Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Monday 01/14/13

Smithsonian to Spotlight Agricultural Innovation

Have you ever thought that a piece of your farm should be in the Smithsonian?

The American Farm Bureau Federation announced a partnership Monday with the Smithsonian National Museum of American History to find items from farmers, ranchers and agricultural businesses for an American Enterprise exhibit that will open in spring 2015.

The Smithsonian is putting together a 8,000 square-foot exhibit highlighting innovations in several sectors of American business, including agriculture, finance, information technology (IT), retail and manufacturing. The American Enterprise exhibit could stand on its own at the American History Museum for 20 years. The farming element will be called the Agricultural Innovation and Experience Project.

The museum will examine these American industries and their changes from the mid-1770s to the present. For agriculture, that would include areas such as technology, biotechnology, debt, the environment, competition, food safety, animals, water and labor.

It's a $20 million project overall. Mars Corp. has donated $5 million. Hence, the name, the Mars Hall of American Business.

At the Farm Bureau convention in Nashville, Pat Campbell, a member of the Tennessee Farm Bureau, made the first donations for the museum exhibit. Campbell, whose family has been farming the same ground since the 1870s in Spring Hill, Tenn., donated photographs, a computer cow tag and an older dairy management reader unit that reflect some of the changes in dairy production over the past 100 years. Campbell signed over ownership of the items to the museum at a press conference. Campbell said his family milks 50 head of cows right now. "That's partly due to the weather conditions and the economic conditions over the past five or six years," he said.

In announcing the partnership, AFBF executive director Anna Potts said the Farm Bureau is not financing the project but will partner with the museum to help find exhibits. A donation from AFBF could be possible down the line.

"As the nations' largest farm and ranch organization, it made sense for Farm Bureau to partner with the museum," she said.

Peter Liebhold, museum curator and chair of the Division of Work and Industry at the Smithsonian, was asked how the museum might react regarding those consumers who have grown to oppose biotechnology or changes in agricultural practices. Liebhold said the museum will not take a stand on whether innovations for agriculture have been good or bad. The goal is to educate the public on the changes that have occurred. Any education on these topics helps the public better understand farming and ideally sparks people to go learn more, he said.

Liebhold also said the exhibit would likely touch upon the expansion of commercial-sized organic farming, but would not explore small, organic production that doesn't contribute to changes and innovation in agriculture as a whole.

For farmers want to share stories or possibly reach out to the Smithsonian about donating items, go to www.AmericanEnterprise.si.edu.

I can be found on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN.

Posted at 11:48AM CST 01/14/13 by Chris Clayton
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