rural America with the goal of connecting people, particularly in urban areas, to the farmers and rural communities who grow their food. A native of Sioux City, Iowa, Beth holds a bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University and a master’s degree in business from Columbia University Business School. She also sits on the Board of Directors for the Business Roundtable, the Fortune 150 company PACCAR, Inc., and numerous other industry, non-profit and university boards.
Interviewed by Jonathan Capehart
Opinions Writer, The Washington Post
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