The Hand That Feeds U.S
It's no secret that urban news outlets have been critical of farmers and farm policy in recent years-much of it a direct result of an aggressive spin campaign by a handful of well-heeled and vocal opponents.
Ironically, the same farmers who are being attacked for being "giant agribusinesses" lack the resources to defend themselves. That's why many ag groups have pooled their resources together to jointly fund a program to build better relationships with big-city reporters.
The American Sugar Alliance-along with colleagues from the peanut, rice, cotton, corn, sorghum, and ethanol industries-recently kicked off a campaign called The Hand That Feeds U.S. to answer agriculture's critics and explain why farmers and farm policy are so important to the nation's future.
"It makes no sense that we're being demonized in many of the nation's top media markets," said Linda Raun, a rice grower from Texas who is a spokesperson for the campaign.
"It's not the journalists' fault," she continued. "We haven't done a good enough job telling them our story. We've been negligent in explaining that farmers feed and clothe every person in this country, employ 20 percent of the nation's workforce, and will be at the center of America's economic recovery."
Andy Quinn, a Minnesota corn and ethanol producer agrees. "We're the best farmers in the world, but we're far from being master communicators. For too long, we've let a handful of environmental extremists and coalitions bankrolled by big business define our industry in the news."
Quinn and Raun believe the project is a good first step in helping agriculture set the record straight. The multi-year effort will consist of a webpage, TheHandThatFeedsUS.org, as well as a series of face-to-face meetings with reporters across the country.
The site, which went live on May 11, includes a series of profiles on farmers, farmer-owned cooperatives, and opponents of farm policy.
One of these profiles features Moorhead, MN-based American Crystal Sugar Company and explains that the sugarbeet industry is 100% farmer owned and would not exist today if farmers hadn't stepped up to replace private investors fleeing the business because of low profit margins.
"We plan to build long-lasting relationships with journalists and show them that family owned and operated farms, not giant agribusinesses, are the true face of agriculture," explained Texas cotton farmer and coalition member Steve Verett.
Even though the farmers admit they'll never be able to match agriculture's opponents dollar for dollar, they do have some high-profile cheerleaders on their side. Top Democrat and Republican Members of Congress published an open letter to the news industry "respectfully urging [reporters to] take the time to learn more about this effort, U.S. farm policy, and the farm and ranch families that keep America fed."