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26 Jan 2013 - We ARE Relevant

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, in a speech in Washington, D.C. last month, raised some eyebrows and the level of concern among many of the nation’s farmers and ranchers when he said in his remarks, “Agriculture is becoming less and less relevant in the United States.”

The reaction I heard from many in the agricultural community . . .What do you mean, we are not relevant? We are the basic industry, we feed people, we put clothes on their backs, we put a roof over their head and we put energy in their tanks. How can the Secretary say we are becoming less relevant, which means less important?

Well, I understand the reaction; yet I also understand what the Secretary was attempting to do, because let me quote another part of that speech, when he said . . . “Why is it that we don’t have a Farm Bill? It just isn’t the differences of policy, it is the fact that rural America, with a shrinking population, is becoming less and less relevant to the politics in this country, and we had better recognize that and we had better begin to reverse it.”

In a conversation I had with the Secretary at the Farm Bureau Convention in Nashville he went on to say... “Congress gets concerned about fiscal cliffs, deficit levels and those areas dealing with the economy, but they didn’t feel they would get any negative reaction from their constituents if they didn’t do a Farm Bill before the deadline of December 31st.

He said “That is what I mean about the fact that politically, we are becoming less and less relevant. It’s time that we change that. That may mean we start talking to groups and individuals who don’t understand what we do when we produce food and care for livestock and the environment. We may have to talk to groups and organizations that don’t like agriculture; but we at least need to talk and try to get them to understand that indeed, agriculture is relevant.” There I agree with the Secretary. If his remarks help to stimulate that activity, fine and dandy, because we need that Farm Bill.

Now, I know social media is a great way to tell the agricultural production story, and I encourage you to do that in your Twitter and Facebook pages. The Peterson brothers from Kansas are a prime example of how effective it can be with their entertaining farm video seen by millions on the internet.

But we need to go beyond that and take the opportunity to educate in your own local communities; don’t assume that people on Main Street in your rural community understand or appreciate what you do. We need to help them understand, because they vote, and we need their voices to help us convince members of Congress that agriculture is VERY relevant.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.