This is an unprecedented time for agriculture in this country – in this world. While farmers are producing record amounts of food and feed grains, the separation between those who grow the food and those who consume the food is great and growing.
Agriculture in this country has been under a microscope for a while, and not always without good reason. I would never suggest that 100% of the farmers in this country practice good stewardship, but show me any vocation in the world where every single individual person or business is above board and doing what is right all the time.
My interpretation of stewardship is personal responsibility and accountability when dealing with air, water, land and animals. I would guess that most of the people in this world would agree with my interpretation.
The problem is perception.
When I was a child, I remember hearing discussion about a generation gap, which by definition is a lack of communication or a difference in outlook, attitude and values between those of different generations. I think we are seeing something similar, but it has less to do with age and more to do with communication.
There is a gap between what the majority of us in production agriculture are doing and the general perception of what we are doing. The breach of trust in our food system has grown as some of those opposed to the use of antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides and gestation stalls claim moral and ethical superiority over those who utilize the tools of modern technology to raise their crops and grow their livestock.
There are those who believe cucumbers and cabbage grown without the use of insecticide is better or healthier than vegetables harvested from plants dusted with Sevin. There are those who do not eat meat that do not want the rest of us to eat meat because they believe animals have rights.
Misperceptions and judgments about agriculture in this country are being handed down every day. Anti-groups are doing all they can to turn an intelligent yet misinformed consumer against modern agriculture. Meanwhile, a few of you raising hogs on pasture claim moral superiority over those who raise hogs in climate-controlled buildings, and vice-versa. Perhaps you should spend a little more time focusing on your own practices instead of someone else’s.
Call it stewardship or just call it doing the right thing. Most of us have this thing called a conscience that guides us through life. Whether you consider
your conscience to be faith-based like I do, or if you just consider it a sort of internal barometer to tell you right from wrong, the majority of the people in this world know when they cross that line. You make a choice to do what is right or what is wrong. You are accountable for your actions.
Large, small, organic or conventional, if you are a bad actor, change your ways or get out of the business. We don’t need or want you.