U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue recently visited with agriculture-manufacturing professionals at Almon Inc. of Waukesha, Wisconsin. The group celebrated National Manufacturing Day and discussed the USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda.

“It was a privilege to spend a few hours with the secretary and discuss issues integral to the future of our great industry,” said Fernando Cuccioli, executive vice president, Cluster Americas for DeLaval.

Cuccioli represented dairy innovators at the event organized by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.

“DeLaval was founded on revolutionary innovations more than 135 years ago,” he said. “With our continued mission of making sustainable food production possible, DeLaval is fully aligned with the objectives of the Agricultural Innovation Agenda.”

The Agricultural Innovation Agenda is an effort to align the USDA’s resources, programs and research to position America as a leader in the effort to meet future food, fiber, fuel, feed and climate demands. The USDA is working to stimulate innovation so that by 2050 American agriculture can increase food production by 40 percent while halving its environmental footprint.

The meeting at Almon Inc. featured discussion on the challenges of training and retaining technical staff in the agricultural industry. The complexity of the work, odd hours and rapidly changing technology make effective training and retention difficult within the dairy industry, Cuccioli said.

Almon Inc. shared examples of virtual trainings and programs it creates for clients. Other agricultural manufacturers showcasing their innovations and ideas to were John Deere, CNH Industrial, Kondex and Blount International. During the event Perdue saw some of the latest innovations from each of the participating companies, such as DeLaval’s VMS V300 robotic-milking system.

"These machines make the United States the most productive agricultural environment in the world," Perdue said.

The group discussed access to technology. They also discussed regulatory processes, financial means for producers to implement technologies, and broadband needed to use technology to its greatest potential.

The federal government is working on improving rural access to broadband. Food safety is the main driver of regulatory processes, and processes are in place to preserve food safety, Perdue said.

Industry and the USDA must work together to keep farmers competitive on the world stage and to be able to deliver the best and safest products to consumers, he said.

“The agricultural industry has a bright future but as we’ve learned, growth and continued prosperity don’t come without challenges,” Cuccioli said. “It’s amazing the ideas that surface when the industry comes together under the common goal of increasing food production and reducing agriculture’s environmental footprint.”

Visit usda.gov/aia and delaval.com for more information.

Gavin Strang is a market-development and sales-support director for DeLaval.