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Spread the word on agriculture

Written by Bill Streeter on .

U.S. agriculture has a tremendously positive message for consumers

At the annual meeting December 2, MFA’s program focused almost exclusively on urging the membership to stand up for agriculture. All of you know the United States is blessed with a modern, efficient system of agriculture that is the envy of the world. Consumers don’t know that.

Today’s consumers need information. Farmers and ranchers make up less than 2 percent of the U.S. population. That means 98 percent of the population needs current, accurate information. Unfortunately, for two decades our industry has been constantly defamed by extremist environmentalists and food elitists.

Agriculture, wide and diverse, has not really joined in the conversation. We’ve been too busy responding.

The result? In the last several years, multiple states have passed anti-GMO legislation. They passed those laws despite the fact there has not been a single scientifically confirmed case of human illness that can be attributed to food biotechnology

Well-funded animal rights groups have attempted to define or proscribe animal care through legislation.
It’s past time for those of us in agriculture to commit to spreading the good news of today’s agriculture, whether we’re in row crops or livestock or in agricultural businesses.

First, we must understand it’s not that people have short memories. It’s that today’s consumers have no memories. They don’t know that without pesticides, our forefathers stood to lose 35 to 40 percent of a year’s crop.  

Consumers really don’t know that the U.S. dairy industry has reduced its carbon footprint by 63 percent since 1944.

They don’t know U.S. beef producers today use 34 percent less land and 14 percent less water to produce one pound of beef than they did in 1977. Today’s consumers don’t know that, since the 1970s, hog farmers have reduced their carbon footprint 35 percent.

Resourceful American farmers using ingenuity and technology have constantly found ways to produce more food with fewer resources and less environmental impact.

Stop for a moment and consider: in 1950, Americans spent 34 percent of their income on food. By 2003, that number had dropped to 13 percent. Today, it’s single digits. That means Americans have money left over to invest in other areas of the economy.

To put those statistics in context, look at other portions of the economy. In 1950 the average U.S. citizen spent 21 percent of household income on housing. Today that number is 33 percent. In 1950, a U.S. citizen spent 12 percent of household income on transportation. Today, it’s 22 percent.

Those numbers are the polar opposite of agriculture’s progress. Don’t you wish every industry had agriculture’s level of sustainability?

Ours is a wonderful story—the story as old as the Bible. Man feeding the hungry of the world. And doing so daily, month after month, year after year, decade after decade.

As Dr. Alan Wessler, MFA’s vice president of feed and animal health, said at MFA’s annual meeting, there are three steps all of us need to take:
1)    We need to change our daily conversations;
2)    We need to join or support the commodity group or association that best represents our interests;
3)    We need to join or financially support groups like Missouri Farmers Care, Protect the Harvest, U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, or Common Ground. And we must demand our suppliers do so.

To accomplish that first step, consider this. What’s talked about at the dinner table? This past Thanksgiving, did we discuss agriculture in our family gatherings? Did we focus on how this year’s record yields allowed us to feed more hungry people than in previous years? Or did we grumble about prices? That’s our first step: changing our daily interactions.

The good news is we know from research that 95 percent of today’s consumers want to defend agriculture and their food choices.

We should be glad consumers are interested. It’s up to those of us in agriculture to create a resource. Why? Because a recent survey by Purdue showed that consumers get their information on agriculture from animal-rights groups and from environmental extremists groups.

That has to be factually countered. We can act individually in our family gatherings; we can do so when we’re with friends and when we’re in our local communities and schools. We can educate our relatives in cities when the opportunity arises. And, if you’re using other suppliers, demand they support groups like Missouri Farmers Care and Protect the Harvest. These groups are supporting you. That’s what MFA is doing. We’re supporting groups that support you. LEARN AND SHARE MORE FACTS ABOUT AGRICULTURE HERE.

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