Texas Farm Bureau: What I’ve learned from blogging (and Facebook) Part II

By Gene Hall

It has been an interesting progression for Mike Barnett and me as we have made a transition of sorts from old school agricultural journalists to bloggers, Facebookers and Tweeters. One of my Farm Bureau friends in Washington D.C. referred to us as “the angry dudes from Texas.” He meant that in jest—I think. We do try to write with a little bit of attitude and generate a little controversy. Let’s face it. Some of these issues ARE controversial. Things I’ve believed to be pretty much settled with regard to science are the devil’s spawn to others. I’m not really angry though. I admit to being a little frustrated as we take these tentative first steps down this new channel of communication.

I have been told in recent days that technology in agriculture is basically bad. Agriculture is the only industry that many believe should be barred from adopting technological advances. Some were not swayed by my argument that as a high-labor-cost country (we like it that way), technology is the only real advantage we have over our agricultural competitors. I have been told that it’s not agriculture’s job to “feed the world.” That one shocked me a bit, given the millions of hungry people and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that depend on ag exports.

My contentions that grass fed beef and organic products, though fine products with willing buyers and enthusiastic sellers, would take a lot more land and would fall short of meeting our food needs was rejected outright. There is, however, a whole bunch of pretty solid science to back this up. No less an academic luminary than Stanford University released a study that demonstrates that the reviled “industrial agriculture”— at least as it’s practiced in the United States—makes significant positive contributions in reducing global warming. With some folks, I couldn’t get much traction on that either.

All the overheated posts I get often come with the disclaimer, “I love agriculture!”  Or, “I love farmers! I just hate those corporate farmers.” Well they might, but they don’t understand agriculture at all and often consider farmers simplistic boobs who are totally at the mercy of agribusiness corporations.  Among this group, farmers get little credit for being the superb and independent business people that I know them to be. More than 98 percent of U.S. farms are family owned.

For the anti-ag people that flocked to the TFB Facebook Page and to the blog, none of this is acceptable. To them modern agriculture is bad—cruel, dangerous and corrupt. This is nonsense. With 32 years of meeting and working with farmers and ranchers—some some big and some small, nearly all practicing “industrial agriculture” to some degree—I  have to tell you they are as a group the finest, most generous and honest people you’d find anywhere. Right now is as good a place as any to tell you that the “industrial agriculture” moniker is a crock of what you’d shovel out of a feedlot.

Here’s what happens. Our blog is posted. Someone picks it up and reposts it on a site where agriculture’s enemies lurk. An attack is launched. Some monitor our sites for days, apparently to “smack down” anything positive that is said about agriculture.  This can occur on both the blog site and on Facebook.  Read the comment section on Mike’s recent blog A High-tech world for everyone but farmers. Get real. to see what I mean.

Admittedly, this can be unnerving, and it has a chilling effect on the consumer/farmer dialog we’d like to have. I really was kind of offended at being called a fascist, though it probably says more about the fellow that sunk to that level of name calling.

A re-evaluation of this effort has led to some conclusions—kind of an epiphany really.  We don’t have to post everything. We don’t have to respond to everything. We don’t have to keep everything that’s posted. We will repost a representative sample of even the worst of it, but we know an organized attack when we see one and will respond accordingly. We won’t be conducting a multiple post slap down of any U.S. corporation here. It’s not our job to provide space for that. This is not free space to promote any agenda you choose. And we can block those who are conducting a jihad. Our space is our space. Free speech doesn’t mean you get to yell in my ear in my living room.

That said, if you have concerns about agriculture, comments to make and your mind is still more or less open, we want to hear from you—here on the blog, on Facebook and on Twitter. We have some important things to say. Readers of this blog do too. Most folks don’t like to engage in dialog if there’s a war going on around them.

We’ve made friends, and unfortunately, some enemies. But Texas agriculture has a story to tell. It’s honest and it’s true. Mike and I want these web spaces to be a place where both sides of a story can be respected.

Visit the Texas Farm Bureau website at www.txfb.org.
Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates on this topic and many more.

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.

8 Responses to “What I’ve learned from blogging (and Facebook) Part II”

  1. Thanks, Gene and Mike, for being advocates of agriculture, and for being willing to engage in difficult conversations in order to create deeper understandings of the challenges farmers and ranchers face.

  2. Mace Thornton, AFBF says:

    Well said.

  3. I am an avid reader of your blog and first time commenter. Thank you for telling the farming stories that often get missed in main stream media. We need more grass roots efforts to counter the negative attacks against our family farming industry. I applaud you for not only being well-respected "old school agricultural journalists" but for learning new technology and bringing these messages into social media.

  4. Kathryn – Thanks for reading and thanks for taking time to post. Your thoughts are appreciated! Gene

  5. Thanks to you, and thanks to others who made it visible to me via Twitter by using the #agchat hashtag. This is the power of modern technology right here. Well said.

  6. Mike and Gene,
    You may have met some uhappy bloggers with your work, but it is well worth it I would think to show of the positive side of agriculture to the world. You both do a great job.

  7. Dakota and everyone, we love being agvocates for farmers and ranchers! Thanks all, for your kind words. Mike

  8. Nice writing, …angry dudes from Texas.

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