Presidential Race Shines Spotlight on Ag Issues

This past week a friend told me that CNBC is interested in visiting with a panel of Iowa to farmers about agricultural issues and the presidential election. Of course, this started my thinking process!

It’s ironic that farmers’ opinions are sought out by media. Consumer surveys show farmers are respected. Yet, there’s a vocal minority that disconnects on certain issues.

Farmers are salt-of-the-earth types of people. It comes with the job! Just when I think I’ve got the farming thing figured out, Mother Nature makes sure every year is different! Weather, disease, bugs, viruses… there is an endless list of problems with which farmers must address. In addition, it takes an enormous amount of money to get crops and livestock to market. Farming is a complicated business!

So when a major television news network comes to the farm and asks questions, we need to be respectful of their interest. But can we use this as a platform to share our knowledge about other subjects dear to us? Can we talk about how the environment and conservation are always top of mind with us? After all, nature is our livelihood! We see how GMOs fit in to the whole world’s food production system and understand that GMOs make conservation possible.

Thirty-five years ago when I first tried no-till farming, it was a struggle. Modern plant genetics, combined with machinery and equipment advancements, make no-till farming possible today. Will I be able to convince people who don’t understand agriculture about the benefits of these practices because I’m a farmer?

Several articles this past week in The Des Moines Register mention farmers state that farmers are finally realizing the need to keep our water clean. Say what!?! This newspaper makes it sound like farmers are the last people to think about water quality! Where’s that trust and interest in what a farmer knows?

We get such mixed signals about how smart and how clueless farmers are. In addition to worrying about the weather, insects and disease, we must also be concerned about “perception.” Understanding the public’s concerns is a big hurdle we must continually overcome. When opportunity comes to the farm, let’s grab hold and use the moment!