Mercifully, after next Tuesday campaigns end and with them the endless political commercials, ads, social media and mailers. Some of this material is directly aimed at farmers, ranchers, and those living in rural Kansas trying to convince voters a vote for candidate X is a vote to protect your way of life. After this Tuesday, whoever wins has the opportunity to demonstrate their conviction for rural Kansas. However, in agriculture the campaigns by various advocacy groups will continue aimed at either attacking or supporting agricultural practices. There is an extreme amount of “noise” out there directed at producers and the general public.
Extremists on both sides of various issues make it seem the chasm is so great there isn’t a chance of compromise, all regulation is evil, all producers want to be able to pollute the environment and abuse animals, and so forth. This background noise can easily drown out some basic truths regarding agriculture, its interaction with the rest of society, and society’s view of agriculture. Let’s take a moment, eliminate the exaggerations and consider a different reality regarding agriculture.
• Animal Welfare – Animal rights activists constantly bombard livestock producers with accusations of cruelty and stress regarding their production practices. Producers are confused because they understand mistreating and stressing livestock is exactly what they don’t want to do to optimize production. And the overwhelming majority of producers care about their animals and see to their needs before their own. Good producers want to identify and adopt the best, most humane livestock production practices while eliminating poor practices and weeding out bad actors in their profession.
• Water pollution – Certain environmental groups accuse producers of carelessness regarding the use of chemicals and in handling livestock waste. Remember, 98% of farm operations are family-owned and they live where they farm. The overwhelming majority of producers work diligently to protect the environment and want to use practices that protect surface and ground waters. This doesn’t mean pollution from farming operations hasn’t occurred but it isn’t intentional but often due to a lack of knowledge. As problems have been identified and solutions developed, producers have adopted them.
• GMO crops – Anti-GMO crop groups cite a laundry list of the negatives regarding genetic engineering and the takeover of the food supply by mega corporations. Producers use them, not because they are brainwashed and in the pocket of corporations but because they produce higher, more consistent yields of a higher quality and a decreased need for more environmentally hazardous products. That and a review of the credible science over the last twenty years shows none of the effects cited by the anti-GMO groups regarding human health.
• Pharmaceuticals – There is a great deal of concern regarding the use of antibiotics and growth hormones in livestock production. There are strict regulations regarding the use of these products and a great benefit in terms of animal health and food quality. Remember producers eat what they produce.
Everyone should be able to agree that the goal is a safe, affordable food supply produced with the goal of protecting the environment. While there may be disagreement on how to get there, we should all be able to come together and find solutions achieving that goal while protecting the family farm.