FEAST: A September “report” issued by a coalition of activists opposed to large, modern agriculture revealed even they can’t hide from the truth. “The Shifting Currents Report,” a regurgitation of debunked anti-farming propaganda talking points, included such “authors” as two members of Clean Wisconsin, the head attorney for Midwest Environmental Advocates and a representative from the Sierra Club.
While these factions often attempt to paint Wisconsin’s water use as being unduly exploited and abused by farmers, even the report’s authors had to acknowledge in the most recent set of state natural resources data ALL agricultural irrigation accounted for a mere 4 percent of the state’s groundwater withdrawals — 4 percent. That was, in fact, the smallest percentage used by any government or industry with the exception of cranberry production (3 percent).
FAMINE: Readers of a certain age will remember the final fight scene in the movie “The Karate Kid” during which a villainous coach viciously encourages his student to “Sweep the leg! Sweep the leg!” of an already-injured opponent.
Thanks to astute reporting by Hannah Thompson of the Animal Agricultural Alliance, we now know that scene pretty much sums up the philosophy of animal activists.
At a recent conference, Thompson captured these pearls of wisdom from David Coman-Hidy of The Humane League including:
-- “When it is time to launch a campaign, find a vulnerable target, prepare everything for at least a few weeks and then assemble an overwhelming force to utilize from day one. The crueler it is, the quicker the fight is over.”
-- Never offer a reprieve. “When the competition is drowning, stick a hose in their mouth.”
Make no mistake: Coman-Hidy’s words confirm what many in the food industry already know — there is no compromise, no concession, no capitulation that will appease those that incite and hype staged events, which ultimately encourage animal abuse.
Thompson, on the other hand, offers advice worth heeding: “Continually remind all of the links in your supply chain of where to look for factual, science-based information about animal welfare and comparing different production practices.”
FEAST: The New York Times — a publication not particularly well regarded for “balance” in its handling of agricultural issues — offered an autumn surprise of its own.
It published a Sept. 25 essay headlined “Why Industrial Farms are Good for the Environment” by Jason Lusk, professor of agricultural economics at Oklahoma State University. In it, the author noted:
Large farmers — who are responsible for 80 percent of the food sales in the United States, though they make up fewer than 8 percent of all farms, according to 2012 data from the Department of Agriculture — are among the most progressive, technologically savvy growers on the planet. Their technology has helped make them far gentler on the environment than at any time in history. And a new wave of innovation makes them more sustainable still …
Before “factory farming” became a pejorative, agricultural scholars of the mid-20th century were calling for farmers to do just that — become more factory-like and businesslike. From that time, farm sizes have risen significantly. It is precisely this large size that is often criticized today in the belief that large farms put profit ahead of soil and animal health … But increased size has advantages, especially better opportunities to invest in new technologies to benefit from economies of scale.
One article does not mean The New York Times has changed its tune. (Let’s remember it wasn’t that long ago that the newspaper published an anti-large farm diatribe headlined, “Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers.”) Perhaps they are remembering the basic journalistic tenant of “balance.”
We can only hope.
FAMINE: Dannon recently became the latest food company to embrace fear-fueled marketing after pledging to eliminate the use of genetically-modified ingredients from its supply.
“This is just marketing puffery, not any true innovation that improves the actual product offered to consumers,” said Randy Mooney, chairman of the National Milk Producers Federation and a dairy farmer from Rogersville, Mo. “What’s worse is that removing GMOs from the equation is harmful to the environment — the opposite of what these companies claim to be attempting to achieve.”
Mooney’s position was shared by farmer leaders of the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, American Sugarbeet Growers Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Milk Producers Federation and U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. Collectively, the six organizations represent hundreds of thousands of U.S. farmers and food producers.
The groups agree that biotechnology plays an important role in reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture, and challenged as disingenuous the assertion that sustainability is enhanced by stopping the use of GMO processes.
Dannon — a company that claims to care about people and the world — should know better.