I’m not usually one to stand on my soap box and preach from my side of the fence. The world is a diverse and unique place with diverse and unique people that inhabit it. Due to our differences, we have differing opinions. Being that we live in the greatest country on earth, we not only have the right to have a differing opinion than our friends, family, and peers, but we also have the right to voice that opinion and share it with the world. Lately, there have been some things said about Ag that have greatly angered me. Though these are just opinions, I am saddened and disappointed by them. What has saddened me is the attack on the Agricultural industry. Whether it be about the most recent attack on GMO crops or the constant and unwarranted criticism that the meat industry faces, our industry is under intense scrutiny. If you are one that has a “problem” with the agricultural industry, here are some things that I want you to know:
- If you eat, you are involved in Agriculture. Eating is an essential part of all of our lives, whether or not you eat meat, is irrelevant. A farmer grew the food that you are eating and a lot of these farmers also raise livestock, this is called diversification. Regardless, an attack on any sector of our industry is an attack on the industry as a whole. What I’m getting at is, biting the hand that feeds you (pun intended), does nothing for change and awareness.
- “Bad Apples” exist in every industry, not just in Ag. Just like any other industry, there are people who make poor choices and create a bad image for the industry as a whole. Yes, there are bad people out there who mistreat their livestock. Yes, there are bad people out there who do nothing to improve the lives or living conditions of the animals that they are responsible for, but these people make up a minuscule portion of our industry. In Ag, there is an old saying, “if you take care of that cow, she’ll take care of you.” This saying isn’t just relevant to cattle but to commercial livestock as a whole. If you care for your livestock in the most ethical and responsible way possible, they have better lives and therefore provide a better life for the producer. You cannot succeed if you mistreat your animals, period.
- What you haven’t experienced, you cannot possibly know about. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is by no means a bash on people who are removed from Agriculture. This is not an attack on the intelligence of people who have never been involved in Ag, this is simply an observation from someone who once was removed from Ag and knew absolutely nothing about it. Though Agriculture is apart of my daily life now, it wasn’t always. I am three generations removed from the farm and ranch on my side of the family. I thought that I “knew” about Ag and farming and ranching, but truly, I was completely ignorant. Until you experience first hand the handling of commercial livestock or the production of commercial crops, you have absolutely no idea how difficult it is. What may look good in a text book or in writing, doesn’t always necessarily work in real life. Until you have been in “the trenches” and experienced farming and ranching in daily life, frankly, you have no right to think you know how we should run our operations. If you have a question or wonder why we perform a certain practice, ask. Don’t assume it’s incorrect until you find out first-hand why it is done.
- Producers are animal lovers, if we weren’t, we wouldn’t raise animals for a living. Just because we are producers of protein, does not mean that we don’t care for our animals. I believe that it is completely ethical and natural for people to consume and use animal protein as a source of nutrition, but it is the producer’s job to provide the most comfortable and healthy life for those animals while they are with us. We producer’s want our livestock to be healthy and to thrive while they are under our care! When we provide a comfortable life for our animals, we feel that we have honored our livestock, the Good Lord, and our responsibility. The better we take care of our animals, the better they take care of us.
- GMO crops are the only reason we are able to provide enough food for EVERYONE. I hate to break it to ya, but if it were not for GMO crops, it would be impossible to produce enough food for the world. With the developments in GMO crops, we have been able to produce more crops with less water, land, and pesticides. GMO’s are not some sort of additive or ingredient that producers put in the crops, they are a genetic modification of a specific strain of crop that allows producers to plant and produce a crop that can be most productive and efficient for their region, climate, etc. GMO’s are absolutely essential and far more sustainable that organic farming. If you would like to learn more about GMO’s, please refer to “GMO’s: How we Feed the World”, an earlier blog post of mine. Side note: we eat what we produce as well, no one wants to eat crops saturated in chemicals, all spraying is essential to the health of the crop, but is not harmful to people. We aren’t over here dumping buckets of pesticides on food *insert eye roll*.
- The Family Farmers and Ranchers in this country are a dying breed. Here’s a scary statistic for you: less than 2% of the country’s population is involved in production agriculture. We are truly a dying breed. When farmers and ranchers no longer exist, there are no longer producers in the United States, which means food sources as we know it, seize to exist. We have made it so difficult for farmers and ranchers to do what they need to do, that less and less people are staying home at the farm. We could always import our food, right? Of course we could, but if you currently have issues with the way food is produced in this country, you will most definitely have an issue with the way food is produced in other countries. Our animal wellness standards are far beyond what most countries require and safety and health regulations for food is much more strict in the United States that most anywhere else that I know of. In my opinion, as a nation, we produce the safest and most well-regulated food supply in the world. If we don’t start taking care of our farmers and ranchers, we won’t be around to provide that anymore.
Regardless of wherever you come from or whatever you believe, you are involved in Agriculture. It is important that we as producers take the initiative to better educate the general public on what we do as well as where our food comes from. Of course, there are people in our industry who make poor choices and it gives the industry as a whole a black eye. These people need to be brought to justice, but criminalizing the industry is not the answer to awareness. Awareness does not come from fear mongering and lies, awareness comes from communication and education. The better able we are to connect and communicate with the general public, the more capable we will be of working together as producer and consumer. Next time you see a Farmer or Rancher, thank them for putting food on your table everyday. If you have a question, ask it. We love what we do and love to talk about it! Producer’s want a safe, reliable, and affordable source of nutrition for our families, too. Instead of criminalizing and scrutinizing the industry, educate yourself and learn about Agriculture from a producers point of view.