Culling our sacred cows

A tsunami of sorts is building among a generation of farmers and ranchers that, coupled with the right mix of non-farming agricultural advocates, looks to turn the current system of agricultural promotions upside down. And that’s a good thing!

Board Room of the Admiralty

Board Room of the Admiralty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like a tidal wave, this wave has as its origins a trembling.

This trembling is driven by fear. Fear of what many see as inevitable in today’s phobia-driven world of sound bytes.

The Beef Jar… A critical response

A recent blog post by The Beef Jar author Megan Brown screams a refreshing passion that is starting to surface among her generation of farmers and ranchers.

My purpose here is to highlight some of what Brown writes in her latest post “California Beef Council — Let’s Get Better Together!” from the perspective of a consumer whose journalistic education granted the kind of access to American agriculture that makes me the agricultural advocate I am and seek to become.

My only introduction to the author is through her blog and social media. Through it I get the sense that she’s quite passionate about her beef cattle operation and American agriculture. Otherwise, why would she take on a local newspaper near her hometown that does its best to malign agriculture, which is a big part of the economy in the area the newspaper serves? Or, why would she  passionately encourage the trade associations she is forced to support through compulsory deductions from the sale of every head of beef she sells to radically change their ways?

Why, for instance, is it “radical” to expect trade associations that exist because government edict allows them to legally take money from producers to do more to promote American agricultural products to consumers? But that’s not my point with this article.

Where I want to focus my response is in a comment Brown posted in her blog that was apparently part of a Facebook chat with people on current events, which at the time centered on the USDA’s closure of a beef processing plant in Central California after a video surfaced that purported to show forms of animal cruelty that most of us find reprehensible. Its one of those comments that I wish I had said myself in just such a way.

Sharon Halsey says it this way in communications posted to Brown’s blog (edited for clarity):

“Post after post all I see are industry puff pieces… Puff piece articles don’t cut it when the beef industry is being attacked.”

That’s the point I’ve been trying to make and get across as I discuss these issues with others in agriculture. Not to be presumptuous, but maybe agriculture’s problem in communicating its message is they haven’t learned how. I’ve been guilty of it in my reporting. I figured that if I couldn’t get someone to say it the right way, I could always publish statistics, which would automatically convert even the biggest skeptic.

If statistics were going to convert skeptics then I suppose we’d all be converted, as the news media like to bombard us with statistics. How many times and ways can California farmers and ranchers highlight, illustrate and quote from the statistics that place agriculture at or near the top of the state’s economic food chain before someone realizes that it’s not working when it comes to gaining more allies. Neither are the puff-piece articles that seem to be popular with the various trade associations and the California Farm Bureau Federation’s own publications. It’s a lot like eating cotton candy. It’s tasty, but at the end of the day it provides no dietary value whatsoever.

It’s becoming apparent to more and more people that the current methods of communicating to the public (and that’s yet another point: agriculture is not communicating with the public, but at them) is not having the intended benefits in favor of the concerns and needs of agricultural producers. Instead, agriculture continues to sink into its corner and hope that the protection money it pays to politicians of all stripes will somehow protect it from the targeted and coordinated attacks by agriculture’s antagonists, who continue to be more heavily funded and politically savvy.

If the various ag organizations that purport to have American agriculture’s best interests within the heart of their mission statements can’t do the job of helping American farmers sell more of their products and become even more profitable, and in the process help Americans understand at a fundamental level that American agriculture sits at the core of our national sovereignty and security concerns, then it’s time to cull even the most sacred of these cows from the herd and start afresh with something that will work!


5 thoughts on “Culling our sacred cows

  1. What I think you’re trying to say here and what all of us involved in agriculture advocacy are trying to do better is to listen to our customers. Listen to their fears, concerns, and questions and make a concerted effort to honestly and wholeheartedly improve this whole communication network that for so long has seemed to keep failing at over and over. Thanks for spreading the word and supporting the efforts of people like Megan and myself.

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  4. It is ironic that if you suggest to a cattle ranchers to cull the checkoff program, panic starts to set in. Their reaction is no we need it. We have to have it to promote my product. When the fact is the beef checkoff has failed to promote their product. Demand is going down.

    I believe the checkoff was a good ideal but do to restrictions placed on competition to like products it has resulted in only puff pieces. Even through beef is a superior product to chicken or pork, the checkoff can not say so. Vise versa. Without competition, neither products have any incentive to improve.

    The meat checkoffs were only left with how much better there products are than the unhealthy vegan lifestyle. So the competition became Vegan vs. Meat Eater. The vegan groups used this motivation to improve marketing, getting celebrities involved, and recruit volunteers.

    It’s not too late for meat industries. They still have tons of support and consumers truly enjoy their hamburgers, steaks, pork ribs, and fried chicken. Your right it is time to cull the sacred cows.

    • Let’s not forget the dairy program aimed at reducing herd numbers in order to keep milk prices profitable.
      People get rather testy when you ask them just how effective that program has been in keeping milk prices up.

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