Friday, December 12, 2008

My Point of View

This weeks New York Time’s Op-Ed piece was once again targeting agriculture. Nicholas Kristof wrote the piece and suggested that President Elect Obama should rename the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Food. His main reasoning was that only 2% of the population is involved in agriculture compared to the 100% of the population that eats food.

In the piece, he suggests that farmers and ranchers, and more specifically agricultural organizations, are responsible for a host of problems including the diabetes and obesity epidemics in our country. The reason is that USDA only supports “industrial agriculture” and not the farmers who are growing “real food”.

He feels that by renaming the institution to the Department of Food, this will signal a change in philosophy that will put more emphasis on health, climate and humanitarian problems in the ag industry.

Maybe Kristof should consider a few things. First off, how amazing is it that it only requires 2% of our population to feed not just our country but millions of people around the world. In an incredibly efficient manner, American agriculture manages to keep the grocery story shelves filled and available at the lowest cost on the planet. While there were food riots occurring across the globe earlier this year, in this country you could walk into any grocery store inside our borders and fill your cart to your liking. Our production methods and efficiency are the envy of the world.

Next, Kristof was critical of our industry for using antibiotics and indoor systems for livestock. Any person who truly cares about animal husbandry will always do whatever they can to take the very best care of their animals. This includes giving them medication when appropriate. It also means that if animals are more comfortable and better protected living indoors, then that’s what we will do. Think of the livestock diseases that have popped up throughout the world in the last several years. Avian influenza and foot and mouth disease are two devastating diseases that have been suppressed in this country even when the experts said it was a matter of when, not if. That is due to the excellent health care and production methods that we employ.

Finally, we have the safest food supply in the world. While it may never be possible to eliminate all food-borne pathogens, we have come as close as any society in history. Even when many countries in the world live with the constant possibility of contaminated food, most of us never give that a second thought.

Agriculture is the backbone of any successful society. In the United States, we have redefined what a successful agriculture industry looks like. We are the envy of the world. And while Mr. Kristof works at putting up a new sign on the lawn at 1400 Independence Avenue, the American Farmer and Rancher will continue to feed the world.

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