Commodity Classic & Cab Driver Chats

Guest Blog Post from John Horter, South Dakota Soybean Association Secretary

Recently, delegates from the South Dakota Soybean Association and representatives from the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council attended Commodity Classic in Tampa,Florida. Commodity Classic is a combined educational event for the American Soybean Association (ASA) and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA). Not only is the conference an educational event, but it’s also a great opportunity to connect with other growers, and it is also where ASA and NCGA vote on resolutions and set their policy initiatives for the upcoming year.

While we were there we attended a number of sessions that focused on the importance of the agriculture community getting out and telling our stories. It wasn’t until my cab ride to the airport the next morning did I truly realize how important it is to share our message with others. …

When I hopped in the cab and headed to the airport it was a beautiful morning, and I was excited to be going home. During the ride I got to talking with the cab driver about my time in Tampa, and I told him that I was a farmer from South Dakota. The first question out of his mouth was, “Do you raise GMO crops?” (crops that have been enhanced by biotechnology)

My reply was “Why yes, absolutely.”

There was an awkward silence for a block or so, and then I asked if he was against GMO’s.


And this is where my cab ride got interesting…  He proceeded to tell me how he “googles” the negative effects of GMO’s.  On and on he went about the information he has read online about GMO’s, and why he believes they are so detrimental.

So after he got that off his chest I decided to make my defense. I told him that our food is the safest in the world, and that I have personally been eating and raising such food for some time.  I also asked him about his family and if they were healthy. I asked if he believed in doctors and modern medicine. He said yes. I explained that it was similar to the fact that he wants his family to take advantage of the most modern medicine and technology so that he and his family can be healthy and prosper.  In addition, I pointed out the fact that the world population is increasing so rapidly that in 40 years without GMO’s we may not be able to produce enough food to feed his future offspring.

By this time I was pretty wound up, and it was 5:30 a.m. on the dark streets of Tampa, so I decided to turn it down a notch.  The remainder of the 15-minute drive was pretty quiet.  As we were pulling into the airport he said he enjoyed our conversation, and it gave him things to think about. I challenged him to “google” the positive effects of GMO’s the next time he was online instead of the negative effects.

We left each other with a handshake.

My point of this story is this: You never know how much one brief encounter and conversation can make a difference. When I got into the cab that morning I never expected that I would have the opportunity to share my message. I would encourage other farmers to do the same, and start a calm, informed, genuine conversation with others.

As a farmer, we need to explain our modern day farming practices, and how much we truly care for our animals and our land. It is our right, our obligation and our privilege to educate and support our industry.  We need to tell our story.  We should be proud of the hard, honest work we do, and stand up for it!

In addition, if you’re a consumer who is concerned about the food choices you’re making or about modern agriculture practices, I challenge you to make informed decisions and to talk to a farmer as part of your information gathering process. I would be more than happy to have a discussion with you, or put you in contact with a local farmer who would be able to help answer your questions.

— John Horter, farmer, Andover, SD