Isolated CBS News piece one symptom of larger challenges ag faces
Kansas Farm Bureau president Steve Baccus, a grain farmer from Ottawa County, offered these remarks at KFB’s annual lobby day in Topeka, February 3, 2010.
Right off the top, a couple of thank yous.
First to our guests from the state Legislature. Thank you for being here tonight. But more than that, thank you for making the decision to serve.
I know from working closely with you over the years that serving in the Kansas Legislature is no cakewalk. It’s a full-time, all-consuming effort that takes you away from your families, your homes and your businesses.
In short – we recognize your service is a sacrifice and in years like this, with difficult budget decisions looming, one could make a compelling argument that yours is a thankless job.
We are grateful for your service. We say this a lot in Farm Bureau, our volunteer leaders don’t have to step up and serve on a county board or a state committee, they could just as easily say, “No thanks.” But they didn’t and neither did you.
Let’s show our legislative guests how much we appreciate their service to the state of Kansas!
Sometime soon, we think next week, the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric will air a two-part series on the use of antibiotics in livestock.
Clearly, I’ve not seen the piece, but my instincts, my experience as a leader in agriculture advocacy and a simple recognition of where we are as a country today, leads me to believe that those CBS News pieces won’t be favorable.
So let’s gnash our teeth and get angry over unfair news media coverage of agriculture. We have thick skins.
But after we’re done being mad, let’s take a step back and examine the bigger picture.
As onerous as it is, an isolated CBS Evening News piece critical about a long-standing, safe, science and industry-accepted livestock management practice is just a symptom of a larger challenge we face in agriculture and rural communities.
There are many nuances and permutations of this larger challenge but in the end, it all boils down to this:
In 2010 on Planet Earth, there are simply more people who live off the farm, than who live on it.
That means most people on our planet, in our country, and yes, even in the state of Kansas, lack a direct, personal connection with how we earn a living.
I have no intention of standing up here tonight to defend the use of antibiotics in raising livestock.
My conscience is clear.
If there was anything remotely or even potentially harmful to human health, in the way we raise crops and livestock…
…we would not do it.
That speaks not only to common sense, bottom-line business considerations, but something vastly more important… moral values.
If we hope to ever make a dent on some of these negative impressions, if we ever hope to influence hearts and minds of our fellow human beings who lack a direct, personal connection to our lives, that’s the message we must bring:
We live on the farm, in the small, rural community. We have families we love and support. We help our neighbors. We have a work ethic. We’re honest. These things come naturally to us and they have for generations. We have a rural culture. We have a way of life.
These are values we hold dear, but guess what?
These are values everyone holds dear. Or at least we would hope they would. Our friends and neighbors in the city and suburb admire and respect those values and want them for their families.
So if we begin the conversation with the real reasons we’re on the farm and want to stay, if we couch our policy arguments in terms that any reasonable human being can relate to and appreciate – then we might stand a chance.
To my Farm Bureau friends here tonight, I say this:
Stay engaged. Don’t get discouraged. Keep coming to Farm Bureau meetings and functions. There is strength and common purpose in rooms like this when we gather.
...and to our legislative guests breaking bread with us here tonight, I say this:
Help us in this fight.
Despite the population shifts in Kansas, we’ll always have agrarian roots. That will not change. The members of our organization are still out there, living that agrarian dream.
When you hear people drawing uninformed conclusions about farming, ranching, life in rural Kansas – please defend us.
We work hard in Farm Bureau to build relationships with a host of stakeholders. That list gets longer every day.
But of all the stakeholders we work with, there are none more important than the 165 elected members of the Kansas Legislature.
You know us. You come to our meetings, you come to our farms and ranches.
Stick up for us.
There is simply too much at stake.