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Why U.S. Farmers Should Get Out – Now

Most farmers I know didn’t pursue their passion for raising food to hone their public relations skills.

In fact, by nature, most are quite humble, hardworking and, no matter what size of farm or type of production, spend their waking hours focused on producing safe, affordable food in a way that preserves and improves the land that the vast majority of them hope to pass on to their children.

Yet, in an environment where public skepticism about food production has reached a fever pitch, particularly when it comes to the acceptance of new on-farm technologies, the time is right for more farmers and ranchers to get out of their comfort zones and engage with the public.

In fact, the latest research from The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) shows an overwhelming majority wants to hear from the folks who produce their food. Sixty-five percent expressed a strong desire to learn more about how food is produced and where it comes from.

This high level of curiosity isn’t surprising, since most people don’t recognize farming today, and many just aren’t comfortable with the size and scale of today’s farms.

It’s a golden opportunity for everyone in agriculture to “get out” and have meaningful conversations, sharing their values – in person and online – regarding food production to help earn trust in biotechnology and a multitude of other innovations that have allowed farmers to do more with less.

Genetically modified and hybrid seeds, minimum-tillage planting and other advances help crop farmers increase yields while using less land, energy and irrigated water – reducing greenhouse gas emissions and soil erosion. Improved genetics, nutrition, housing and animal health products have resulted in more productive livestock and healthier meat, milk and eggs. New gene editing technology holds the potential to reduce suffering and improve productivity.

These are just a few examples of the vast array of technological advancements that the food system has adopted over the last several decades.

So, what will ease consumers’ minds and earn trust? Assuring consumers that you share their values when it comes to access to safe, healthy and affordable food, the highest standards of animal care and protecting the environment.

In fact, the research shows that communicating with shared values is three-to-five times more important to building trust than simply providing information or demonstrating expertise.

Now is the time for agriculture to engage in these important – and sometimes difficult – conversations.

Everyone in the food chain – especially farmers and ranchers – need to make a long-term, concerted effort to talk about how technology and innovation benefit us all. Embracing technology to feed a rapidly growing global population and protect our environment for generations to come is an ethical and moral imperative.

Charlie Arnot
CEO, The Center for Food Integrity

As originally published in Huffington Post on March 20, 2017.