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Telling Agriculture’s Story, and Walking a Mile in Animal Byproduct Free Shoes

Today on the Iowa State University campus, members from Vegan Outreach took up post at the corner of Parks Library. Unfortunately, I was unable to go and share my viewpoints and listen to their opinion, however, a good friend of mine did get that opportunity. This is a recount of his experience talking to the members.

“As I walked by, they handed me packets on ‘Compassionate Choices’ and ‘Guide to Cruel-Free Eating’. I stuck around however, wanting to talk to them.” He explains how the one member (we’ll call him Jack) didn’t seem to want to talk to him. However, my friend is not one to be easily deterred and started asking questions along the lines of “if he had been on a farm, why he had gone vegan, if he believed everything he saw in the handouts, and if he had attempted to remove all animal by-products from his life.” Jack apparently didn’t have too many answers, but the highlight of this story was when he admitted that it would be impossible to remove all animal by-products from his life, and that the world would never be completely animal by-product free.

This is the "Power Plate." Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine sued the USDA to get them to adopt this animal byproduct free nutrition diagram.

Ironic isn’t it, that Jack and other vegans will admit that animals are so useful to their everyday lives? Going vegan is a personal choice, I don’t believe I would ever be able to remove animal products from my diet, but I respect those who do. It’s not something I would choose and I truly believe the animal agriculture industry is vital to the survival of agriculture, but it’s Jack’s choice to make, not mine.

I do disagree with those who wanted to  change our food pyramid to exclude all animal byproducts, but like I said before, I will respect the opinions of those who choose to go vegan. I also have a true desire to learn why they think the way they do, and what a ‘mile in their shoes’ feels like; that is why I will be participating in “Week Vegan,” the idea of the very friend who challenged Jack and the Vegan Outreach. Next week (April 3-10), we will have an animal byproduct free diet. No meat, eggs, or dairy. If you are interested in seeing how we handle this check back at the Five W’s of Food Production, I’ll keep it updated with the cost of the food, as well as how we are handling our new diet. Hopefully after we walk a mile in their shoes, we’ll be able to tell agriculture’s story that much more effectively.

Media illiterate and ag illiterate – are they related?

Currently I’m taking a class called Journalism and Mass Communication 101 – Media & Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication. This class covers all of the basics of media, including becoming media literate, and having a critical eye. We’ve discussed triangulating our data, checking news stories with at least three other sources in order to form a complete view. As well as agenda-setting, where the media sets the agenda, for what the rest of society thinks about.

Every time I sit through class I can’t help but relate what I am learning about, back to the agriculture industry, and the view that consumers have of us. It makes me wonder, if more consumers would take the time to become a critic of the media, would we be in the situation we are in? Would the agriculture industry have compared us to the failing automobile industry? Would agriculture always have to be on the defensive?

I believe things would be much different. Another professor, Dr. Steve Sapp has discussed with us in a sociology class of mine that consumers are critics of the media, trusting their stories less than farmers. I certainly agree that consumers are aware that the media may not always be the most unbiased source of information, but I also believe that media can blow agriculture issues out of proportion.

The media is certainly an integral part of our society, but maybe we should educate those who are relaying the stories; so the next time an animal activist video, or HSUS rally is the main news story on the 10:00 newscast, agriculture isn’t always portrayed as the bad guy.

Just something to think about. . .

Today’s Food System: All Drugged Up

You have a lot of great points in the article – and since people are going to assume this anyway, I’m going to come right out and tell you that I’m speaking from the animal agricultur­e point of view. My family raises hogs, we keep them in confinemen­ts (one could even call us a ‘Factory Farm’ I guess). We care for our animals, we don’t pump them full of antibiotic­s, drugs, and hormones in order to poison you as the consumer and make a profit. We give medicine (both preventati­ve and therapeuti­c) when needed, and we make sure our pork is healthy for you, after all, I will eat that same pig that you will. There are a lot of animals, more than humans, of course it would make sense that more antibiotic­s would go to them. Farmers follow strict guidelines set by the USDA and FDA, called withdrawal dates that do not allow an animal to go to a packing house for a certain number of days after medicine is given.
The bottom line is that farmers are trying to produce a safe and healthy product for you, and they are succeeding­. America has the safest and cheapest food supply in the world, talk to a farmer, look inside their buildings, and understand what we are trying to do, instead of criticizin­g us for doing our job.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Ag is Losing at the Polls – What do we do about it?

There I was, sitting on my futon, filling out my absentee ballot, quickly checking boxes, and eager to get my ballot in the mail. I reached the section on constitutional amendments, read the title Iowa Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Act; thought to myself, “Sure, why not help Iowa’s natural resources?” Checked yes, and put my ballot in the mail to be counted; later that day I received an e-mail from the Iowa Farm Bureau, urging voters to check ‘No’ on that same ballot initiative I had just voted to pass.

As I researched exactly what the ballot initiative meant, a thought hit me. I grow angry when consumers look only at the words or the pictures and make assumptions about agriculture, yet I had just done the exact same thing, and voted for a constitutional change I didn’t even know anything about.

Why wouldn’t they check yes?

Standards for Confining Farm Animals, Puppy Mill Initiative, Relating to Cruel and Inhumane Confinement of Animals, all were titles on past legislation passed through ballot initiatives. Of course they passed. Even with huge campaigns trying to explain their real meanings, many voters were unreached, and who wouldn’t want to save the puppies, and treat farm animals humanely?

The obvious answer to fighting back would be education. However, Dr. Steven Sapp, sociology professor at Iowa State University explains that if you try to educate the public you will fail based on the fact that opponents are distributing negative information which carries disproportionate weight to positive information.

What will work?

So what will work? The answer to agriculture winning at the polls is a strategy involving the combination of involvement, education, and offense.

As Dr. Sapp explained, education alone may not be the answer, but I believe combined with involving consumers in agriculture, as well as offensively sharing information rather than defensively responding to videos, articles, or news reports, will create a winning atmosphere for agriculture at the polls.

It has been said that the agriculture industry is always on the defensive, and I agree wholeheartedly with that statement. “TeachKind, the humane-education division of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is a resource for teachers, administrators, and librarians who want to help students become kinder, more compassionate individuals. You can download free lesson plans or order free books, posters, leaflets, stickers, videos, and other resources.” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), reaches elementary students through protests outside of schools, but also by allowing teachers to order free curriculum that covers topics ranging from vegetarianism, and a rat’s life, to where do eggs come from? For many students, the first view they get of agriculture could be a PETA inspired lesson, creating a negative image that will forever be carried throughout their lives.

Involving people in agriculture from an early age will erase those negative images. Agriculture needs to advocate offensively, to be proud of what we do on a daily basis. Allowing students to visit your farm for a tour, bringing farmers into classrooms for a career day, inviting civic organization members, and community leaders to ride in the combine during harvest will all help erase the efforts of the opponents of agriculture.

It’s time to fight back

David Martosko, director of research at the center of consumer freedom gave his opinion on how to increase the public opinion of agriculture at the Animal Agriculture Alliances annual Stakeholder Summit. Producers need to tell their story and discredit those who are against agriculture. I believe by encouraging producers to tell their story and by exposing the activist organizations for what they really are, the perception of agriculture will increase.

Iowa’s constitutional amendment on natural resources and outdoor recreation received enough votes to pass, and mine was one of those votes, even though I didn’t agree with what the amendment meant. Agriculture losing at the polls is not something we can afford to continue. We’ve tried to push back by campaigning, and educating voters, but the negative information voters receive drowns out agriculture’s voice. It is time for us to become offensive players, educating youth on current agriculture practices, reaching out to civic organizations before they have negative opinions about the industry, and sharing our story as agriculturists. Consumers need to be involved in agriculture as much as they possibly can. If, and when these changes are made, agriculture will win at the polls, and consumers will begin to realize what a great industry agriculture really is.

 

This was written for an essay contest for the College of Aggies Online program.

 

Hunger – Whose Problem is it?

Hunger, feeding the world, international food production; these aren’t statements I thought about until I recently began researching for a presentation I was to give to a Des Moines Civic Organization. Even when those thoughts did cross my mind, images of hungry children in Africa, or Asia were the ones that floated through. Not once did it cross my mind that there were children right here in our own neighborhoods, and communities going to bed with an empty stomach every night.

The people I’ve talked to have said it’s not lack of food, but lack of distribution. In some cases those same people have continued on to say that even if everyone did have enough food, people would reproduce more and we’d be right back to where we started, so what’s the point of trying? It’s a never ending battle…one that we can’t win.

Growing up I was always filled with questions. Questions such as “why do I have to learn geography,” or “how will world history help me in the future?” My teachers would always reply, “ it will make you an informed world citizen.”

I wasn’t just a citizen of small town Iowa anymore, no I was a citizen of the world. How often do we find ourselves saying that hunger is someone else’s problem? They’ll fix it, and it’s to disturbing to think about anyway.

The story about four people named Everybody, Anybody, Somebody, and Nobody comes to mind. “There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when actually Nobody asked Anybody.”

I believe hunger is an issue, which not only reaches the reaches the far corners of the world, but can also be seen in our communities, and we can be the ones to help alleviate the issue. I’m not asking for a dollar a day, or for you to uproot your families to become global volunteers. No, the issue of hunger in today’s society is something which can be impacted by volunteering two hours at the soup kitchen, donating a can of soup to the food bank, or organizing an event for Kids Against Hunger.

Tonight one billion people in the world will go to bed hungry. One in six children in the United States has empty stomachs right now, and in Iowa 40% of families will choose between eating or paying the bills. We are the ones who will influence the world in the future. As for solving world hunger, it may be a noble goal, but Anybody can do it, as long as Nobody blames Everybody, and Somebody steps up to the plate.

Who are America’s Farmers?

America’s farmers are some of the most productive in the world. They vary in views, and farming practices, but many can agree on their belief in farming and the commitment to putting food on our tables. To see a snapshot of who America’s Farmers are, check out this video!

 

Food Production Across the Landscape of Agriculture

These producers all occupy a different sector of the agriculture industry, yet they all have the same goals of supplying products to consumers, and keeping tradition alive within their farms. Watch these videos of a local food producer, a hog producer, and a modern dairy producer to see the different types of farmers that are across the landscape of agriculture

For more information or to contact these producers comment on this posting.

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