U.S. farmers continue setting production records year after year for abundant, safe and affordable food, yet attacks on U.S. agriculture have increased sharply. Farmers have become targets for critics who blame them for everything from global warming to foodborne illness.
Detractors such as CBS and Time Magazine use “investigative” reports to present their slanted view of agriculture. While they demonize “industrial” agriculture and “factory” farming they also make it clear that presenting a balanced picture of U.S. agriculture is not a requirement for them.
While continuous improvement and sustainability need to be priorities for everyone in agriculture, educating the public and U.S. lawmakers also needs immediate action. With less than 2 percent of Americans now employed in agriculture, your voice is urgently needed.
Producing food for a hungry world is a noble effort. To sustain that effort, producers must be visible and vocal. Livestock producers and farmers must take every opportunity to tell others what they do. No one else is going to tell the story.
Polling shows that many Americans no longer understand agriculture. Most believe that family farming no longer exists and many children do not realize where their food comes from. Yet, a producer’s voice is highly credible. The majority of Americans strongly believe that family farmers are trustworthy messengers.
Since agriculture bashing seems to be in vogue, U.S. farmers’ need to devote an increasing share of their time to participation in outreach programs that educate the public. Each segment of agriculture has programs dedicated to this purpose.
The pork industry delivers its message to the public with Operation Mainstreet -- a program designed to help producers across the country upgrade the pork industry’s image starting at the local level. The program trains producers and helps them to inform consumers of the innovation, quality and environmental stewardship practiced by the industry.
The effort pays off. Research shows that 81 percent of those in the audience leave an Operation Mainstreet meeting with a positive impression of the pork industry.
The Agricultural Contact Team is American Farm Bureau Federation’s grassroots action network. Participants reach out to Congress to help impact the decisions they make. AFBF also provides Tips on Becoming an Effective Agricultural Advocate.
The National Corn Growers Association has released a video that encourages its members to preserve their livelihoods by taking an active role in reaching out to the public.
Similar opportunities are available within the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association as well as the dairy industry.
Social network sites Twitter.com and FaceBook.com present an increasingly popular way for farmers and livestock producers to deliver their message to consumers and lawmakers. On April 15, a ‘my dairy advocate’ Webinar will help dairy producers learn how these tools can be used to communicate with consumers about modern dairy farming practices.
Prepare your message by working with your industry and start delivering it. Learn from others who have made it a priority. “You are in a war and you can’t win the game with only defense,” says David Martosko, director of research, Center for Consumer Freedom. “You need both offense and defense.”
“You can choose – are you in the war or not?” asks Martosko. It’s as simple as that, because there is no middle ground.