Editor's note: The following commentary was written by Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation and chairman of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. It was originally published on TheHill.com.
For the past 40 years, America’s farming and ranching heritage has been officially recognized on National Agriculture Day, which this year falls on March 19. Across the country, farmers, ranchers and agriculture groups use this moment-in-time to bring others – many of whom may have never stepped one foot on a farm or ranch – closer to the work they do to produce food for our nation. Here in Washington, D.C., the Ag Day experience has been a long-standing tradition of farmers and ranchers meeting with their representatives in Congress to share information about the vital role of American agriculture.
While the events and meetings taking place on National Ag Day are important, the nation’s interest and focus on agriculture should not be limited to one day a year. The stories that farmers and ranchers share on Ag Day should reverberate throughout the year – as farmers and ranchers continue to share their experiences in their own local communities, with online audiences and with the media.
The good news is that popular culture has fully embraced capturing stories about food. In fact, at the South by Southwest Film Festival this past week, acclaimed filmmaker James Moll announced the production of a feature-length documentary he’s working on about the next generation of American farmers and ranchers.
The fact remains that too many consumers still have questions about how our food is grown and raised. A recent survey by the USFRA, a group of farmer- and rancher-led organizations and agricultural partners, found that one-in-four Americans have questions about the food they are purchasing.
So, why does this disconnect exist in a day and age when entire television networks, websites and news outlets are exclusively dedicated to sharing stories about food? Why are farmers and ranchers often missing from the conversation that is happening in popular culture?
The answer is not simple. As an industry, farmers and ranchers must do more to share their stories and dispel common myths about the work we do on our farms and ranches. But, it is also up to all consumers, media and even our elected officials to continue to ask questions and even demand that farmers and ranchers be called upon when questions about food production arise.
For farmers and ranchers, every day is Ag Day. This is a moment that should be recognized not simply as an opportunity to celebrate who we are as an industry or the generations that farmed before us. It’s also about making sure people have access to information about the food they purchase, eat and serve their families every day.
As a farmer, and leader of two major agriculture organizations, I believe it’s the responsibility of farmers and ranchers to answer questions about how food is grown and raised. The stories we can share and answers we can give about food production range from the state-of-the-art science and technology we’re applying to minimize environmental impact to the high demand for agriculture school graduates needed to lead the next generation of farming and ranching. Whatever the question, we want to talk.
So the next time you have a question about a particular practice on a farm or ranch, whether it’s how animals are treated or why a certain technology is being used, ask a farmer or rancher. We may not always agree on the answer or our practices, but we will achieve the goal of starting a conversation that involves the people who actually grow and raise your food.