Pro Farmer News Editor, Julianne Johnston, is part of the Iowa Soybean Association's Farm & Food Ambassador Team. Following is her blog submission as part of this group.
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).
The week of February 12 was a big week for agriculture, especially for Iowa. Highlighting the week was China’s "Buy America Tour," in which Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping was treated like royalty as he visited Iowa to catch up with some old friends and meet new ones.
I was personally moved by some of the moments caught on video from Xi’s visit to Rick and Martha Kimberley’s farm in rural Maxwell, Iowa, where Rick answered Xi’s question on his grain-drying techniques, examined the latest equipment on the farm and said it looked like farming was steady employment.
Why was this so important? Simply put, China needs and wants Iowa’s agriculture to succeed. China’s growing population — and growing middle class — demands our high-quality goods as they struggle with inefficiencies to maintain self-sufficiency in agriculture
The Chinese are in awe of the efficiencies of American farms, yet some organizations want to take some of those efficiencies away from us. While the Chinese delegation was complimenting us for our production practices, McDonald’s Corporation teamed up with The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to ask for the pork industry’s plan to phase out the use of sow gestation stalls.
The use of gestation stalls is highly debated and it’s our own fault. HSUS says consumers want sows to have more room to roam, but this production practice has become the gold standard for sow health. But American consumers are influenced by what the HSUS calls the "inhumane" treatment of sows, forcing pork producers to change their best practices, which will ultimately raise the cost of production and the price of pork.
American consumers could learn something from the Chinese trade delegation. We are the gold standard for ag practices on the globe. There’s a reason they are in awe of American agriculture. At the current pace of improved efficiencies in American agriculture, we are up to the challenge of feeding the world. But stumbling blocks like the HSUS stand in our way.
Farmers, tell a consumer why you do what you do. Educate them. You don’t necessarily have to let the world onto your farm like the Kimberley family did, but from this experience we learned that farm visitors can be appreciative of what is being done in American agriculture today.
AND, it’s time to push back on McDonald’s and ask for less processing of the food we provide them. They have asked us to change, now it’s time for us to ask them to change.