Over the last couple of weeks I have been getting one question with more frequency.
If you read my blog, you have noticed that I have used quite a bit of web space on articles dealing with California's Proposition 2 that is being voted on today. Likewise, with the people that I have visited with or spoke to lately I have also spent time on the subject. Today's vote will have a significant impact on determining where animal agriculture will be spending their time and energy in the coming years.
As I have shared the information on this ballot issue, the one question that I have been getting is "What can I do out here when these issues are taking place in other states? "
At first glance, many people think this is a California issue and it won't affect us. It's easy to think that since normally we do feel quite insulated out here in the 'flyover country' from some of the issues that our coastal states tend to deal with. However, no matter where you live, any vote on how livestock are to be managed is going to eventually be our problem as well. The Humane Society of the United States has a long term goal of passing legislation through Congress that will ultimately mandate all of agriculture on how livestock will be managed. They are trying to accomplish this by going state to state passing these laws until they feel they have enough momentum to push it through Congress.
So what is the answer to the question of how do we help our fellow producers in other states to rein in this activist agenda? Well, the truth is there are several things you can do.
First, if you do not belong to an organization that represents your thoughts and ideas in agriculture, you need to get involved. Many different ag organizations across the country have donated time and money to their fellow groups in the states that have been taking on these challenges. It takes an incredible amount of money to run these campaigns. Our opponents have huge budgets and we need to show them that we are equally committed to our cause.
Second, it is imperative that no matter what type of livestock you raise, you need to realize that what affects egg producers affects hog producers affects cattle producers. All of us in animal agriculture need to stop seeing different livestock industries as separate and start viewing us as one entity. I realize that we have different issues and problems that are specific to the livestock that we raise, but when it comes to an issue such as Prop 2, livestock producers are being targeted and we need to respond as livestock producers together.
Finally, educate people about what you do whenever you have the opportunity. All you have to know to do this is your name, where you live and what you do. Because of the disconnect between producers and consumers, they are fascinated by what you do to produce food for this country. If you think just because you live in a rural community that everyone there knows about agriculture, you are wrong. Start in your local communities and if you have the chance to do some traveling, take advantage of visiting with someone from outside your region.
As with most issues, there is no silver bullet to solving the problems we face but we have some tremendous tools at our disposal that us as producers need to take advantage of. Educating the public about agriculture can start as simply as a producer extending their hand and introducing themselves to the consumer.