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Why must we defend need for food and water?

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Sustaining American agriculture through deliberate public policy should be a no-brainer; except it's not.

Ernest Hemingway is attributed with the notion that writing is simply a process of bleeding on one’s typewriter — except typewriters largely no longer exist, and we now live in an age of technological overload that can easily short the brain circuitry of folks with challenged attention spans (of which I am guilty as charged).

What this has to do with anything is perhaps only a means to illustrate how my mind, as an ag journalist, works as it is daily exposed to thoughts and ideas that do not always flow neatly together. Hang on as I get some thoughts down in pixels.

I recently had a conversation with a vice provost at UC Davis who wants to know how to better communicate the value of Cooperative Extension to a general audience. In the serendipity of the moment I realized that I’ve had the same thoughts and questions, suggesting that our thoughts aren’t unique, and we might even have a greater responsibility to act on those thoughts in a positive way.

It's a good question — and one deserving of debate as we continue to hear legitimate concerns that applied agricultural research is not adequately funded.

Another topic buzzing through my brain lately deals with the constant defensive posture agriculture is in as it is constantly bombarded with messages suggesting that farmers are greedy jerks bent on poisoning the planet. The latest example was in a social media rant by the mayor of Tulare, Calif., who accused farmers of stripping natural resources and causing cancer, among other ills.

Our U.S. justice system presumes innocence in court, and it’s the prosecutor’s responsibility to prove guilt. I suspect if a farmer were on trial in our day and age, he or she would not enjoy the same presumption of innocence. Everywhere we turn, messages about the ills of agriculture and the food we eat are presumed true, regardless the unqualified source.

You can’t go to the grocery store without labels telling you that your water is gluten-free and non-GMO. Truthful statements perhaps, but why are they there? They’re there to frighten consumers. Marketers have succumbed to the lunacy of agriculture’s antagonists and are spreading this slander without scientific citation.

So again, I ask: Why must agriculture defend itself like this? Why are farmers presumed guilty of crimes against humanity when all they are doing is feeding and clothing people?

Why must agricultural trade associations spend countless hours of time and capital to prevent poor policy decisions by lawmakers and regulators? Why must agricultural leaders feel it necessary to go on the offensive in addressing issues that are detrimental to good business and common sense?

Why is a bullet train “a good investment” and water storage “a bad investment” of public money?

How did it become necessary to defend the need for food and water?

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