We are coming off some very profitable years in agriculture, arguably some of the best years ever. Demand for our products is good.
We can simply look at the population of China and India together of nearly 40% of the world population. Some estimate that the number of people in China moving up to middle class each year is more than entire population of middle class in the US. With movement into the middle class, one of the first things people do is consume more meat protein. The U.S. is only 5% of the world population, perhaps we don’t need to be concerned about what the U.S. consumer thinks about modern farming practices. But the U.S. consumer has a lot of influence.
Let’s look closely at how the 113th Congress was comprised. Of the 436 Congressional Districts, only 34 Districts were more than 50% rural. A whooping 402 Districts were more urban than rural, of those, 40 districts were 100% urban and 256 Districts were 80% or more urban.
A good congressional representative listens to their constituents, and over 90% are not necessarily representing rural interests. This is why it is so important that each of us in agriculture do our own part to educate ourselves on what the concerns are and connect with others about why modern farm practices are utilized. There are calls that go out to write your Senator or Representative about whatever issue one is not happy with. Time and again we have seen increased regulations go through that causes uncertainty and increases costs to your business.
A few years back, a friend and advocate for agriculture, DeEtta Bohling said, “the negativity toward modern agriculture is making it socially unacceptable to farm.” Let that sink in for a moment. Socially unacceptable to farm? People love farmers, but not necessarily specific practices of modern agriculture.
What to do? DeEtta advises, “I challenge you to share your passion and your livelihood with the world. Don’t let your license to operate be taken away, simply because animal activists and environmental groups don’t understand what you do. There’s a great deal of business value in connecting with your consumers.”
DeEtta goes on to talk about the public relations saying that “Perception is reality”. How does the public view agriculture and feel about farmers? How to overcome a negative public perception? DeEtta shares, “You don't have to justify why your neighbor grows organic produce for the local farmers market. Tell YOUR story. Connect with consumers on a personal level telling them the process of your own farming operation and why it's the best decision for you and your family. 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations; 14% trust advertisements. It's obvious that farmer/consumer conversations are a MUST.”
It’s more important than ever to advocate for agriculture. Start with something manageable, such as, 15 minutes a day or an hour a week dedicated to communicating with others about what you do on your farm. The reality is that the future of farming as we know it may depend on it.