Viewpoint

Missouri agriculture takes its case to consumers

Written by Bill Streeter on .

I’m a farmer and a businessman, first and foremost. I’m also a passionate advocate for agriculture. All of us involved in today’s agriculture should be. This business is too demanding for those who don’t enjoy it.

That said, if we won’t stand up for ourselves and our industry, no one will. We should defend agriculture and praise its accomplishments at every opportunity, whether at community events or at family functions with our curious city cousins.

All of us have social networks as well as professional networks. Let’s use them. Most of us get newspapers from the communities to which we belong. Take time to answer critics. Make the effort to counter negative claims in letters to the editor. Don’t be hesitant to challenge businesses, associations or groups that have anti-agriculture stances.

By pooling our resources, we can command quite a bit of attention. Sounds like a cooperative principle, doesn’t it?

You are the best voice for agriculture. All of us must help the public understand modern agriculture. To do that, first make sure you join the commodity group of your choice, from cattle to soybeans.

These organizations do an excellent job of staying on message and communicating with the proper audiences.

Every study I’ve seen says consumers trust farmers. At the same time, consumers want to be assured farmers are protecting animals and the environment. When pollsters say agribusiness, consumers react negatively. When pollsters say farmers, consumers are reassured. Let’s use that earned trust to educate.

Just so you’ll know those of us at MFA practice what we preach, I’d like to explain MFA’s participation in an advertising campaign that’s occurring this summer and fall. It’s called “Farmers step up to the plate.”

The campaign (see the ad on page 37) is aimed squarely at consumers, not farmers. Our objective is to create a greater understanding of Mid-America agriculture by educating consumers through a comprehensive partnership with the St. Louis Cardinals.

As part of the effort, sports fans attending ball games will see videos of farmers and their families. They’ll also have the opportunity to sign up for the ultimate home tailgate party at a booth outside the stadium. The booth will be manned by all of us who are part of the advertising package.

Shoppers going to Schnucks stores throughout the state will see in-store ads on specific products like dairy, pork and beef. Many other promotional activities will also be part of the effort. As you can see, it’s comprehensive.

Better still, it’s an opportunity for all of Missouri’s commodity groups as well as Farm Bureau, FSC Financial and MFA Incorporated to work together for the benefit of agriculture.

None of these agricultural groups can afford individually to buy consumer reach this comprehensive. After all, the Cardinals radio network and in-stadium audience approach 300,000 consumers per game. By pooling our resources, we can command quite a bit of attention. Sounds like a cooperative principle, doesn’t it?.

On a practical note, one important fact all of us in agriculture cannot ignore is that social policy will determine agricultural policy. Whether we like it or not is beside the point. If agriculture cannot convince the public that our policies and practices are in the public’s best interest, the public will change the regulatory environment to the extent we are forced to abandon sound policy in favor of irrational policy mandated by extremist groups that fund massive indoctrination campaigns.

I’m not a politician despite knowing several and respecting their dedication and service. Of course, I’m aware of others who do not come close to earning my respect. That said, I have a no desire to dabble in politics.

MFA Incorporated is focused specifically on the business of agriculture and the processes inherent in providing an economic benefit to our member/owners.

Nevertheless, I find those of us involved in modern agriculture constantly playing defense, first against anti-agriculture groups and second against government agencies.

Large groups and organizations devote substantial time and seemingly unlimited budgets to attacking agriculture. I realize one advertising campaign will not solve all of those problems. But it’s a good place to start.

It is time to add the voices of America’s farmers and ranchers to the debate.

Bill Streeter is president and CEO of MFA Incorporated.

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