Ag’s Changing World

It took awhile but agriculture finally realized it had to do a better job of telling its story.  For years many producers felt that if they weren’t doing anything wrong then why did they have to explain themselves. Most farmers and ranchers understandably would rather spend their time working rather than telling others how and why they do their jobs.  We’ve come to expect most people in large cities don’t have much understanding of food production but today we even see the same among many people living in rural America.  Now those changes are evident not only in Congress but more specifically the Ag committees as well.  As I have said before this is Show and Tell time for agriculture.  Not only are we telling ag’s story to consumers but to a whole new group of legislators as well.  This new audience is increasingly focused on climate and environmental issues.  Whether it’s a new Congress or a new administration or social media driven consumers, agriculture’s audience is constantly changing.  They have different backgrounds and interests and they have lots of questions about food production.  How well agriculture answers those questions will play a big part in legislative policies and consumer trends.  Fair or not, agriculture has to convince a lot of people that it is part of the solution and not the problem when it comes to climate issues.  We are about to get answers to a lot of very important questions.  Will those pushing for electric vehicles acknowledge biofuels ability to achieve cleaner air and push for its expansion?  Will those pushing for carbon banks and markets provide real opportunities for farmers or just more empty promises like we’ve seen in the past?  Will voluntary conservation practices on farms and ranches be incentivized or replaced with burdensome mandates?  Will livestock production be fairly evaluated for greenhouse gas emissions or continue to be inaccurately blamed? The need for agriculture to tell its story is nothing new however the audience that needs to hear it has changed a lot.  As we’ve seen with GMOs, science and facts don’t always win the debate.  Building alliances with groups not always considered allies for agriculture is becoming very important.  The number of those wanting a seat at the policy table is growing.  Agriculture not only needs a seat at that table but needs to find as much common ground with those seated around it as possible.