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The truth about argiculture

We here at the Roundup make an effort to get to all the conventions and meetings that our calendars allow, and with the Christmas holiday, the 2010 convention season has come to its end.
In my reflections on the many people who have stood up and spoke to their subjects this fall, it seems that more of them have waxed philosophical then usual. Perhaps that’s because of concern surrounding the outcome of the estate tax in Congress’s lame duck session, and therefore the very future of many Wyoming ag operations, or maybe it’s because people are tired of work without progress. A frequent comment among convention attendees is that they keep discussing some of the same issues as they go round and round, year after year, with seemingly no real progress ever made.
What is it that neutralizes all the good work of ag producers and ag families across the country who diligently produce safe and efficient food for the rest of the nation?
That may be what has spurred the philosophical discussions. More frequently we hear people talk about “truth” and whether or not animals have equal status with humans, as well as moral ethics and how they impact the rural areas of America.
As an FFA student said this fall after participating in an ag issues team at the national level, it’s important to understand the flip side of an argument before one can ever hope to change another’s mind.
It seems that the very root of the opposition against modern agriculture is a belief system described as relativism, or postmodernism – put simply, that you have “your truth” and I have “my truth,” which ultimately comes down to the contradictory statement that there are absolutely no absolutes.
These days the U.S. ag industry can’t even begin to insist that its livestock management practices are humane, much less market more beef to American consumers, because the truth is no longer the end-all, and because, in most of society today, feelings trump the truth. It’s impossible to skip to the end – selling more beef – when the beginning – the consumers’ beliefs – isn’t right.
We can work as hard as we want at the best research and the most sound science, but it won’t make much of a difference to the people who have already made up their minds that they don’t like anything related to “unethical” or “inhumane” production agriculture in the 21st century. Never mind that in the 1950s we’d have needed the land mass equivalent to six more Western states to produce the same amount of beef as today. It’s because Brazil still produces with 1950s-era technology that they’re still clearing rainforests.
It’s true that we all have that circle of influence that extends outside the borders of the ag industry – a sister-in-law who’s a nurse, a cousin who doesn’t believe beef is the safest or most nutritious thing to feed her kids, or simply a Facebook page or a blog.
It’s up to us to educate ourselves on our own product so we can have productive discussions with those people, and it’s up to us to know why we choose our management practices for our livestock, and why we know it’s the right thing to do. Over the holidays, many of us will get together with those family members only seen occasionally, and I hope that we get the chance to explain our point of view on the morality of producing livestock on a large scale. Merry Christmas to you all!
Christy