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By Staff | Nov 12, 2010

Politicians are not held in high regard by the public even though we are forced to keep someone in office as a choice between evils. Groups of political supporters who cheer and holler support for individual politicians or political parties do not represent general public opinion which is disgusted with all of them.

How do farmers weigh on the scale of pubic opinion? According to a Register Iowa poll, quite good. 82 percent have a mostly positive to very positive opinion of farmers.

One could ask the question then as to why we elect so many lawyers and so few farmers to political office? The high public regard for farmers means that farmers and agriculture in general is, so far, surviving the negative public relations campaign thrown at them by activists and ag opposition groups. HSUS, PETA, FOOD INC, foodies and environmental extremists continuously assault agriculture, attempting to sour public opinion. So far, it hasn’t worked.

Common sense still prevails. It doesn’t make sense that farmers would not be good stewards of the land or treat livestock humanely as it would not be in their economic benefit to do otherwise.

Most of agriculture operating today is still rooted in family farms with people of farming heritage. There are bad actors and villains in every group or industry, but they are the exception, not the rule for agriculture. They are not supported by the industry who concurs with public opinion, who want to sort out the bad apples.

The Iowa poll found that a majority of people believe food is getting safer, the nutritional value of food is improving, soil erosion is less of a problem and livestock is being treated humanely. The majority is absolutely right.

Having grown up on the farm, farming myself, and being intimately embedded in the farm community and rural America all my life, I have seen agriculture change with the closest perspective possible. I can attest to everyone that in all aspects of agriculture, things are improving in every conceivable category: Soil and water conservation, carbon consumption, animal husbandry, chemical and fertilizer management and productivity.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are good at what we do. In my lifetime, I have seen a strong trend toward improvement and management of all resources, enhancing sustainability and productivity. Productivity is no good without sustainability and we have both. Yet, 34 percnt think air and water quality are getting worse, not better. That is absurd.

U.S. agriculture’s opposition activists need to create negative images to rile pubic sentiment to their cause, so they disparage our credibility to somehow enhance theirs. While they have not turned the public image of farmers and agriculture negative, it’s not for lack of trying.

They attempt to portray the current conditions as a “crisis” when it is the opposite to motivate financial contributions to anti-ag nonprofit organizations.

It is particularly frustrating to see the investment and effort put into conservation and resource management by farmers and the results of their investment pay off for the environment; yet, instead of thanks, they are attacked with intentional misinformation. Farmers shake their heads in disbelief at how what they do is disparaged.

We had an entire year’s annual rainfall this summer in northwest Iowa this year and environmental activists claimed that the reason for the flooding was that farmers don’t grow enough annual crops instead of corn/soybeans, thinking they held more water on the land.

Actually, it was organic farmers who rely heavily on tillage for planting and cultivation who experienced the worst soil erosion this year. Our governor is in the minority of 34 percent who thinks water quality is getting worse and that farmers are not smart or motivated enough to manage commercial fertilizer application themselves.

He thinks that there are bureaucrats in Des Moines who better know how much fertilizer to apply and when and how to apply it, championing state control and management of this aspect of agriculture. He would fire the ag experts of ISU replacing them with “we know better” pseudo experts from the University of Iowa. Bad trade.

That was an insult to the Iowa agriculture’s professionalism and credibility. It feeds into the anti-farmer sentiment. It is important for agriculture to share what it does, why it does it and the results being achieved.

Because if we don’t, they will spread lies about us. Those with perspective who live in rural America know the truth, but the population is centered where agriculture is not as visible and they are told what to think by those with other agendas.

The poll noted that in rural districts the opinion of water and air quality was higher than opinions of residents in more urban centers, who don’t live there, where opinions are formed from input other than personal experience.

Agriculture still has a good name with the vast majority of the public, but it’s not for lack of trying by those who seek to gain in sullying it. It was good to see that the public overall was not buying what these naysayers were selling.

David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.

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