Saturday, April 01, 2017

Why US farmers should get out — now

by Charlie Arnot

Most farmers I know didn't pursue their passion for raising food to hone their public relations skills.
In fact, by nature, most are quite humble, hardworking and, no matter what size of farm or type of production, spend their waking hours focused on producing safe, affordable food in a way that preserves and improves the land that the vast majority of them hope to pass on to their children.
Yet, in an environment where public skepticism about food production has reached a fever pitch, particularly when it comes to the acceptance of new on-farm technologies, the time is right for more farmers and ranchers to get out of their comfort zones and engage with the public. That includes engaging with those who influence the laws and regulations that govern food production — and who must understand the ramifications to a rapidly growing population and our environment if ag innovation is stifled.
In fact, new U.S. trust research from The Center for Food Integrity shows an overwhelming majority wants to hear from the folks who produce their food. Eighty percent expressed a strong desire to learn more about how food is produced and where it comes from.
This high level of curiosity isn't surprising, since most people don't recognize farming today. It's a golden opportunity for everyone in agriculture to "get out" and have meaningful conversations, sharing their values — in person and online — regarding food production to help earn trust in biotechnology and a multitude of other innovations that have allowed farmers to do more with less.
Genetically modified and hybrid seeds, minimum-tillage planting and other advances help crop farmers increase yields while using less land, energy and irrigated water — reducing greenhouse gas emissions and soil erosion. Improved genetics, nutrition, housing and animal health products have resulted in more productive livestock and healthier meat, milk and eggs. New gene editing technology holds the potential to reduce suffering and improve productivity.
These are just a few examples of the vast array of technological advancements that the food system has adopted over the last several decades.

 Arnot is the CEO of The Center for Food Integrity, a not-for-profit organization that helps today's food system earn consumer trust.

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