Agriculture has an uphill battle

The pro-agriculture advocacy group Protect the Harvest wants Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States to apologize.  During a recent interview, Pacelle said he rejects the idea that “the truth is in the middle” in the struggle between animal rights and animal agriculture.  Pacelle went on to say, “I don’t think the truth was in the middle when our nation fought about child labor or slavery”.

Erik Helland – board member with Protect the Harvest thinks Pacelle was out of line.  “To even put American farmers in the same sentence, in the same phrase as slave holders is preposterous,” he says.  “It is absolutely insulting.

Helland tells Brownfield activist organizations like HSUS present the ag industry with serious challenges.  “We’re up against a multi-million dollar PR (public relations) machine, filled with people dedicated to tearing down traditional agriculture,” he says.  “It’s an uphill battle – but not one that we (the agriculture industry) are going to give up on.”

Helland says volunteer organizations like Protect the Harvest have to work together and support American agriculture on a united front.

‘The Food Dialogues’ is latest effort to reach consumers

Animal welfare, GMOs, food prices—those were just a few of the topics covered in Thursday’s nationwide Food Dialogues event, hosted by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.

At a Food Dialogue viewing session in Lincoln, Nebraska, farmer Dawn Caldwell of Edgar said the questions being asked by consumers were similar to the ones she hears in her role as a Common Ground volunteer spokesperson.

“Some of the questions are very similar—and I just blogged this week, in fact, about GMOs.  In almost every (Common Ground) session I’ve done, that’s the one common thread that comes up,” says Caldwell, “and I never thought that much about it, I guess, because I really like putting less chemicals on the ground as a farmer.  However, people have some misconception, some ugly picture in their mind, about what a trait may be.”

AUDIO: Dawn Caldwell (2:40 MP3)

Another Nebraska Common Ground volunteer—Leslie Boswell of Shickley—says she welcomes the opportunity to discuss the reasons behind animal confinement—and to explain the difference between animal protection and animal abuse.

AUDIO: Leslie Boswell (3:10 MP3)


Miss America advocates for agriculture

Since being crowned Miss America in January, Teresa Scanlan of Gering in the Nebraska Panhandle has been speaking out about the importance of agriculture.   During an appearance at the Nebraska State Fair, Brownfield’s Ken Anderson asked Scanlan what prompted her to become an outspoken advocate for farmers and ranchers.

AUDIO: Teresa Scanlan (2:07 MP3)


Nebraska programs focus on reaching educators, students

In an effort to spread the positive story of agriculture, many agricultural organizations are focusing on schools and looking for creative ways to reach elementary teachers and their students.

The Nebraska Soybean Board has helped develop two programs that are doing just that.

Research Experiences for Teachers (RET)

RET programs are designed to provide graduate-level classroom instruction and laboratory experiences for teachers.  According to Jon Pedersen, professor of science education and director of the Center for Science, Math and Computer Education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the premise is that experience in the practice of food and agricultural science improves the quality and authenticity of teaching, which increases student interest and achievement.

AUDIO: Jon Pedersen (4 min MP3)

Farmer Debbie Borg of Allen, Nebraska helped develop the Nebraska Soybean Board’s RET pilot project.  Borg says RET is helping children develop a better understanding of the soybean system and the importance of soybeans and agriculture to our food supply.  She says the early feedback on the program has been very positive, with teachers reporting that student are making connections between soybeans in their classroom, the farm and growers, and the products that come from soybeans.

AUDIO: Debbie Borg (6 min MP3) 

Ag Sack Lunch Program

This program takes advantage of the fact that over 20,000 fourth-graders visit the State Capitol building in Lincoln each year as part of their curriculum. 

As part of their Capitol tour, the Nebraska Soybean Board and the Nebraska Pork Producers provide a sack lunch featuring nutritious foods produced in Nebraska, a 15-minute presentation by “Ag Ambassadors” on the vital role agriculture plays in the state’s economy, and a fact-filled card game designed for students to take home, which helps carry the ag-centered message to their families.

The Ag Ambassadors are University of Nebraska-Lincoln students trained to make the Ag Sack Lunch presentations.  We talked to Ag Ambassador Emilee Dorn of Hildreth, Nebraska following her recent visit with fourth graders from Exeter-Milligan.

AUDIO: Emilee Dorn (3 min MP3)

We also asked Susan Wait, the fourth grade teacher at Exeter-Milligan, for her thoughts on the Ag Sack Lunch program.

AUDIO: Susan Wait (2:30 MP3)

In all, 98 schools and nearly 4,600 students will have participated in the program through the 2010-2011 school year.

Nebraska FFA convention is underway

More than 3,300 FFA members are converging on Lincoln this week for the 83rd annual Nebraska FFA Convention. 

One of the new events at this year’s convention is an Agricultural Issues Academy, where 36 FFA’ers are learning to be more effective spokespeople for modern agriculture. 

“They’ll learn about issues in agriculture, as well as working in round-robin sessions that will help them develop skills in connecting with and speaking to lawmakers—how to share a positive message in TV or radio interviews—and then really focusing on some written and online communications,” says Donelle Johnson, executive director of Nebraska FFA. “All revolving around how FFA members can be true agricultural advocates for Nebraska.”

Johnson says participation in FFA continues to grow.  There are now 66-hundred FFA members in 139 chapters across the state.

AUDIO: Donelle Johnson (4 min MP3)

‘Dirty Jobs’ Rowe says farmers have it right

The creator of television’s ‘Dirty Jobs’ – keynote speaker at the American Farm Bureau annual meeting in Atlanta on Monday – says farmers don’t need a spokesman.

Mike Rowe has done many of his shows on US farms working side by side with farmers.

“What I most hear (from farmers) is a sense that the rest of the country is disconnected – fundamentally – from what it is farmers do today.”

Rowe told reporters that 50 years ago everyone appreciated farmers and agriculture.

“If there’s a message that needs to come back to over and over again is just reminding the 300-million people who rely on what farmers do that it’s not happening by… by magic.”

Rowe responded to a reporter that agriculture doesn’t need him as a spokesman – then told AFBF members that they have it RIGHT and should continue to be their own best advocates.

AUDIO: Mike Rowe, “DirtyJobs”, AFBF news conference (34 min. MP3)

Nebraska rancher is an ‘agvocate’ for agriculture

Jecca Ostrander ranches and raises quarter horses with her family near the small town of Gordon in northwest Nebraska.  Jecca is one of the growing number of farmers and ranchers who are using the social media—Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogging—to share agriculture’s story with the non-ag public.  We recently visited with Jecca about her “agvocating” activities.

AUDIO: Jecca Ostrander (3 min MP3)

Paying attention to rural issues

The mission of Rural Votes is to promote initiatives and ideas that support rural America. Debra Kozikowski, is the Executive Director of Rural Votes, the organization she founded as a result of a frustration.

AUDIO: Debra Kozikowski, Exec. Director, Rural Votes (3:00 MP3)

Ignite herbicide price reduced

Arlene Cotie, Product Manager for Communications and Trait Integrity with Bayer CropScience had good news to share at Commodity Classic Thursday.  Just in time for the 2010 growing season, Ignite herbicide will cost 20% less.

Ignite is the only non-selective alternative to glyphosate and can be applied across to all Liberty-Link crops.

Arlene Cotie talks about Ignite and her t-shirt

Taste of Shelby County Agriculture

The Shelby County Ag Promotion Committee held their annual Taste of Shelby County Shelby Co. Ag Promotions Committee 001Agriculture Banquet, Wednesday, March 3. The purpose of the event.

“To get people to walk away from this banquet and realize that ag is a very vital and important part of not only Shelby County but the entire State of Indiana,” said Committee President Jeremy Weaver of Needham.

The committee presented scholarships to Alexis Zobel and Anthony Comstock. Zobel, a Sr. at Waldron High School will be attending Purdue University where she’ll study biochemistry. Comstock a Sr. at Shelbyville HS will study wildlife biology at Purdue. Next week the Shelby County Ag Promotion Committee will host all 4th grade students for a farm and home safety day event.

Audio: Jeremy Weaver, Pres. ShelbyCo. Ag Promotions Comm. (2:10 MP3)