One of the greatest urban legends about agriculture (boy, that’s kinda funny… an “urban” legend about agriculture) has to do with farm subsidies. Everybody knows it, right? Because “they” told them so. The urban legend is that there are vast sums of money being sunk into the farm bill that don’t do anybody any good.
This topic came up again for me when a rancher friend of mine from California reached out to me with a private message on Facebook. A childhood friend of his who ended up with a Berkley education was going on and on about the wasteful farmer welfare system on my rancher friend’s Facebook page.
There are plenty of opinions out there, and everybody is entitled to one. What’s infuriating, however, is when those opinions are formed on bad information. Those infuriating opinions then start to get a life of their own, becoming what’s called “urban legends,” conceivably impacting policymakers and regulators at the highest level of government.
“Boogie” is the name of the Berkeley educated gentlemen with the poor opinion of what he called “farmer welfare.” Quoted from his comment on Facebook, he said: “The farm bill is corporate welfare of the highest order....all the free market economy types of the world who think subsidies or insurance are appropriate are hypocrites who can't see past their own self-interest. Aside from the monopolistic world of defense contracting no other industry is more (dependent) on the govt charity than ag. It's wrong pure and simple. No other industry gets these kinds of handouts and yet it's these same folks who complain about govt handouts hurting our society.”
Wow, he said a mouthful. And you might agree with some or none of what Mr. Boogie opined. Regardless, I took this as a “teachable moment.” I engaged Boogie on my friend’s Facebook page in an appropriate manner. I also posted supporting evidence in the form of a graph outlining federal spending on commodity programs, conservation, and nutrition, positioned against all other spending. I then tweeted about my post with a link to the graph on my Facebook page.
It was a hit. People started commenting, sharing, and learning. So I guess I have Boogie to thank for that, along with my rancher friend in California that reached out to his Central Illinois “tweep” for supporting comments. Oh and the best part is that a staffer at the Environmental Working Group saw my tweet and started his typical tirade about ag, too.
The lesson here is to take every opportunity you can to positively engage in conversations about farming. Talk about you. Talk about what you know. Talk about what you believe. And ask people to believe in you.
Your livelihood and lifestyle may depend on it.
Join the conversation with me online if you’d like! I’m @agchick on twitter, and you can find me on Facebook at http://facebook.com/TheAgChick Hope to see you there!
ICGA/ICMB Communications Director