I’m having an ongoing discussion about the food we eat and how it’s raised with one of my childhood friends.

Texas Farm Bureau:

 We friended each other on the social media site Facebook. She started reading my blog posts on Texas Agriculture Talks and we’ve been carrying on a lively discussion about food ever since.

This lady is sharp, smart and has a real interest in the food she feeds her family. She wants their nourishment to be healthy, wholesome and affordable. She’s getting her food education from the likes of Joel Salatin, Michael Pollan and the documentary, Food Inc. And that spells trouble for our industry.

Salatin is an unconventional farmer who looks to maximize production on an integrated system on a holistic farm. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Not a thing. Michael Pollan is the author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and was featured in the documentary Food Inc. Pollan uses Salatin as an example of what all farming should be.

Pollan is much better at propaganda against agriculture than we are at public relations for agriculture. The problem I have with Pollan is he condemns modern production methods while condoning practices that won’t scratch the world food needs.

Pollan doesn’t like biotech, herbicides, insecticides, modern tillage practices, livestock or processed food. He condemns “industrial agriculture” for everything from unhealthy eating habits to poor diets to the well-being of America. He turns the methods that have produced the greatest food production scheme the world has ever seen into something evil.

This is who my friend is quoting in our food disagreements. And that’s not only sad for our industry, it’s dangerous.

If Pollan and his kind are successful in dismantling American agriculture, we will all pay through lower standards of living, less economic activity, and shortages of food throughout the world. The face of agriculture will change…and not for the better.

Consumers like my childhood friend want to know more about the food they eat. They want to know their food is nutritious. They want it to be safe. They want it to be affordable and abundant.

They’re getting that now, if they make wise choices. They can choose food raised by modern methods or they can go organic or local; whatever they wish, there’s a farmer who will grow it. They may have grass-fed or grain-fed beef or no beef at all. They can eat white bread or wheat bread, it’s their choice. And it’s all good. The trouble is consumers are hearing a one-sided story.

Industry spokesmen such as Gene Hall and I tell agriculture’s side of story every day. Yet the consumer would rather hear from you, the farmer and rancher. Sadly, few in the production end are taking the time to tell them.

The tools are readily available to reach these consumers. Social media such as Twitter and Facebook are a great place to start. It takes minutes a day to start building that network. It takes minutes a day to tell your story.

Imagine the impact thousands of farmers speaking proactively for their industry—day after day—could have against the inflammatory voices speaking out against modern production methods.

We have such a great story to tell. We could truly start a new food revolution.

 

 

 

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.

2 Responses to “Time for agriculture to start a food revolution”

  1. I have several points, and please don’t take them as anything other than constructive – I’m here for a dialogue and am not closed minded to conventional agriculture.

    1) Pollan can’t be pro-Salatin style farming and yet be, as you describe him, anti-agriculture. He merely favors one method. I don’t think you honestly characterize him, as I think he recognizes a need for industrial agriculture, but perhaps not with animals in the current form as some of it could be construed as animal abuse. He is simply advocating for an increased awareness of the national agricultural policies that support processed grain and meat relative to whole grains and vegetables.

    2)Conventional agriculture has consolidated. That is not a good story in any business. Conventional ag uses petrochemical amendments. That is not a good story going forward. Conventional ag is viewed by many as cruel to animals. That is not a good story to tell.

    3) The argument that conventional ag is necessary to "feed the world" is disingenuous when so much of the corn and soy that is grown is fed to animals first. That we choose meat doesn’t mean it is necessary. We could have far lower yields and still feed the world. That said, I raise and eat meat, and am not advocating vegetarianism. We just can’t say that we "must" continue ag the way we do it, because it is a choice to eat meat in high quantity, not a necessity.

    4) Many farmers are telling their story. At farmers markets, on blogs, in books. Only most of them are advocating a more holistic and healthy form of agriculture and national food policy that focuses on reducing petro-amendment, increasing local food production and consumption as an urban safety-net policy, reducing meat and processed food consumption, and increasingly eating seasonally. That conventional ag isn’t doing that isn’t surprising. It pales in comparison.

    5) Like I said at top, conventional ag is a necessary part of the equation. And it is vastly improved. But giant corporate interests have created an impression of monolith – justified or no. Spending 20% of our average income on food, rather than 10% as it is now, would not necessarily mean a lower standard of living. That is arguably a false argument. Many people choose to do exactly that, and they don’t characterize it as "worse" or "lower." They often cook for themselves, are healthier, enjoy their food more, and therefore live a greater standard of living.

    I would love to hear some of the stories you suggest are out there. Feel free to paraphrase, I am truly here for a dialogue, but I’m concerned with the backlash to Pollan from conventional ag, and want to see both sides portrayed honestly.

  2. Huck, we accept your comments in the constructive spirit in which they were offered. If you want to read some of the stories, visit http://www.txfb.org and look for the link for our magazine – Texas Agriculture.

    I read Pollan different than you. I view his book and his plan as blueprint to replace modern agriculture, not coexist with it.

    I’m glad you enjoy meat. So do I. There are, however, a great many people who travel with Mr. Pollan that intend for both of us to stop eating it. Who says meat cannot be a part of feeding the world? It is still the best way to ingest the needed protein for brain development and good health. There is both grass fed and grain fed beef. I prefer gran fed, but even those finished on grain spent the majority of their lives eating grass. There are wide expanses of this country, especially here in Texas that will grow virtually nothing but grass. We use livestock to harvest and utilize that forage as human food. Many ranchers will tell you they are "grass farmers." Nope, not disingenuous at all. Conventional American agriculture is also no or minimum till, high yield and one of the planet’s greatest success stories. The yield of our row crop agriculture, which some call "industrial" is needed for the hungry masses of the future.

    I am at a loss to understand your statement that we could have "far lower yields" and still feed the 9 billion people that will inhabit the planet at mid century. I can’t make that math add up.

    Next week, I’ll be blogging on some research that demonstrates just how far "industrial" – let’s call it conventional agriculture has made toward that nebulous and ever moving target of "sustainability." Watch for it. Thanks for the comments Huck. – Gene Hall

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