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Bloomberg has dug himself a hole (Editorial)

by | Feb 21, 2020

Farmers and ranchers took to social media with a visceral reaction to comments made by former New York City mayor and presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg in a resurfaced interview at the University of Oxford from 2016.
In the short, edited clip that went viral in recent days, Bloomberg says: “I could teach anybody, even people in this room — so no offense intended — to be a farmer. It’s a process. You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn.”
Farmers called the comments offensive, ignorant, out-of-touch and oversimplified, along with many other things we won’t print in a family newspaper.
Viewed on their own, they are all of those things.
Bloomberg couldn’t teach anyone to farm successfully in today’s agriculture anymore than his chauffeured town car could pull a modern corn planter though a field.
Amid the backlash, a Bloomberg campaign spokesman said the comments need to be considered in a “historical context.”
Regardless of how the comments were intended, their resurfacing and subsequent firestorm revived a larger truth.
Technology has enabled society to move beyond an agrarian lifestyle.
Because of technology, fewer farmers are needed to produce food, fiber and fuel for the American public and the rest of the world.
As a result, that larger public is more free to invent, innovate and generate advances for all areas of life.
With billions in net worth, Bloomberg, more than most, has benefited from technological advancements in agriculture.
After oversimplifying farming, Bloomberg went on to say: “The information economy is fundamentally different because it’s built around replacing people with technology and the skill sets that you have to learn are how to think and analyze, and that is a whole degree level different. You have to have a different skill set. You have to have a lot more grey matter.”
As the national news media moved on to the next awful thing said by someone of perceived importance, the opportunity remains for farmers to use Bloomberg’s bungle as a teachable moment, to make the uninformed aware of the suite of tech skills a farmer uses daily to run his or her business.
For his part, Bloomberg could use the gaff as an opportunity to get better educated on modern agriculture, see precision tools in action, watch a planter singulate seed the optimal distance from one another in an arrow-straight row — a far cry from his “dig a hole, drop in a seed and cover it up” perception.
He wouldn’t have to look far to find a farmer doing it either, as farms large and small get more high-tech every day.
If he wants to learn, they’d be happy to teach him.

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