No, agriculture won't be quiet, Mr. Ross

December 14, 2017 09:59 AM
We often hear that farmers need to tell their story. Farmers need to speak up and make sure their concerns are heard and are understood by politicians and consumers.

The following content is commentary and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

We often hear that farmers need to tell their story. Farmers need to speak up and make sure their concerns are heard and are understood by politicians and consumers.

Too many times our messages seem to fall on deaf ears with left and right leaning governments.

However, last week’s #farmers4NAFTA campaign by U.S. farm groups and individual American farmers is a great example of how Twitter and social media can be used effectively to communicate to government and the general public.

As the NAFTA negotiations have stalled, farmers and ranchers in Canada, the United States and Mexico have grown increasingly concerned that this free trade deal is in jeopardy.

They’ve been voicing their concerns, to the point where U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross argued U.S. agriculture groups and farmers were complicating the NAFTA trade negotiation process by speaking up, basically telling the farm community to be quiet.

“As one special interest group, say agriculture, for example, gets nervous, they start screaming and yelling publicly. They start writing letters, soliciting the Congress people, and [then] they start screaming and yelling in public. It just complicates the environment and, frankly, makes the negotiations harder,” said Ross, as reported by Politico a few weeks ago.

Really Wilbur?

Essentially Wilbur Ross is saying “trust us.”

Ross has even made comments trying to downplay the significance of agriculture, saying “they’ve just got to get used to the fact that they’re a minor part of the economy and that trade policy isn’t going to be constructed around their interests.”

Does Wilbur Ross have no clue how many jobs are created by agriculture and food industries in the U.S. and the rest of the NAFTA region?

Many times farmers and ranchers don’t want to offend government. We choose to remind instead or insist. We choose to be passive instead of aggressive. But eventually we all reach a point where our agricultural message is being ignored and we must take a different tact.

Congrats to U.S. agriculture stakeholders for not taking Mr. Ross’s comments seriously, and in fact, raising their volume.

In an online campaign last week using the hashtag #farmers4NAFTA, U.S. agriculture groups, farmers and ranchers stepped up their messaging that NAFTA must stay, emphasizing that NAFTA has been successful for agriculture.

It’s very similar to how Canadian farmers and ranchers took to social media, mainstream news and phones to make sure the government heard their concerns on the Liberals’ proposed tax changes.

Whether it’s about trade, taxes, needless regulations, or government legislation that prevents the industry from achieving success, agriculture must find more of these common interest initiatives to work together on.

As we’ve seen with the push to save NAFTA, there’s strength in numbers.

So take that, Wilbur Ross. Nobody tells agriculture to keep quiet.

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