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Opinion: Addicted to chewing and swallowing

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Mike Rowe, the iconic pitchman for Ford Motor Co. and host of the TV show, “Dirty Jobs,” says he is “addicted to chewing and swallowing.” So are more than 300 million other Americans. Unfortunately, it is no longer enough for our nation’s farmers and ranchers to produce food, fiber and fuel. Today, those who produce must talk directly with those who consume.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates receives accolades for using his wealth to rid the world of maladies such as malaria. U.S. farmers are no less impressive; the combination of hard work and new technologies continue to prime the pump of prosperity. Today, each U.S. farmer produces enough food and fiber for 155 people.  

Yet, the wagons are circled and American agriculture is under fire. A lethal army of do-gooders, ranging from animal rights extremists to greenhouse gas alarmists, has gone Hollywood by using celebrities and slick solicitations to take their messages to the masses. Their strategy is working.

Farmers and ranchers are trustworthy, hard-working and notoriously independent.
Agriculture organizations work hard to forge common ground and speak with a unified voice, but farmers’ historical bond with elected officials and consumers is falling victim to the misinformation and high-dollar rhetoric of people such as Al Gore and Sheryl Crow.

Agriculture has no choice but to put skin in the game. Fact will still trump fiction, but we have to ante up. Consider that hog, dairy, beef cattle, soybean, corn and other farmers already contribute millions of dollars to research and promotion efforts through check-offs, and yet consumers still fall prey to modern snake oil salesmen. We cannot be afraid to raise the food security stakes. Farmers have to become evangelical about their industry and explain why they take great pride in producing food for our nation’s families.

Bruce Vincent, a logger and motivational speaker from Montana, argues every farmer’s business plan should include at least one hour a week to advocate for their industry. We must be better prepared for the next battle; it takes money to share our story from Pierce City to St. Louis and everywhere in between.

Farmers and ranchers must not only speak with a unified voice and take time to educate others, but have the money necessary to share their message with everyone else addicted to chewing and swallowing.

—Dan Cassidy, Missouri Farm Bureau, chief administrative officer[[In-content Ad]]

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