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Leave a Legacy

RSS By: Kevin Spafford, Legacy Project

Kevin Spafford is Farm Journal’s succession planning expert for the Farm Journal Legacy Project.  He hosts the nationally-televised ‘Leave a Legacy’ TV, facilitates an ongoing series of workshops for farm families across the U.S., and is the author of Legacy by Design: Succession Planning for Agribusiness Owners.

The Real Cost of Outsourcing

Oct 04, 2011

WorldFrom Legacy Moment eNewsletter (09/30/2011). Please join us for future issues, delivered via email each Friday.


Yesterday, I came across an article from the Harvard Business Review that addresses the issue of outsourcing. The authors, Gary P. Pisano and Willy C. Shih, explain our waning capabilities related to the high-tech industry and outsourcing our manufacturing capabilities. The fact is, research and development follow manufacturing. Cutting-edge breakthroughs happen in the moment, with manufacturers, engineers, researchers and scientists huddled around a complex problem. Things happen in real time, not over the phone in a conference call seven time zones away.

The authors say that, once lost, the "industrial commons" that fosters scientific advancement no longer exists. Once that happens, the trend is irreversible.

I bring this to your attention to ask: Is this a warning for the agriculture industry? As the enviro-humane-activist crowd continues to work against our industry, how long will it be before it’s more cost-effective to grow our food overseas? Over time, and with the right incentives, well-meaning farmers intent on practicing their profession will look for a favorable environment: economically, environmentally, regulatorily and socially. They’ll decide it’s OK to farm in a more competitive location.

By the same trend, research and development will follow production and soon we’ll be over a barrel. Looking into the future, you may see an America dependent on foreign sources for food. Which, like oil, will make us beholden to regimes that neither like nor respect us. A little farfetched? I, for one, don’t want to find out.

To stem the tide, leadership development must become an all-consuming effort. Tomorrow’s agricultural leaders must be prepared to:

1. Continue to grow skills and capabilities.
2. Build a strong team of employees and strategic partners.
3. Become a voice in the community, as a farmer, business owner and family leader.
4. Exercise good stewardship of the land, limited resources and the profession.
5. Act as a leader, making sure their actions support their words and intentions.

News & Resources for You:

"Restoring American Competitiveness," by Gary P. Pisano and Willy C. Shih, for the Harvard Business Review, provides an excellent, in-depth look.

Or listen to the related podcast from the Harvard Business Review (13 minutes).

Prepare the next generation of ag leadership to realize their dreams.

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