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Promoting agriculture

Written by Bill Streeter on .

We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately —Ben Franklin

Let us savor agriculture’s win on Amendment 1, the “right to farm” constitutional amendment. Simultaneously, we should acknowledge just how close the vote was, what that means and what those of us in agriculture should do upon reflection.

As I write this column, a recount is a certainty, and then all bets are off as to the result. But either way, the fundamentals remain.

The morning after the vote, the total vote count stood at 994,974 votes cast. 498,751 voted in favor; 496,223 voted against for a margin of victory of 2,528. That margin is way too close for comfort. I had hoped for a resounding victory.

As expected, voters in St. Louis, Springfield and Kansas City voted against agriculture. That’s worrisome. Even if you subtract the number of voters who had principled stands against amending the state’s constitution, too many voters succumbed to an unethical, dishonest anti-agriculture campaign. That campaign’s main goal was confusion. Those voters were susceptible to believing the worst about agriculture. It’s a substantial number.

The Humane Society of the United States and its supporters showed exactly who they are. The animal-rights organization poured at least $700,000 into a campaign of disinformation. Ironically, the biggest corporate donor, when all the dust settled, was a multi-million dollar out-of-state entity devoted to ending animal agriculture—HSUS. Hunting is next on their agenda.

Keep in mind that the Humane Society of the United States spends less than 1 percent of its $100-million annual budget on animal shelters. Consider that HSUS was recently convicted of racketeering and fined millions of dollars for its campaign against a circus. HSUS is being exposed in the world of charity organizations and is in the midst of a downgrade in its charity ranking.

That the organization influences so many people in urban areas is not a good omen for agriculture. We have a lot of work to do in terms of educating the general public. And we can trust that the majority of metropolitan newspapers will do us no favors in objectively educating the public. Look no further than the disgraceful editorials in urban newspapers on Amendment 1.

MFA Incorporated’s corporate board of directors voted unanimously to support Missouri Farmers Care and its efforts during the campaign. Missouri Farmers Care comprises all the mainstream agricultural groups from the commodity groups to Farm Bureau, FCS Financial, MFA Incorporated and MFA Oil Company. When that many mainstream farm groups align in support of an issue, you can bet the issue does not harm agriculture or family farms.

As you have frequently heard me (and my predecessors) say, MFA rarely participates in politics. We’re not structured for it. When we do participate, the issue must be one that seriously affects the industry. Amendment 1 fit the bill.

A recent study out of Purdue reaffirmed what many of us already knew. Urban residents, especially those on either coast, get their understanding of agriculture from animal-rights groups like HSUS. Those same consumers receive no information from traditional agriculture sources. Major urban newspapers and television news stations carry only negative stories on traditional agriculture. Fairly or unfairly, that puts the burden of consumer education on all of us in agriculture.

That is one of the reasons MFA is a strong supporter of Missouri Farmers Care. Missouri Farmers Care exists to “promote the continued growth of Missouri agriculture and rural communities through coordinated communication, education and advocacy.” The group’s vision is that “all Missourians will understand the truth about modern agriculture, food production and farm life and their connection to Missouri’s food security, economy and social well-being.”

Investigate the membership rolls of Missouri Farmers Care and see who supports the organization. More importantly, see which agricultural businesses do not. Then contact those businesses and urge them to join. It’s critical to the future of agriculture.

I realize the focus of this particular group is Missouri agriculture. MFA serves farmers in other states, as well. Another organization (of which Missouri Farmers Care is a member) is the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. That group (USFRA) is more national in scope but has state affiliates. If your state has an affiliate of USFRA, please join.

Another group closer to home is Protect the Harvest. Give them a look.

Winning the hearts and minds of the general public is a worthy and reachable goal. It will only happen if we all hang together.

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