By Layne Chapman
I have been blessed with the greatest of all opportunities as I get to wake up every morning as an American farmer. I grow food, engage in capitalism and live the American dream to the greatest degree. I was made in America and take great pride in producing American products that are safer and consistently better than other country’s products.
An ongoing debate almost everywhere I look, however, is the actual quality of our nation’s food and products. I maintain Americans have the most affordable and safest food in the world. The manner in which our food and fiber is produced is so technologically advanced that many foreign countries cannot comprehend the science.
Yet, we still argue amongst ourselves that a natural or organic product is in some way better than one that is not marketed that way. I believe that farmers and ranchers must find common ground so that we can better service our consumers and keep Americans buying American products.
I attribute many of the differences we have seen in the marketplace to capitalism and advertising. Recently, I was given an amazing opportunity to visit a commercial organic garden in Austin. It was urban agriculture at its finest. People actually come and work for periods of time to be paid in vegetables. This is nothing but capitalism and marketing. It was very obvious that the consumers simply wanted to know the story of the product so they would have a connection with their food. It’s obvious that this market has taken a foothold as the consumer feels the products are more wholesome because they know exactly how they are produced.
But are these organic products better than conventionally grown products? Are they better than crops grown with genetically modified seed? Science says they are equal nutritionally. Rigorous standards say neither is safer than the other.
Now imagine this: What if every time you purchased a cotton shirt the tag read Texas cotton, Oklahoma cotton or maybe just American cotton? This is a more sustainable and beneficial ideology than separating our producers into conventional, genetically modified or organic. What if we could slogan our products and produce as “America’s Finest, American Grown”? Product differentiation would still exist and you could have free range chickens next to their closest kin. A genetically modified organism should be nothing more than an American product grown a different way.
In order to sustain America, we must protect and grow our future. As farmers and ranchers, we must sell ourselves to America so that the public is informed and knows that all American products are safe and beneficial to this country. I am proud to say that I am an American farmer who has shopped at Whole Foods, who is in favor of many different GMOs, and who goes out of my way to find an American product. We are a Texas farm family who grows cotton with Monsanto seed, eats GMO corn out of the field and who absolutely loves our organic milk in the morning.
Layne Chapman and his wife Jamie grow cotton and grain near Vernon and represent District 3 on Texas Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer & Rancher Advisory Committee.