Time to Speak Out

October 19, 2013 07:24 AM
Time to Speak Out

Your livelihood is at risk. Don’t let a blind spot or frustration with our government keep you quiet. Raise your voice.

Carl Graham returned home from Korea in 1954 and started farming in northwest Ohio near the tiny burg of Arcadia. Today, the 82-year-old still works the ground and drives tractors for the family farm now led by his son-in-law, Ed James, and grandson, Mike James. The trio work together to grow corn, soybeans and wheat. Last fall, to honor Carl and the farming legacy he established, the family brought three generations of harvesters into one field on their farm. Folks ranging from 8 years to 80-plus years showed up to witness how the combines reflect the progress in agriculture. (See photo.)

This family cares deeply about their farm and respects "the good ol’ days."

"Putting those three combines in the field sparked a lot of memories, but none of us would want to go back to that," Mike explains.

Instead, the three generations are enormously proud of how their dedication to new technology helps them advance. Today, each farmer produces food for 10 times more people than when the Ohio operation began.

Across our nation, we can take this farm’s legacy, substitute different names, dates and GPS coordinates, and essentially tell the same story. The key change through the decades is the widening disconnect between the farm and food—and the impact that has on the perspective of voting consumers.

That gap in knowledge and understanding began when farmers started to evolve with mechanized agriculture from an agrarian to an industrial society. Throughout the years, that harmless gap has turned into a threatening chasm that fuels misunderstandings and creates a landscape that threatens agriculture’s ability to farm.

"The lack of familiarity with modern agriculture creates a knowledge vacuum that is often filled by those with an agenda to push," explains John Dillard, Farm Journal legal columnist.

Those agendas are less and less compatible with production agriculture. As a result, our industry is being bombarded with overreaching legislation, regulatory roadblocks that hamper inno­vation, and activist-driven, court-mandated decisions. The most alarming fact of all: Many farmers and ranchers are woefully unaware of the encroach­ment—or what it means to their livelihood and future.

That has to change—and fast. It is time to shine a light on the serious threats agriculture faces and enable farmers and ranchers to let their voice be heard. That’s why Farm Journal Media is launching a new effort, America’s Agriculture Challenge.

"Ag is in the middle of many societal battles, and it’s time for farmers to watch out," says Gary Baise, Washington attorney with Olson Frank Weeda Terman Matz Law Firm. "There is some new threat to agriculture every time we turn around."

What’s more, Baise says the anti-ag landscape is accelerating and will continue to speed up. This well-known attor­ney with 40 years of experience in government and private practice devotes much of his time to defending agriculture and farmers in cases involving the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. EPA, he maintains, oversteps its inten­ded role every day.

Ironically, Baise ought to know. He was part of the team that started the agency in 1970, shortly after Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring. "We had no idea that EPA would grow into what it is today," he notes. "There needs to be serious changes at the agency, but that won’t sidestep that there are petitions and efforts already in place that will follow us for decades."

The key areas regulators and anti-ag groups are targeting include:

  •   Monoculture, which is essentially commercial crop production;
  •   Large livestock operations also called CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations);
  •   Genetically modified organisms;
  •   The criminalization of runoff from livestock operations; and
  •   Water and air quality.

There are tentacles that reach far and wide in each of those key areas. In the months ahead, we will report on the developments in those areas, so you understand the risks at hand—and what they mean to all of us.

For example, an impact study on the delay of market approval of Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist Weed Control System as a complimentary herbicide-tolerant trait technology shows that glyphosate-resistant weeds will reduce farm incomes by $2 billion annually. On top of that, the move to increased tillage will result in approximately 25 tons of soil loss by 2020.

That’s the powerful impact of only one delay of one technology. Armed with an understanding of the issues and implications, we hope you’ll be inspired to speak up.

Farmers, by nature and trade, focus on growing plants and livestock—and striving to produce the most with the least. In the past, that hasn’t required interacting with lawmakers, regulators or activists. Now it does. We can’t afford to wait and see any longer.

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