Morgan Norris, of Port Charlotte, knew she would make a difference in the agriculture industry since she joined the Future Farmers of America in middle school.

She didn’t grow up in a farming family but she devoted her career to representing them.

While attending high school in Highlands County, her passion for the agriculture industry blossomed. After studying agriculture communications at the University of Florida, Norris started Front Porch Marketing, where she is able to promote the stories of farmers and ranchers.

Working in an industry that is presumably male-dominated, she has found how much power the female voice has.

Norris was one of 19 farmers selected by the World Farmers’ Organization to take part in the 13th annual Global Forum for Food and Agriculture, which was held virtually, Jan. 18-22. Norris represented young farmers across the United States at the International Young Farmers Forum.

Norris is a member of the DeSoto/Charlotte County Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee and chair of the American Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. She was the first female president of the Florida Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers State Leadership Group in 2017.

Norris currently resides in Port Charlotte with her husband and agriculture enthusiast, Brian, and two daughters.

Norris believes the sooner a young farmer’s involvement is in the agricultural industry, the better.

The Daily Sun spoke with Norris regarding her involvement with the International Young Farmers Forum and her insight on the pandemic’s effects on the agriculture industry both locally and globally.

According to the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture, almost 690 million people suffer from hunger. For the young farmers of America, what kinds of problems could be in their hands and how does the agricultural industry plan to subside these numbers with the help of these future generations?

As young farmers and ranchers and really, the agricultural industry as a whole, we are always facing the questions of how to feed the world as the global population is constantly rising. Advances in agricultural technology will help us continue to be more efficient and be able to produce more with less. Those technologies include the development of new crop protection tools and new seed varieties.

We need improved access for trade. The majority of that 690 million aren’t in the U.S. To feed those countries, there is a need for acceptance of science-based technologies. Young farmers and ranchers also want to get involved and be a part of the solution, but we can’t afford to.

STEM classes in schools and trade schools can prepare the next generation to enter the agricultural industry. We need more than just hands in the dirt farmers to subside those growing numbers. We need the scientists, the engineers, the math experts to work together with our farmers and ranchers to make a difference for future generations.

How have complications from the pandemic changed the way the agriculture industry operates?

The pandemic shut down milk-processing plants, meatpacking facilities, hotels and restaurants that our fruit and vegetable producers relied on and we had to completely change the way we did business. We have seen the supply chain find new ways to get food to consumers. The “just-in-time” system backs the products up.

It is illegal to sell raw milk, so these farmers end up dumping tanks of milk out. The Nutrition Assistance Programs may provide the most effective ways to get food to people who need it, like students who rely on their school to eat, policies must be created to aid in these programs.

How had global market shutdowns temporarily and permanently affected the agricultural industry last summer? What kinds of changes to the industry have impacted our local markets, like in DeSoto and Charlotte counties?

Last summer we saw trade slow in many top markets due to a lot of the same challenges we saw such as the economic recession. We also have seen supply chain challenges for logistics. Locally and across the world, we are seeing challenges on guest worker programs.

We have farm labor harvesting citrus, in our strawberry fields, on our dairy farms and for example, bringing H2A workers in was a difficult process. But now, farmers are fielding significant cost impacts. Our Farm labor needs access to Personal Protective Equipment, which costs money, but prices for your commodity hasn’t risen — huge increase of cost directly to the farmer.

What will it take for the agriculture industry to recover?

Resilience. We face struggles every day. If it’s not the pandemic, it’s climate change. It’s a massive hurricane that threatens our entire state. It’s greening. There are so many hurdles that agriculture has overcome and will continue to. Farmers and ranchers still have to grow the food, fuel and fiber for our world. They have recovered before and will again.

How did it feel to represent young farmers across the U.S. at the International Young Farmers Forum?

It was truly an incredible experience. To have that seat at the table was truly humbling. To be from a small town in Florida to be able to speak on that platform was an honor. We each come from different backgrounds, but when we all come together, we realize we are facing the same struggles within the agricultural industry.

What is it like to be a female in the agriculture industry, especially when it may be assumed the profession is mostly male?

The great thing about agriculture is there are so many incredible women involved and in leadership positions throughout our industry. I’m honored to be a part of an organization and industry where everyone has a seat at the table. I’m also proud to be in a position like this to continue to inform and educate that farming and ranching isn’t just a male-dominated arena anymore; women are also right there growing the food, fuel and fiber for our world!


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