Texas Farm BureauBy Mike Barnett

Chink. Chink. Chink.

Listen closely, farmers and ranchers. That’s the sound of your reputations being chiseled away.

Like a mason chipping stone, outside forces are shaping how agriculture is viewed today. Although the image of farmers and ranchers is still remarkable, it is being distorted by those who wish to dictate how you and I eat.

Chink. Chink. Chink.

Recent consumer research by a coalition of Midwest farm groups, including the Illinois Farm Bureau, confirms that farmers are still held in substantial esteem by the public. The same research, however, shows consumers have reduced trust in modern farming techniques and have profound doubts about how their food is produced.

Chink. Chink. Chink.

Is it any wonder consumers are confused? They are bombarded with messages that “industrial” agriculture is wrecking the environment and wreaking havoc on their families. They are warned daily of the unsafe food being “forced” on Americans by greedy corporate pirates. They have no understanding of the pathogens inherent to food that make people sick. They have no knowledge of who grows their food and how they do it. They are ignorant of the agenda being force fed to them.

Chink. Chink. Chink.

The images they associate with agriculture are tied to pollution, sickness and death.

Farmers apply rivers of pesticide to their crops which are polluting our water and making us sick. Or so you’re led to believe.

Poultry producers chase the almighty dollar by cramming chickens into cages which causes salmonella, making people sick across the nation. Or so you’re led to believe.

Livestock producers beat their livestock because that’s how cows are treated on “factory farms.” Or so you’re led to believe.

Standard industry practices in livestock care are cruel and unusually sadistic. Or so you’re led to believe.

Chink. Chink. Chink.

That’s the sound of the hammer driving a cold chisel of steel directly into agriculture’s heart. Agenda-driven groups are attempting to rework the model of agriculture into something they image as simple and pure. If successful, what they will unveil is dark and dangerous.

Chink. Chink. Chink.

Fortunately, their work is not complete. The image has not been cast. Although many shards litter the ground, the rock of traditional agriculture still remains.

There are those who work to preserve it. Like the good folks of the California Agricultural Communications Coalition, who give farmers and ranchers a platform to tell the story of agriculture on websites such as www.knowacaliforniafarmer.com. Or individuals such as Jeff Fowle, a fourth generation farmer and rancher who reaches nearly a million people a day through social media efforts. It is farm families like Robert and Lynn Fleming of Bell County, Texas, who chronicle life on the farm every day on Facebook. It’s folks like Texas Farm Bureau’s Texas Agricultural Challenges Team (TACT), a group of farmers and ranchers who are learning social media skills to advance agriculture’s cause.

Agvocates like these will still the hammer of those who seek to destroy the modern miracle of agriculture. Agvocates like these—and you— will make sure the true story of agriculture is told.

Visit the Texas Farm Bureau website at www.txfb.org.
Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates on this topic and many more.

Mike Barnett

Director of Publications
Texas Farm Bureau
I’m a firm believer that farmers and ranchers will continue to meet the needs of a growing world population by employing equal measures of common sense, conservation and technology.
Follow Mike on Twitter and Facebook.

8 Responses to “Agriculture’s image being chiseled away”

  1. Claire Record says:

    Mike…couldn’t agree with you more. I am not a producer but I certainly appreciate the producers I know. If the general public could spend just one day with one of America’s farmers and ranchers they would gain a new appreciation for their love and passion for what they do. If they could meet their kids…or watch them when they are showing their livestock at a county fair, they would see the integrity and respect they instill in their children. When they complain about their 9-5 job…I challenge them to talk with a farmer who gets up before dawn to start his or her day and ends it way past dark. The incredible part to me is that you rarely hear them complain. Most Americans are reacting out of sheer ignorance. So…it’s up to the producer to change that image. The bummer is…they are spending so much of their time making sure there’s quality food on our tables…they don’t have time to Twitter or Facebook. Even so…someone needs to step up. I will certainly do my part to make sure the word gets out.

  2. Excellent article, Mike. The analogy of chipping away is good, but unlike chipping away at a stone where you cannot undue the chipping, we can not only stop the chipping we can build up the perception held by so many that do not understand the ag industry and it’s continual effort to produce better quality food and at the same time produce more food to keep up with the growing world demand. American agriculture is the backbone of our economy, we need to make the small groups that are using the chisel understand that.

  3. Bayard Breeding says:

    The main problem with the public view of farmers/ranchers is distorted by the bad apples who have been allowed to get away with sloppy practices for years while the so called regulators hide their heads in the sand. My solution for the egg fiasco is to take the guilty party out,tar and feather them,put them in the public stocks and feed them the contaminated eggs. The same goes for the gutless polictcians who cry foul to competent inspections while the citizens wind up in the hospitals from food borne illness. Many of us in agriculture would do well to clean up our acts instead of whining and crying when the public who buys our products demands clean food.

  4. Bayard Breeding, agree with bad apples tarnishing the industry. Have to disagree with some of your other points.

    I think you’ll find food in the U.S. the safest in the world. Specifically with egg production, the industry as a whole continues to implement checks and balances to ensure a safe product. Are these checks and balances going to be 100 percent effective? No.

    But the vast majority of producers are committed to producing wholesome food. I agree that those who don’t should clean up their acts.

  5. Bayard – an interesting solution that I love metaphorically, but some would view it as harsh!

    Our adversaries object to the term Ag Illiterates, but I think it’s the one that most fits. If you are ignorant of how something works, it doesn’t mean you’re mentally challenged. It just means you don’t know, but they think they know and that’s dangerous. The trouble is they are the ones who have the chisel of which Mike writes so well. Farmers and ranchers must continue to use the many blogs out there on these subjects and the social media platforms to continue telling their story. – Gene

  6. When half a BILLION eggs are recalled, that’s a pretty big bad apple. I agree with you that the vast majority of us who produce the worlds food supply are honest, hardworking people who want to get a fair price for our work. But half a BILLION eggs???? Piles of manure so high that rats use them as ramps to get into the chicken enclosures??? Salmonella tainted feed and water??? That’s more than a bad apple. Tell me exactly what consumers should think? The number of nationwide recalls has really skyrocketed in recent years. Maybe it just more visible because of the internet speed of the press, but someone somewhere needs to be accountable. Someone knew that those piles of manure were there. Someone knew that there were rats in with the hens. And some regulator should have known that all this was going on. If farmers can’t take some kind of personal accountability for this and clean up their own act, the view of factory farming will not change.

  7. Jbandy, thanks for your comment. Half a billion is a lot of eggs for sure. I’ve seen estimates that annual egg consumption in the U.S. is 250-265 per capita. With a population of 310,000,000, that’s 77 to 79 billion eggs consumed here every year. Those numbers are only for perspective. They are not meant as an excuse. A lot more farmers do a proper job of growing our food than the tiny percentage who do it wrong. And I think most farmers and ranchers would agree that violators of safe production practices should be held accountable.–Mike

  8. I agree with you that the vast majority of us who produce the worlds food supply are honest.

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