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5 September 2011 – Are we making any progress?

Are we making any progress?...it’s a question I frequently ask. Are we making any progress in telling the story of American agriculture to the 98% of the people in this country not involved in farming or ranching.

As I moved through the 75-acre exhibit field at the 2011 Farm Progress Show in Decatur a few days ago I again marveled at the technology and equipment being developed by agricultural engineers, computer specialists and plant geneticists to improve the ability of America’s farmers and ranchers to feed the world. It is impressive and while I understand that exhibitors want to talk only to potential customers, it’s unfortunate that city people don’t have the opportunity to get a better understanding of the technology and equipment producers use to put food on their table, clothes on their back, a roof over their head and now energy in their tank.

Since 1960 I have had the opportunity to talk to hundreds of thousands of city people in the Chicago area on WGN Radio, using the 50,000 watts of power to educate them about agriculture. I think I have had some success, but the reason I continue to ask the question “Are we making any progress?” is because I’m still getting questions that we really shouldn’t have to answer anymore. Questions like...

  • Why do farmers put poison on their fields and over-use antibiotics in their livestock?
  • Why do we export so much of our food to foreign countries because if we didn’t, food in this country would be much cheaper?
  • Why are all laying hens kept in cages and livestock kept in stalls or pens instead of being free to enjoy the outdoors on green grass under blue skies?
  • Why should my taxpayer dollars go to pay farmers not to produce?
  • Why can’t farmers stop polluting the air and the water?

These are all questions that shouldn’t have to be asked by city people anymore. We try...over the years I have watched efforts by the National Farm-City Council, the Agricultural Council of America, the current alliance to tell agriculture’s story and the Agriculture in the Classroom program, all well-intentioned, but underfunded, in their efforts to answer the questions and build a better understanding of, and appreciation for, America’s farmers and ranchers.

The message here is that consumer education is a never-ending job because every day new people arrive on the planet and are another generation removed from the farm. That’s why each of us involved in any phase of production agriculture must take every opportunity to help people understand that farmers and ranchers need the technology and the equipment so they can continue to improve production and feed this growing world population that’s expected to hit 9- billion people by 2050. The job is huge but we must do it to ensure a much more positive answer to my question.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.