About the blogger: Julianne Johnston is the News Editor for Pro Farmer in Cedar Falls, Iowa. She was raised on a Hardin County, Iowa, corn, soybean, cattle and hog farm and was active in 4-H and FFA growing up. She and her husband, Terry, reside in rural Parkersburg, Iowa, on an acreage, with the goal to install the work ethics their fathers passed down to them to their two daughter, Mackenzie (17) and Addie (13).
Earlier this month I had the privilege of welcoming Bruce Vincent, a third-generation logger from Libby, Montana, to the Iowa Soybean Association's (ISA) "Ag Matters Series." Vincent shared his story on how activists attacked the logging industry nearly 20 years ago, and how it changed his industry forever.
Vincent told the audience the political environment is dictated by activists and to "get ahead of your message" through education. The events of the last couple of weeks regarding Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB) are a sad reminder of how the ag industry has fallen behind in this regard.
Because of a smear campaign dubbed "pink slime," over 600 people have lost their jobs at three plants. As we (Pro Farmer) reported March 26, Beef Products, Inc. has suspended operations at three of its four plants that produce LFTB. Because of an uneducated crusade to rid the world of LFTB, food giants McDonald's, WalMart, Kroger Co. and Safeway announced last week they are removing the product from their shelves and USDA has allowed schools to opt out of using products with LFTB.
Watch this to learn more about the "truths" of LFTB:
Now the ag community faces the monumental task of getting this product back on the shelves! Vincent tells farmers that people make decisions based on what they think is true, not what is really true. He understands why forest fires are much more devastating in our generation than they were before the government became involved and made management of our forest system more difficult. "There is a thin line between environmental rules and insanity," said Vincent. "And we have crossed the line and are caving in to people's fears."
"Truth without a champion does no good," said Vincent. "There is a difference between arguing and leading. Use your tools -- provide facts to change public opinion."
That advice rings true today! Now to get the folks employed by Beef Products, Inc. back to work, we have to convince the public this product is safe -- no different than what they perceive as traditional ground beef.
Vincent urges farmers and ranchers to add ag activism to their business plan. "Spend one hour a week educating consumers -- your neighbors and community -- what it is you do and why it's important to them," he said.
"The culture is what's at stake. The industry will live on, but the question is what it will look like. If you want your industry to stay where it's at, then be an activist for it," said Vincent.
If you haven't already done so, get a What can you do? facebook page or a twitter account or both. Find articles that you think will resonate with your audience. Use this blog if your goal is to get the ag community involved in advocating for agriculture (which is my goal).
Personally, I have spent time on the "Food Revolution Community" on Facebook engaging in several conversation with folks that don't understand what LFTB really is. Be civil and educate. Don't argue, just present the facts. You CAN make a difference!