Doing the right thing in agriculture (Pig Tales)
(Editor’s note: Dr. Rich Barczewski is a professor at Delaware State University.)
Social media is a double-edged sword for agriculture.
It is fairly common that I see a post by “the Farmer’s Daughter” or the Peterson Brothers where the message is positive, but there are also posts from various consumer groups and animal rights groups that are often negative.
The issue for agriculturalists is how can we increase consumer confidence so that folks believe our story as opposed to the opposition’s story.
We all know that every occupation, every industry, has its bad eggs.
That old saying that it only takes one rotten apple to spoil the barrel comes to play here and occasionally we do have a rotten apple in our midst.
Personally, I am of the opinion that when a rotten apple is exposed, it is important for our entire community to stand up and say that this is a rotten-apple situation, this individual does not represent the practices that are used on the vast majority of farms and we do not endorse this individual’s methods.
Sounds harsh and it is, but it is also necessary if we want the public to understand that there are principles in agriculture that we follow.
We produce food, both plant and animal food for our families too and we do not want our food produced in this manner.
Recently, I saw a Facebook posting of a very large dairy farm where the calves were being mistreated, kicked, punched and thrown around.
Based on the operation and its size, these individuals were obviously hired hands who hated their jobs and did not care about the animals one bit.
In all my years involved in production agriculture, including some as a milk tester for DHIA, I have never seen animals treated so poorly.
No one that I know would treat their calves that way and so I posted a response indicating that fact.
It would have been easy to ignore the post, but it would also have been wrong to ignore it since I know it is not the norm.
Unfortunately, this farm is extremely large and I hope the individuals who run it are held accountable to the owners (again, not a typical farm but rather one I would see as more industrial in its nature), and the law.
Animal cruelty laws were obviously being broken in this case as well.
From the animal side, when we see abuse it is fairly easy to recognize but from the plant side we deal with just as much misinformation that is for the most part just as damaging to our industry.
Conjure up the phrase “GMO” and see what kind of response you get. The average person does not realize that the GMOs that are currently being produced in the world are responsible for us to have the ability to keep food production in pace with our population needs.
GMOs outproduce most non-GMO crops and do so with fewer pesticides than the non-GMO crops.
I remember in my earlier years in Extension that farmers routinely sprayed sweet corn every three days from silk to harvest to control corn earworm in the crop.
Bt corn has cut that spraying out completely: Good thing or bad?
With some of the new herbicide-resistant varieties of corn and soybeans, herbicide use is down as well and as we get better handles on controlling some of the diseases, fungicide use will also be reduced.
Is this good or bad?
Additionally, folks forget that many of the newer herbicides we have to use have gone through far more testing and are less toxic than some of the older herbicides we needed to use before these new ones were made available.
Again, we need to stand up to misinformation and rotten apples in our mist and do what we can to set the record straight.
Science is moving fast paced and many folks no longer understand it, but the scientific method is just as true today as it was when I was in elementary school learning about it.
New discoveries are just as valid if we understand them or not, but we have to speak up and support our industry whenever someone tries to mislead the public, and be willing to call out any rotten apples when they show themselves.
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