It's unfair. The .ewg.org Web site listing federal farm support amounts casts America's farmers as greedy. It does not tell the whole story.
And, it's high time farmers do a better job of explaining that without support of American agriculture, Americans will lose their supply of inexpensive and safe food, so says Rick Lavis, executive secretary of the Arizona Cotton Growers Association.
Go get ‘em!
Tell it like it is!
While you're at it, defend K-Mart's board for giving the recently departed president of the bankrupt super retailer a $9 million bonus. Don't forget to defend the Enron big wigs who pocketed millions in stock sales while Enron was sinking. And stand ready to defend every multi-million-dollar bonus paid to America's top executives.
Like it or not, farmers and the government payments checks are tossed into the same basket as that K-Mart exec. It's not fair. Absolutely. Without a strong domestic agricultural industry, America is vulnerable.
However, when Johnny Lunchbucket making $35,000 a year sees where a farmer gets a check with more zeros on it than he'll see in a lifetime, it's going to take more than a feel-good-about-a-farmer ad to convince him federal farm support is essential to his well-being as an American.
American agriculture has done its job too well. If farmers do not continue to do their job and food quality drops or prices rise dramatically, consumers will say, “We pay you all this money, and this is what we get for it?”
So what's the answer?
Look at the Environmental Working Group Web site. Hate it, but learn from it. EWG's masterfully interjects its agenda amid seemingly factual or sound-good statement. It says farmers should be conservationists, love wildlife, care for the environment. Feel good stuff. What EWG does not say is that farmers should be able to produce food and expect reasonable profit either with government support or higher food prices. It does not say food is essential to the safeguard of America.
Going on the defensive against the likes of EWG is a no-win proposition. These guys are masters at twisting and distorting. Already more than 20 million people have looked at the Web site. Trying to tell people those checks are really no big deal will not work.
So, how does agriculture get its message across? One way is to lobby the decision makers.
Another is to lay out exactly what those checks were for and how they fit into the overall scheme of farming.
Let the public into your business. Show strawberry eaters how a Salinas strawberry grower spends $40,000 per season to hopefully realize a $2,000 per acre profit. Show consumers specifically where $6,000 per acre is spent growing a lettuce crop only to see a $3 per box harvesttime market and the crop is disked under.
Opening your books for the public is risky, but if you want to get your story across, that's one way the American public may listen.
I've seen it done on an individual basis, and it can be an eye-opener.