In this polarized political landscape that pits city folk against country folk, it’s time to start talking about ways to bridge the divide. There’s a lot of “fake news” out there, and it comes from both sides. If you live in the Midwest or other farm community, or if farming is your livelihood or hobby, you should be thinking about this. Where have things gone wrong? How can we be better advocates for agriculture?
Amanda Radke of Beef Magazine suggests that a good place to start is by not being afraid to educate, and to clarify things when we see misinformation. She cites an exchange she took up with a person regarding an image on her family’s cattle business webpage. It was an image of her yearling bulls eating at the feedback during the Xanto Blizzard.
After posting the image, a woman from New Jersey commented, “Why are these animals encaged? Disgusted!”
Radke replied tried to look at the image from the other woman’s perspective, replied to the comment, and they had a positive exchange. The New Jersey woman had simply misinterpreted the photo. Radke explained what was really going on there, and it all ended well.
Obviously, this isn’t usually how these type of exchanges end, but her point remains:
If our urban counterparts are misinformed by environmental and animal rights activists groups, they are more likely to vote with their dollar and in the voting box for policies and regulations that directly impact our business, most likely in a negative way.
Radke encourages farmers to not be afraid to tell their stories. Sometimes it will work, other times it won’t. Tell your #CattleTales here.
Yet, even if we can’t change that person’s mind, chances are someone else is reading and could be learning about agriculture from our stories.
The more positive and truthful information out there about agriculture, the better.
R.P. ‘Doc’ Cooke of Beef Producer shares a similar viewpoint- that getting the facts straight is paramount. He takes it many steps further, and addresses the frequently touted “feed the world” mantra used to put U.S. agriculture in a positive light.
Cooke argues that we are never going to be able to feed the whole world. He says this knowing that one-third of people in the world go to sleep hungry and that as many as 12,000 people die each day from starvation. This occurs despite the fact production agriculture harvested enough food last year to feed all people at twice their current level. People still die from starvation event though half of all food in the world is thrown out or spoils before it is consumed.
So, we’re producing enough food to the feed the world now and people are still starving.
There are a bunch of folks who need to get their stories straight. Truth is that many of these people are making big bucks with nonprofit organizations and a few global co-operations that continue to publish a message of food shortage. Some go so far as to say that they are supporting rural farming in underdeveloped countries. Truth is, they do not even support rural America.
Where have we gone wrong?
Cooke starts with the crops we grow. Most of the food that we produce in the U.S. is of low-nutrient density. Nutrient-dense food is what people really need. And farmers in most of the world don’t like our agricultural system because it routinely loads their markets with crops that are below their production costs.
We need to wake up and realize that we are being sold a false bill of goods. Our society is just that, our society. Every person, family, community, region and state is unique. The same is true of the rest of the world.
We can feed the world one person, family, community and region at a time. Remember, the world desires to feed the itself. It needs to be a local affair.
In addition, our resources are finite. Maybe us “feeding the world” is an impossible goal.
It is past time for us to stop being led down the path of “saving the world” and “feeding the world.” We will learn more (and I have learned much more) and start making positive improvements on our ranches, farms and our country when we study and learn what some of the world knows about improving the soil-plant-animal complex to improve on-farm profit and more.
The “big boys” and the “educated and enlightened” are teaching a doctrine and role of modern agriculture as feeding the world. That it is mostly foolish. Our mission trips likely need to stay close to headquarters and our learning trips will likely require some distant travel.
Clearly, this topic provides more questions than answers. Cooke feels that the “feeding the world” mantra will just lead to the death of rural America. Do we need to reign in this mentality and focus more on our actions here at home? Does the goal to “feed the world” truly align with American farmers’ interests? Are we happy with the way things are headed? How can we be better advocates for agriculture?
Radke encourages farmers to share their experiences. Certainly, that is a place to start.
Image courtesy of ShareAmerica.gov