A couple of years ago the “Occupy Movement” camped out and played bongo drums protesting Wall Street’s “Wealthy 1 percent.” Their gripes were the sort of emotionally charged, rich versus poor stuff the media loves. Pan to a shot of a bearded pot smoker demanding someone pay off his student loans because nobody values his degree in Egyptian Art Studies.
I see a different 1 percent under attack and it’s equally absurd. I’m talking about farmers.
Yes, farmers are just 1 percent of the U.S. population and that’s being generous. Of the USA’s 320 million people, there are 3.2 million farmers operating 2.1 million farms. Fifty-seven percent of those farms had less than $10,000 in agricultural sales in 2012, the most recent year for data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Agriculture’s Occupiers consist of food bloggers, documentarians and cause groups such as PETA, HSUS, and the Environmental Working Group. Even the casual Whole Foods shopper joins the fray when she signs a petition in the parking lot.
Their list of demands demonstrates how out of touch with food production the American consumer is.
They want outdoor chickens without cages. (So do the coyotes.) They want produce without insecticides. (So do the potato leaf hoppers.) They want GMO food labeling. (But 80 percent of consumers also want labels for foods containing DNA….hint, every living or formerly living organism contains DNA!)
Here’s my attempt to communicate with the non-food producing public a.k.a. The 99 percent:
I’m a farm boy and a farm owner - A “1 Percenter.” By age 12, I had produced more food calories for human consumption than your back yard chicken operation could produce in 300 years. I, along with my farm cohorts, understand food production.
Unfortunately, you don’t. You may think you know farming because you’ve watched Food Inc. or read a social media post by The Food Babe. Or worse yet, tuned into Daytime TV’s favorite quack, Dr. Oz.
Those sources of “information” are designed to scare you, not educate you, because fear sells.
Here’s the scoop: ours is the safest and most abundant food supply in the history of the world. Period. It’s also the cheapest, but as bottled water sales figures and Whole Foods’ business success illustrate, you’re not really motivated by cost.
We, the people of agriculture are motivated to provide you with whatever you want. Within reason.
Yes, we use chemicals and animal medicine in food production. Organic production, neat as it sounds, has serious limitations. Not to mention, a lot of what you buy and believe is organic isn’t - there’s rampant fraud, poor monitoring, and even organic food is allowed certain chemical usage.
Likewise, we try to be efficient about food production because, after all, it’s our business. You’ve heard this described as “Industrial Agriculture.” We call it, “trying to earn a living.” Understand this: Old McDonald’s Farm is a nursery rhyme, whereas production agriculture is business. We have mortgages, machinery loans, and property taxes (lots of property taxes) to pay.
You’ve fallen in love with the word “sustainable.” Well, for our business to be “sustainable,” we have to be financially solvent.
So please, dear consumer, stop signing petitions, and stop tuning into media scare sources.
More importantly, stop funding fringe organizations whose main purpose is to tell you that agriculture is poisoning you.
Wouldn’t poisoning our consumers be a bad business move?
Want to know why we do what we do in agriculture? Ask us. Admittedly, we’re hard to find - we’re outnumbered 99 to 1! Damian Mason is a professional speaker, entertainer, writer, businessman and farm owner. Learn more at www.damianmason.com.