It doesn’t have to be “Us versus Them.” I do not believe that it is unrealistic or utopian to believe that those of us who make our living in agriculture can coalesce into one “entity” when doing so would improve our chances of being heard. We would surely be a force to be reckoned with as a voting bloc, an educational alliance or a marketing cartel if we could all just get along.
But as I listen to and read comments made by many for whom I have great respect, it is not a coalition I see forming, but several well-meaning factions drawing lines in the sand, daring “Them” to cross. Sometimes “them” and “us” are not so far apart on issues, but distrust one another because historically, they have distrusted one another.
I like a good, healthy discussion. How are we going to learn anything and understand the world if we fail to ask questions and form our own opinions by listening to the facts and opinions of others? I find little if any common ground between my beliefs and those expressed by animal rights groups but I believe that knowing where our detractors stand helps us more clearly define our own position on any given issue. Without knowing the reasons behind another’s conviction, how in the world can we ever convince them to open their minds?
For more than a decade I’ve been warning you that agriculture is under attack and that we need to keep our eyes open and be ready for the fight. I haven’t changed my mind. But gee whiz, sometimes I think a few of us who have been in the front lines in the fight against animal rights activists and environmental-wackos have become suspicious of almost anyone who doesn’t fit into the “conventional agriculture” box. Instead of asking questions, we jump the gun, assuming that any square peg that doesn’t fit into the round hole is our enemy, or at the very least – just plain wrong.
If we (Us and Them) are going to feed a growing world population with a safe, affordable and abundant food supply while at the same time remaining economically sound and environmentally friendly, we need all of agriculture working together.
It shouldn’t matter how many acres you farm, what you grow on those acres, or how many head of livestock you own as long as you are a good steward of the land, livestock, water, air, your community and family. I like living in a country where we have choices. If you want tomatoes grown locally, you can buy them that way. If you want to purchase brown eggs from a free-range farm, you can buy them that way. If you want to buy natural beef or organic bananas, you can buy them that way. But expect to pay a premium.
“Us” should be able to grow a corn crop with stacked traits and “Them” should be able to grow non-GMO organic white corn and “We” should be grateful that both have markets for what is grown, because a rising tide really does carry all boats.
We should spend a little less time judging one another and a little more time addressing those issues of true concern, like universities and law schools across this country that receive millions of dollars to establish animal rights programs, and the ever-growing lode of regulations targeting nearly every aspect of our lives in rural America.