As I have been watching consumer trends, false information being placed in high-profile news stories or websites, and how we as an industry have responded, it made me wonder if we are not our own worst enemy sometimes. We have those who react to bad press with aggression and those who respond with a desire to hear the public sentiment and then reeducate the public with factual information.
Unfortunately, when bad press or false press goes in front of the public, we often play the shame and blame game: “those darn dairies,” “those cowboys,” “darn farmers” and my two favorites, “those organic guys” or “those nonorganic guys.” The reality is that no matter what method of production or what segment of the industry we are in, we are in it together. In the public eye, we are all farmers and ranchers. When something bad or false comes out about any segment of the broader ag industries, it places a black eye on us all. If we continue to fight among ourselves, it just makes it that much easier for the anti-ag population to pick us apart bit by bit.
It’s easier to sit back and not get involved until our particular segment of the industry gets the bad press or faces unreasonable regulations, but how much good does that do for the big picture? When we look at the history of mankind, those civilizations that crumbled under the hands of their foes were generally plagued by two common underlying elements: an inability to feed itself and not being able to provide a unified front against its enemy. Will we ever learn?
So bear in mind that wherever we go and whatever we do, we are ambassadors for our industry. Our actions, our attitudes and our words are heard among the consuming public far more than we may ever realize. So the next time you are in a situation where you can correct false information about our industry, don’t pass the buck. One day we will have to answer to the generations that follow us if we don’t. In the words of my former grad school adviser John Paterson, “Go forth and stamp out ignorance.”
- Extension Agent
- Montana State University
- Email Billy Whitehurst