Opinion: Silence will result in the demise of the family farmer - FreshFruitPortal.com

Opinion: Silence will result in the demise of the family farmer

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Opinion: Silence will result in the demise of the family farmer

By California Citrus Mutual (CCM) president and CEO Joel Nelsen

joelToday in America, the Western Hemisphere and the European Union there is an effort to redefine a farmer. How an individual farms with economic viability is often lost via “the suggestions” proposed. The trend lines would indicate more challenges for a family farmer, a consolidation of farmer numbers and ultimately an impact, negative, on a nation’s food supply in my estimation.

In many countries the family farmer, generations of them, have prevailed. But are we at risk of losing that foundation thereby placing a food supply in fewer hands, or worse yet in the hands of another country?

Today society is information rich but knowledge poor, thus the future and accuracy of what the family farmer actually does is at risk. More people are susceptible to information gleaned from social media and hyperbole within. It is more important to be first and exciting than to be accurate. Activists have perfected the means to make instant coffee with the news and thereby create false foundations as to how a producer creates food.

Activists position themselves to be the component of society that cares more. Is it time to recognize that producers can never really make them happy? If activists become satisfied then they are no longer activists. Remember it is inherent for them to continually advocate for more because they care more.

I am not one that believes everything is perfect within agriculture or the production of food. Growers are constantly learning as new dynamics affect the ability to farm profitably. New pests, drought conditions, cold or excessive heat, infrastructure challenges and labor can, have and will impact the quality of product produced.

But there must be an understanding that it is illogical to abuse the very environment in which farmers are dependent upon. It is illogical to use more inputs than necessary thereby creating additional cost without better quality or more products. But to listen to activists and some in government farmers are the primary polluters of our environment.

Historically a farmer’s budget consisted of land costs, input costs, harvesting and processing costs. The product was sold and the gross revenue exceeded the costs. But today as members of society challenge the ability to farm profitably growers need to budget for government engagement and communications to targeted audiences.

Growers need to listen to those that query farming practices and respond, not ignore. Growers have an obligation to address legitimate concerns. Growers need to be more vibrant in defending themselves.

And let’s not assume producers are always going to be on the same page. In every country there is industry call transportation. It may consist of car makers, bus companies, railroads and aviation. Do you honestly think they are talking to each other and believe in the same pathways towards success? I would venture the answer is a resounding no.

So why should those in milk, animals, corn and grains be on the same page with fresh fruits and vegetables? Working with like-minded individuals is a pathway for leadership, responsiveness and protection. Trying to create the coalition of many is an impediment to achieving the goal. If we listen we can respond with an honest, cohesive and comprehensive message. If we listen we understand what needs to be challenged and then do so in like manner.

A former U.S. President, Dwight Eisenhower, once said in the early 1950s: “It is easy to farm when you are 1000 miles from the field, your desk is the farm and the pencil is your plow.” That still holds true today as challenges come from media, activists, government and societal members that are information rich. Partnerships that communicate and advocate will work. Silence will result in the demise of the family farmer.

The unwillingness to hold ourselves accountable is unacceptable. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said that you have never stood for something if you’ve never made a friend angry. Allowing ourselves to be denigrated without a response is unacceptable. Allowing others to define the farmer is unacceptable. Producing food is a noble profession and something to be proud of, not hide if the spotlight becomes bright.

Those producing food for a nation need not be forced into an environment that reduces their ability to accomplish just that. Accept it. Nobody should be portrayed as caring more than the producer who relies upon the land and the environment.

The wife of a Canadian producer was recently quoted: “At one time in their lives an individual will need a mechanic, a doctor or a lawyer. But three times a day they need a farmer.” Embrace it and when you do you will cease to become a chess piece but will instead become a chess player.

Chess pieces absorb the challenges, chess players direct the action.

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