Viewpoint

Agriculture is something to be celebrated

National Agriculture Month is celebrated each March. In particular, National Agriculture Week is com­memorated the week of March 21 this year, and National Ag Day is March 22. Producers, agricultural associations, corporations, univer­sities, government agencies and others join together to recognize the contributions and vital role agricul­ture plays in this country and our local communities. It’s also a chance to educate people about where food, fiber and fuel come from.

It’s a message that gains more im­portance every year. Demographic shifts indicate that the average American is now at least three gen­erations removed from the farm. In fact, farm and ranch families make up less than 2% of the U.S. popula­tion, a statistic that is in continual decline. These are statistics we are all aware of.

Why is this important? Many Americans just don’t understand how their food is produced and what it takes to get it to their table. They generally expect food to be available, when and where they want it. Despite this unfamiliarity, a larger percentage of consumers are becoming increasingly concerned with production practices and the impacts of farming on the envi­ronment. Often, their knowledge comes from misinformation posted in various social media forms.

The pandemic caused many disruptions in the overall supply chain, including the flow of food from farm to table. Despite signifi­cant changes in demand, the food supply chain performed well.

I believe you can find positives in everything. One from the pandem­ic is a better understanding and appreciation by consumers of the work farmers, processors, distrib­utors and retailers do to ensure a safe, healthy and affordable food supply. As an industry, we must continue to reinforce the true story of agriculture because there is plen­ty of wrong information out there.

A prime example is a recent vid­eo released by the New York Times titled “Meet the People Getting Paid to Kill Our Planet.” Included is a subhead that reads, “Agriculture is ravaging the air, soil and water. But a powerful lobby has cleverly concealed its damage.” The piece is a shallow message of misrepre­sentations about farmers and the agriculture industry. I won’t supply the link. Media measures success in the number of clicks and views, so why increase the traffic?

The video was offensive enough to solicit a response from the USDA undersecretary for farm production and conservation during a House Agriculture subcommittee a few days later. He called it “horrible” and said he was “very” disappoint­ed with it. He went on to say, “I think farmers, ranchers and forest owners are great stewards of our land. I think they all depend on the productivity of the land, which comes from stewardship.”

In my opinion, the words “I think” should be removed from the undersecretary’s comments. “I know” would be a more accu­rate depiction of the vast majority of agricultural producers. While sustainability and climate-smart are new buzzwords, they have been common practices on many farms for a long time.

Those practices include no-till or minimum-till, which has been ad­opted on almost 50% of the corn, soybean, wheat and cotton acres in the United States. Advances in technologies continue to strengthen precision farming tools. And farm­ers are using programs designed to increase production while reducing waste and impact on the environ­ment, such as “right product, right rate, right place, right time”— otherwise known as the 4Rs.

Through technology, animal agri­culture has been able to reduce per-unit emissions over the last three decades. This, in conjunction with methods that maximize animal wel­fare, illustrate livestock producers’ commitment to stewardship.

The team at MFA is proud to be a part of agriculture and your oper­ations. We applaud your efforts to more efficiently increase production while reducing impact on the envi­ronment. Climate-smart agriculture is not a new concept to any of us.

We, along with other trade groups in the industry, will contin­ue to be a voice in support of your efforts. Just know that a recent poll suggests 87% of the public trusts farmers. You should be part of the conversation.

Sixty years ago, President John F. Kennedy may have said it best: “Our farmers deserve praise, not condemnation, and their efficien­cy should be cause for gratitude, not something for which they are penalized.”

Keep up the good work and have a safe spring.

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