Texas Farm Bureau: Five food truths consumers need to knowBy Mike Barnett
The good thing about agriculture is there is no shortage of safe and affordable food for American consumers. The bad thing about agriculture is… Well, I’m hard put to say there’s anything bad about American agriculture…except maybe for some of the people who bite the hands that feed them.

That vocal minority likes to pick-pick-pick at the way our food is grown. The following may be inconvenient to their beliefs, but what better time than today—National Agriculture Day—to share five agriculture truths consumers need to know.

• Farmers use pesticides—even organic farmers. Pesticides may be a natural part of the plant, may be made from another plant, or may be synthetic in nature.  Pesticides are regulated by the government and are evaluated for their effects on human health and environment. They are safely and judiciously used by farmers and ranchers to ward off crop and livestock disease problems.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not evil. Genetic improvement—through traditional plant breeding techniques as well as genetic modification in the lab—has allowed our food and fiber supply to keep pace with a surging world population.

• The bacon, eggs and milk you had for breakfast this morning likely came from a pig, chicken and dairy cow that was raised in a confined feeding operation. In that confined operation, the pig, chicken or dairy cow had an excellent health plan, good groceries and protection from bad weather and predators.

• Farmers make profits. Farmers make money by taking care of their land and water resources. They bank those resources to ensure future generations can continue the rich heritage of growing food and fiber.

• The average farmer in the United States feeds 155 people. Two-thirds of those people are Americans. The other third are people across the globe.

America is a lucky nation.

Our food is abundant. Our food is safe. Our food is affordable.

From this little corner of cyberspace, I salute farmers and ranchers. They are the reason America enjoys food security. They are the reason we celebrate National Agriculture Day.

Visit the Texas Farm Bureau website at www.txfb.org .
Follow Texas Farm Bureau 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.

10 Responses to “Five food truths consumers need to know”

  1. Thank you so much for writing this. I live in the bay area or California and am an agriculture education major. It’s amazing to me how much people don’t respect where their food comes from an the falsities they make up about how food is produced.

  2. Sarah. We have the same problem here in Texas!

    I think the average consumer doesn’t disrespect where their food comes from. I think that’s the angle of the food elitist. I think the average consumer doesn’t know where their food comes from. Farmers and ranchers need to connect with them (social media comes to mind!) directly.

    Thanks for the comment and thanks for reading our blog.

  3. As a Texas Farm Bureau member, I am appalled at the complete inaccuracy of this posting. We are a USDA Certified Organic producer of pasture raised eggs. We use no pesticides. We do not utilize confined feed lot practices. We think both practices are partially responsible for many of our nations health woes. The latter is inhumane at the least and dangerous for a host of reasons.

    Please read this article in last week’s NY TImes: A New Generation of Farmers (http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2011/03/06/us/20110306-FARMER.html?scp=1&sq=A%20New%20Generation%20of%20Farmers%20&st=cse) TFB can either move into the future or become history, as the type of thinking described in this posting does not reflect the practices or opinions of many of your members.

  4. Thanks for posting Matt. This is a space for opinion. We appreciate hearing yours. The evidence that modern agriculture is responsible for health woes is decidedly lacking. We are living longer and living better. Unfortunately, as Mike says, supersiziing our fries and spending too much time in front of HDTV can result in food related health problems. The consumer will vote with their dollars on this question. Farm Bureau at your local level, provides many opportunities for you to become involved in policy development. I hope you take advantage of them.

  5. We had a little hiccup there, I guess Matt. Sometimes there’s a delay, but I believe it’s there now.


  6. Matt, I’m glad you have found a niche with your organic production and marketing. You are filling a valuable need. I stand behind what I wrote, however. The majority of the food we eat is produced with responsible pesticide use and well-cared for livestock in confined feeding operrations. I think personal responsibility–or personal irresponsibility–has much more to do with our nation’s health woes than the way our food is raised. Thanks for commenting!

  7. Cheap food is one of the most expensive commodities from a health perspective. Through the out of control use of pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers, farmers been able to deliver ever cheaper food (and ethanol) to the consumer. Every decade for the past 150 years, the percentage of our income that we spend for food has decreased. We now spend less than 10% of our income feeding ourselves compared to over 15% thirty years ago and over 50% before 1900. To put this in more concrete terms, in 1875 it took 1,700 hours of work to purchase the annual food supply for a family. Today it takes about 260 hours of work.

    Oh, and in 1875 we spent 1% of our annual income on health care. Today, we spend over 16%. Not surprisingly, health care costs have tracked the food cost trend, but in the opposite direction.

  8. Mathew, I think it would be fair to point out that life expectancy is 1875 is not near what it is today.

  9. Saying chemical use in agriculture is "out of control" is a bit of hyperbole, Matthew. These are too expensive, to say nothing of regulation, to be used helter skelter. Their use is, in fact, declining. Food costs have come down in realive, inflation adjusted terms, and health care costs have dramatically increased. You left one thing out though. When we began to depend on our health insurance plans to pay EVERYTHING associated with our health, the system went off the rails. My own health care cost, other than the premium,is a $30 co-pay ($5 for drugs). There is no longer any personal incentive for me to negotiate the cost of my doctor’s visit or my prescriptions. When you are spending other peoples money you want a lot of what it will buy. Throw in the government’s requirments to provide certain coverages and forcing the industry to operate in a non competitive manner and it’s easy to see whay costs have skyrocketed. There is scant evidence that food is responsible for any of this. You are right, though, that agriculture has been forced to become more efficient in order for fewer people to provide food for more and more. And I know that you’re not suggesting that we – as a nation – give up our standard of living to embrace the technology of the past.

  10. The use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers is anything but out of control. (Herbicides are one type of pesticides.) Today’s farmers, because of agricultural research and technology, use less pesticide than their grandparents did! Because of Roundup-resistant seed, my brother uses ONE herbicide where he formerly used 18 different herbicides. This means fewer trips across the field, translating to less fuel used, less potential for soil compaction, kinder to the environment. It’s true that food is cheap in the USA, but that’s because of farmers’ adoption of the technology that agricultural research has brought us. That’s a good thing.
    Americans are fat because we don’t get outside and exercise like we should. Parents are afraid to let their kids go outside and play, which means they don’t get the immunity that playing in nature gives kids. Nobody forces us to eat out several meals a week. Nobody forces us to drink soda pop every day or eat junk food.
    As far as health-care, I don’t like the cost either, but we have many more medications and medical tests available to us than our grandparents did. Each generation lives longer than the generation before (although that trend is beginning to change because of the obesity epidemic). Correlation does not equate to cause-and-effect. That’s elementary statistics.

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