By Tracey EricksonHow many times have you heard this? In regards to our communities and agricultural development we all need to remember that we are all under public scrutiny. Our actions whether a small or large producer can have monumental impact as we move forward with agriculture being the forefront of an economic base within communities and the state.The public desires transparency whether it is an issue of how government functions or how food is gotten from farms to the dinner table. So how does transparency weave into advocating for your agricultural livelihood? Simply stated before pointing the finger at others… “Ask yourself are you being a good citizen steward and taking care of business at your operation by not giving the public something to scrutinize?” For example: Are you disposing of all waste and garbage (paper, plastic, oil, batteries, etc.) appropriately? Are you limiting access to lakes and streams with minimal defecating in water sources that serve as livestock water sources? Are you preventing runoff from contaminating water sources by using grass waterways, conservation tillage methods, manure containment facilities, appropriate manure application, and appropriate fertilizer pesticide application rates? What are you doing to minimize odor, dust and noise? Are you storing and using medicated feed and medications appropriately? Are you disposing of dead animals appropriately and in a timely manner? Are your facilities esthetically pleasing, and viewed as a business who maintains its facilities? Are you a viewed as a good business person in the community? All of these areas are critical to being a good neighbor and a good agricultural steward within the community.
Creating a culture of agricultural awarenessAccording to the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture there are presently 3.2 million producers in production agriculture. This means that only one percent of the American population is directly involved in production agriculture. As you go about your daily life ask yourself how many people do you know that are involved in any form of production agriculture versus those that are not? Then ask yourself, of those involved in production
agriculture how many raise livestock?We can no longer assume that people understand what a farm or ranch is. Additionally, we cannot assume that people understand what is involved in modern agriculture. Many consumers however, believe that “farms must have the old, red barn and that all farmers wear bib overalls”. These are not realistic images of what modern agriculture is about.In today’s society people do not always believe what science knows to be true. How do you adequately, tell the story of agriculture and advocate for agriculture? In answering consumer questions, transparency helps establish confidence (known as shared values) and helps build trust with the consumer, especially when it comes to safe food, quality nutrition, appropriate animal care, environmental stewardship and others (Center for Food Integrity, 2014). These personal values are the same things that you as a producer care about, and want to do well as you raise your livestock and crops and consume the food you produce.
Be united in representing agriculture, speak with one voiceIt is important to remember that we are all in the business of producing food for the consumer. Therefore, it is important that one industry or industry practice not be pitted against another. In the end neither wins, the consumer becomes confused and doubtful of agriculture production practices. This can result in an overall reduction in the total consumption of an agricultural product, and the pressure to change normal production practices, either through government regulations or consumer demands.
Become an advocate for agricultureAdvocacy is the act of showing support for a particular cause, group or policy. An advocate is someone who actively supports a cause, group or policy by building relationships with those who exert influence such as an elected official. It is important to remember that everyone involved in agriculture should attempt to serve as advocate. Why should you be involved and what kind of outcomes are desirable when we advocate for agriculture? Ask yourself the following questions: Do you want to possibly change or influence a regulation, public policy, or law? Do you want to change someone’s attitude or behavior? Do you want to change a political process or system? Do you want to increase power or influence for a less powerful group? Do you want to have input into how you produce your agricultural commodity? If you answered yes, to any of these questions, you should consider a role in advocating for agriculture.
Advocating through communicationWhen choosing to serve as an advocate make note of the following ways in which you can advocate for agriculture:
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