By Mike Barnett

“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Remember that famous line in the movie Network, the movie made in the 1970s starring Peter Finch as deranged news anchor Howard Beale? I’ll certainly never forget it.

I had a Network moment at the recent American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting in Seattle, where president Bob Stallman stood in front of over 4,000 Farm Bureau members from across the nation, and said, “To those who expect to just roll over America’s farm and ranch families, my only message is this: The circumstances have changed.”

In other words, Stallman–although certainly not deranged–is mad as hell.

He’s mad at the animal activists who would destroy the livelihoods of livestock producers who provide Americans with the meat they want to eat.

He’s mad at the proponents of “government is the answer to everything,” choking farmers and ranchers with regulation.

He’s mad at those who preach the gospel of “sustainability” without considering that economics is part of that equation.

He’s mad at the climate change fanatics who would diminish the capacity of farmers and ranchers to produce food for Americans and a growing world population.

Stallman’s mad at a world where “emotionally charged labels” such as monoculture, factory farmer, industrial food and big ag are sown as “seeds of doubt” by movies, television news reports, magazine articles and undercover videos.

He’s mad at those “experts” who have never set foot of a farm yet tell farmers and ranchers how to conduct their business from the keyboard of a computer.

It was good to hear a major leader in agriculture stand up and say enough is enough. It was good to hear a call to action for agriculture to fight together against an insidious disease that threatens to consume our industry. It was refreshing to hear a cry to take “the fight to the enemies of modern agriculture.”

“Things have got to change,” Network’s Howard Beale said. “But first you’ve got to get mad.”

Is Stallman “the new mad prophet” of agriculture? Let’s certainly hope so. I do know that he’s mad as hell. I’m mad as hell. And I imagine you are, too.

Are we going to take this anymore?


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.

15 Responses to “The “new mad prophet” of agriculture? I hope so…”

  1. Gerard Hajovsky says:

    I am only 45 and been mad way too long.

  2. JP Schuster says:

    Mad and yet scared wandering what is going to happen when the world and the USA goes hungry. Hope my children can live a rural lifestyle and be productive farmers/ranchers if it is their choice. Just not sure we will end with a choice.

  3. Steve Pringle says:

    Bob succinctly laid out the challenges that agriculture faces. We now have a public that does not understand where their food comes from, but wants it quickly, safely, and as economical as possible. Farmers, I think will be up to the challenge.

  4. Steve – farmers have always been up to challenges. This is a big one. The next generation of farmers will have to feed nine billion people by 2050 – and if we continue on the current path, they may have to do it with one hand tied behind their back.


  5. Beverly Tuck says:

    The article brought this quote to mind…"Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you are a thousand miles from the cornfield". “Dwight D. Eisenhower

  6. John Strunck says:

    Farmers harvest good food and the public turns around and bites them! I have heard that the farmer’s share is about 50 cents on a $5.00 plate of food. I don’t see how they can afford to start their tractors at that price.

    Go figure….

  7. Good thoughts, all. I talked to a former farmer today who advocated doing away with large farms controlled by "large corporations who sell them seed and buy their commodities" in favor of small farms who sell "direct to the consumer"…his words, not mine. What do you think?


  8. Stephen Gertson says:

    Mike, large is a matter of opinion. There are large family farms that have become large out of necessity to survive. Families have pooled resources and abilities which make them large as a whole, but in essence they are just more efficient family farms that are joined together. I never have liked the bias against large farms because what seems large to one person is really just average to another. A lot of small operations could really be considered hobbies rather than farms. Enough said about that.

    We all know one thing. The world is going to have to eat and needs to wake up to the fact that without food nothing else really matters because it’s hard to enjoy anything when you are walking around hungry because food is not available or is too expensive.

  9. Mike Barnett says:

    Stephen, you make a valid point that many people don’t realize or even think about. Call American farms large, corporate, industrial…the fact is, most are owned and run by farm families providing an affordable, safe food supply in abundance for Americans and for many around the world. What would we be without them? Hungry.


  10. The farmer’s plight is due to sitting at the bottom of the food chain, $0.15 cents on the consumer dollar. That’s due to their "partners" in feeding the people, not some book or tweet or blog or video about change.

    So what if a few people buy some free range chickens? There’s still 37 billion lbs a year work with.

    Let’s advocate for $0.18 on the dollar, 20 % raise, right to the farmer’s bottomline. Domestic fair trade. Can the farmer’s bureau sell that program to bring the consumers on side? Let’s do that first, then worry about the small stuff.

  11. That’s an interesting concept, James. The trouble is, farmers are businessmen. They don’t work for wages. That’s why we are fighting so hard against this new avalanche of federal regulation that will take away the little profit there is in agriculture these days. It is illegal for farmers to collude to raise prices. What we need is a "profit friendly" environment and a reasonable safety net (farm program) that protects farmers and consumers alike.

  12. Collusion implies secretive, the direct farm sales movement is very good about simply not apologizing for price, take it or leave it, with the benefit of only needing that sliver of the market.

    On a larger scale, Fair trade coffee is becoming a standard. Starbucks included. The Green product movement is going mainstream too at higher prices. So it’s possible.

    Back to the chicken example, I’d like the person selling me a chicken product (how ever processed it is by the time I see it) to be able to put a Fair Trade sticker on it, or I’ll pass them by.

    Back to the Farm Bureau, deflect niche causes to "after economic sustainability" and "after fair trade", then consider improvements with the new money.

    Now, how to do it . . . Need 3rd party standard and probably have to convince major retailers it’s a competitive advantage, starting with the 2nd and 3rd place guys. They’re more motivated.

    Well, that was easy! Now I have to figure out how to pay my bills. :)

  13. James – it sounds like you’re talking about a combination of cooperatives and value added marketing with a bit of "values based" consumer interest there. Nothing wrong with that. It’ll work with some commodities. It won’t for others. It would be hard to sell wheat or cotton that way,for example. One thing for sure, farmers know how to respond to markets.

  14. local yokel says:

    Explain how the consolidation of the meat industry is healthy for our economy? If the farmer cannot choose between a variety of slaughter facilities because they are all owned by one or two mega-corporations, how in the world can the FARMER make money?

    Consolidation of the meat industry has absolutely nothing to do with the consumer — it is all about a few entities controlling the food industry. power and money.

    next time you want to get mad — try getting mad about that.

  15. Hey local yokel – I was in Seattle for Stallman’s speech. I don’t believe he defended meat industry consolidation. Farm Bureau has kicked up a fuss over such activity – see this link –



  1. Farmers and ranchers: Be offensive and win food fights | Texas Ag Talks - [...] Bob Stallman in 2010 during his annual address to the membership in Seattle. I dubbed him the Mad Prophet …

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