Friday, December 11, 2009

Uniting Agriculture

Last week, Stacy and I had the opportunity to present at the Range Beef Cow Symposium in Casper, WY. It's a three day meeting that occurs every other year and is one of the best informational meetings dealing with beef cattle that you can attend.

The message we shared was simple. It's important for producers to be talking to consumers, educating them about what they do and letting them know that their are great family farmers and ranchers in this country that are growing their food. We also tell them how important it is for all of us in agriculture to start working together. With less than 2% of the population involved in production agriculture, we can't afford to be divided. Certainly we need to promote our own products, but it shouldn't be done by trashing another commodity or production method. All of us rely on each other in some fashion in agriculture. The biggest challenges we face are a commonality amongst us and we need to work on them in a cooperative manner.

Unfortunately, the speaker that presented after us had a much different view. He told the beef cattle producers in attendance at the meeting that people who use modern production methods to raise pigs, chickens and dairy cattle are immoral and unethical. In fact he even suggested that beef producers use that as a marketing tool. While he is saying this, he continues to brag about how he is a friend to agriculture.

This person continually talked about how much he admired the cowboy culture and was happy to be part of it, even though he grew up in Brooklyn, NY. It was obvious that he knows nothing about the cowboy culture, at least not the culture I was raised in. You see, if he knew anything about our culture, he wouldn't suggest we try stepping on the throats of our neighbors to promote ourselves.

He also went on to say that we should accept the demands of animal rights groups like HSUS rather than doing what Ohio did with their Issue 2. If he were truly a friend of agriculture, he would trust livestock producers to care for them rather than thinking that an animal rights lobbying group out of Washington DC knows better.

I have a lot of great friends that raise pigs, chickens and dairy cattle. I have been on several of these operations all over the United States. While all of them are different, they all have one thing in common, and that is the fact that they care about their livestock. They are using certain production techniques because they DO care about them, not because they don't. And if any of these folks were immoral or unethical, they wouldn't work so hard to care for their animals.

I'm proud to be in agriculture and I'm proud to be associated with these other livestock commodities. I suppose when you sit at a desk for a career, never worrying about where your next meal is going to come from that it's easy to chastise what these people do.

He claimed that a beef producer once told him that if he had to raise his cows the way pig producers raise their animals that he would quit. Here's what I think as a beef producer. If my industry starts listening to people like this that want to drive a wedge between neighbors, that will be the day I quit.

I'm not an ethicist with a Ph. D. behind my name like this guy, but I am a fifth generation United States rancher. I don't need a person like this telling me what's right and wrong. The cowboy culture that he so admires is the one I grew up in and that experience tells me what he is suggesting is wrong.

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