ASTA: We’re Listening and We’re Measuring

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If there’s one message that leaders throughout the seed industry have communicated to me during the first 100 days of my term as chair of the American Seed Trade Association, it’s that they want to improve communication — between sectors, with federal and state governments, among generations, within the association and to the public.

While a seemingly huge order, I’m encouraged by this feedback. For one thing, it affirms both the need for an active seed association and the desire of its members to be more involved. As one member said, ”We’re in a position to blast off!”

It also affirms ASTA’s successes in promoting trade and influencing policy and regulation are being recognized internally and externally. One example of this has been the increasing attendance at the Farm and Lawn Seed Conference; the Corn, Sorghum & Soybean Seed Research Conference and Seed Expo; the Vegetable & Flower Seed Conference and ASTA’s annual convention. I’ve also seen our influence in state and federal government matters grow; we’re now regularly consulted on and invited to participate in policy discussions, such as the one I attended with U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Vilsack on the Sage Grouse Initiative.

According to another leader surveyed, “ASTA is instigating profound change around the world.”

So, the call for improved communication strikes me as both a vote of confidence and a challenge. Having stated in my acceptance speech in June that my focus will be on developing benchmarks and metrics to measure our progress in executing ASTA’s five-year strategic plan, I asked how we could apply this to communications. Strategically and tactically, the feedback I received fell into five areas: Cross-sector communication, advocacy, inter-generational communication, internal communication and public outreach.

Cross-sector Communication

Breaking down industry “silos” to facilitate innovation and cooperation among businesses in the row crop, vegetable, grass and floral sectors seems to be an idea whose time has finally come. Our progress in achieving sector- and geo-diversity can be measured by participation in conferences and expanded distribution of information by working groups, committees and
divisions, as well as by increased partnerships with peer groups such as the American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association and Agricultural Retailers Association.

Advocacy

It was observed that communicating and building relationships with federal officials yields the most success when participation by the industry is as broad as it is deep. In addition to immediate legislative victories, progress can be measured by participation in ASTA’s annual Washington D.C. Fly-In, meetings held with state legislators, expanded circulation of legislative updates and intelligence flowing into ASTA from members, and funding of the Seed First PAC.

Inter-generational Communication

Passing on the lessons learned by today’s leadership to tomorrow’s was identified by several as a priority. More mentoring programs, more aggressive recruitment of young professionals to working groups and greater outreach through social media are some of the ways we can measure success in this area.

Internal Communication

While a terrific amount of work is conducted and reported by ASTA’s division and committee leaders, more vehicles for two-way communication were recommended. Requesting input from members to identify and exploit more opportunities will be explored.

Public Outreach

With ASTA’s rebranding program underway, we recognize the need to communicate about all types of seed breeding and the industry’s evolution to the public. Social and traditional media monitoring will help establish benchmarks in public opinion and future outreach efforts will be evaluated and shared.

As you can tell, we have no shortage of ideas for sharing information and ideas among our industry’s stakeholders and those who can impact our ability to grow and prosper. I hope you recognize this as an invitation to learn more and to actively engage with ASTA. With greater industry participation, I look forward to reporting measurable progress in all areas of communication by the end of my term next June.

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