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Advocating for agriculture

Education is key to advancing understanding of our industry’s importance
By Glen Liford, Editor 4/25/2019

 

Farming methods like these used by Philip Webb in Huntingdon were outdated when this picture was taken in the summer of 1961. Modern technology has transformed agriculture and is necessary to feed our world.
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Earlier this year, POLITICO’s Morning Agriculture detailed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s criticism of the “fear your food” movement, the wariness of some consumers of genetically modified or engineered foods.  The report detailed how the industry, which is expected to debut more gene-edited foods this year, is working hard to get ahead of potential backlash to the products by educating the public about how these engineered crops may prove vital in helping feed the world’s growing population.

The biotech sector, headed by the American Seed Trade Association and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, or BIO, are staging a well-developed public relations campaign to tackle the concerns of these skeptical consumers head-on. 

“You have to be able to embrace skepticism and answer questions and be honest about people’s concerns and thoughts,” said Dana O’Brien, BIO’s executive vice president for food and ag.

Changes like these indeed make many people nervous. But if you’re feeling uncomfortable, hold on to your red Co-op cap. It’s only going to get worse.

Technology is increasing at a rate like we have never seen before. Some say that about 90 percent of all the data in the world today has been created in the past few years. Fewer and fewer people have a direct link to the farm and a solid understanding of agriculture.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to tell agriculture’s stories to all who will listen. We need advocates to explain how vital agriculture is to everyone.

In this issue, we’re spotlighting stories of folks telling agriculture’s stories.

At the annual Ag Day on the Hill celebration, (story on pg. 5) the industry came together once again to shine the spotlight on farming and its importance. This year, the effort was led a new governor who is quick to share his pride as a bonafide farmer. He has been sharing regular “Fridays on the Farm” updates. This is not without some thought. Gov. Bill Lee recognizes the respect a good part of our society has for the hard-working farmers.

The focus on McMinn Central High School FFA members farm-to-school food program (pg. 22) is another great example. This effort is collecting accolades from teachers and students alike, many of whom aren’t intimately familiar with the ways of farming. Their overwhelming praise for the delicious products produced by the school’s FFA students is calling attention to the program’s success and earning the ag students high marks.

And finally, our features on the ever-successful 4-H and FFA youth programs (pgs. 26 and 30) emphasize the vital role of these organizations in molding our future ag leaders. These programs produce strong spokespeople who can combat misinformation, are often willing to speak out on ag’s behalf, and will soon be carrying agriculture’s torch. 

All those involved in our industry need to lend our voices to the cause as well. We should speak up whenever and wherever we can to explain the necessity of the tools and techniques required to make our modern agricultural efforts efficient and productive so we can feed a growing world population.

It’s my job to do this. It’s your job, too. The responsibility belongs to each of us who are proud to be part of this vital industry.

 
 
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