Hating on organics? Not on my blog!

By Gene Hall

My goodness, have we reached the point where disagreeing on something makes us “haters?” Gee, I hope not.  Recently, here on Texas Agriculture Talks, we pointed out some problems with recent ads by the chain restaurant Chipotle in what are plainly attacks on modern agriculture. Other Farm Bureau writers around the country posted similar views.

Chipotle’s ad was cute and engaging—cartoon pigs, cartoon farmer and a lovely Willie Nelson rendition of the Coldplay tune, The Scientist, Back to the Start. A colleague of mine says there’s no black or white on this. It’s either an attack on conventional agriculture that justifies a response or it’s gospel truth and any response is the start of the attack.

Fair warning, I come down mostly on the former, but dang, these things can get out of hand in a hurry. See the post by the blog Fair Food Fight. I’m not hating here. Not on Chipotle, though they are off my personal menu for politicizing food issues. I will not disagree with anyone’s dining choice.

Certainly, I’m not hating on organics, if you’ve read my blog. I have however, at times, been forced to defend modern agricultural practices. I think they are worth defending. Read this sample.

Organic farmers operate under difficult circumstances and deserve nothing but respect. This is not the first time I’ve written those words.

For reasons some don’t understand and some will never accept, most shoppers don’t choose organic. Some of that is cost, and some of it is a comfort level with modern agriculture. I like to think of U.S. agriculture as being quite able to encompass many production methods and consumer choices.

All farmers and ranchers are hard-working and independent, be they conventional or organic. It’s a heavily regulated enterprise, protecting consumer health and the environment. To tell the truth, agriculture likes it that way.

I think the evidence suggests that most of the attacks run the other way. Most organic producers grow for the market that works for them and they don’t spend much time attacking conventional agriculture. Perhaps a few of them and certainly some food activists love to attack modern agriculture.

Some of these are convinced that their Googled information and their intentions are so pure, so vetted and so beyond reproach that any words of defense are the beginning of the attack. I know a little bit about video, and I’m convinced that if I have a script, the luxury of a cartoon image and a song by a legendary singer, I can convince you of almost anything. This conversation should be about more than that. We have to do better. All of this is worthy of discussion. It’s a long way from being settled.

I’m willing to sit down for some good Mexican food and talk it over—but not at Chipotle.

Photo © Pichayasri | Dreamstime.com

Gene Hall

Public Relations Director
Texas Farm Bureau
I believe that the only hope for a food secure world is capitalism and reasonable profits for America’s farm and ranch families–that the first element of sustainability is economic survival.
Follow Gene on Twitter and Facebook.

4 Responses to “Hating on organics? Not on my blog!”

  1. Weel said Gene! We are all farmers, and food choice is a wonderful thing that many in this world do not have!

  2. Connie Lucas says:

    Well said…so glad for the choices. The network CBS seems to weigh heavily towards “organic” being the producer of ‘safe” food…like the show “The Doctors”, this show is always commenting on the pesticides in food other than organic. It is not the organic farmers don’t have to defend themselves because celebrates do it for them especially the friends of Ophrah types. Just my thoughts as a conventional dairy farmer. God bless America for chooses.

  3. A very thoughtful and insightful piece, Gene!

    While the huge bulk of our clientele are conventional growers, Texas Plant & Soil Lab is the only lab in Texas offering sustainable and organic recommendations on request and has been doing so for decades.

    You are spot-on about the “hate”. We have to be extremely careful about what we say to what group. A conventional farmer will walk off if you mention the word, “organic”. If you mention some kind of chemical compound to a hard-core organic type, he will often explode.

    Fact is, the most immediate and practical truth lays somewhere in the middle – it’s called, “sustainable”. Our job is to make crops for commercial growers that achieve Maximum Economic Yields or full genetic potential. We continually demonstrate in the field that the use of certain organic materials, such as sugars, humates, biological inoculants, micronutrients, hormones and other non-traditional adjuvants can have profound and dramatic effects on yields, quality, disease and insect control, tilth and soil-building. These are generally inexpensive and easy to apply (through irrigation or with sprayer). Important considerations in the agricultural context…

    Along with this, is carefully selecting an efficient blend of fertilizers/nutrients suited to the particular soil type and appropriate for the crop.

    Plants need nutrients when they need them – and those nutritional requirements are constantly changing throughout the growing season. Supplying those requirements can be quite challenging with a purely organic approach.

    Not accommodating the plant nutritionally on a timely basis achieves something less than maximum performance from it.

    The organic movement has done a lot to shoot itself in the foot, as many of the loudest and most popular public proponents have taken on a religious dogma about it, ignoring the science and soil chemistry, and not understanding basic plant physiology.

    Many of them do not understand acreage – their experience being limited to small gardens of perhaps a few thousand square feet. They do not understand the daunting logistics of implementing some of their recommendations on a large scale, neither do they consider the most efficient methods for achieving the ends – but perhaps especially they ignore necessary economics required of a commercial operation.

    This point was made very clear to me on a lawn and garden blog, wherein I was complaining about the exploding cost of K-Mag. A man wrote back saying that he was concerned with only a few thousand square feet of yard, so spending another hundred dollars or so just didn’t matter to him.

    We do have some highly successful organic clients but organics is typically a long-term proposition, as soil re-building doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to repair the damage caused by decades of unwise practice and to rebuild soil Organic Matter.

    It is interesting to be the salami in the sandwich…

    Thanks again for your excellent article!

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