If you are a farmer and you have not seen the recent New York Times Opinion online videos demonizing farmers, then your blood pressure is likely still at a reasonable level. If you have seen them, and you work in agriculture like I do, your blood pressure is probably through the roof.
The videos, of which the New York Times released the third one of the series last week, claim that farmers and people who work in agriculture are “getting paid to kill our planet.” The video series uses misleading terms such as referring to American agriculture production as “factory farming.”
In the age where the urban elite is quick to loosely define and identify “misinformation” on social media, the New York Times now does a complete video series of falsities. Give them some credit, they do interview a senator from New Jersey and a lawyer who claims that his client is planet Earth.
The first op-ed video of the series slams the American Farm Bureau as a big ag lobby that tries to hide all the polluting that farmers are doing to make billions in profits. Daryl Lies is the President of the North Dakota Farm Bureau (NDFB). He has been serving in this capacity since 2015, and he has been an advocate for agriculture his whole life. I have asked Daryl a few questions regarding the New York Times piece. My questions and his responses are below:
CA: I am assuming you have seen the New York Times video series by now. What was your reaction upon seeing it?
DL: I was frustrated but sadly I cannot say I was surprised by the spin which was put out to negatively affect agriculture. One of the most frustrating things was to see U.S. Senator Cory Booker unfairly demonize agriculture and he is on the Senate Ag Committee!
CA: Those of us here in North Dakota who are involved with farming know that those videos contained blatant falsehoods and furthered some major misconceptions. In your opinion, what was the most blatant lie of the video series?
DL: I believe the over-embellishment of blaming agriculture for the "climate crisis," as they would like us to believe, without recognizing what any studies or reality of the benefits of growing crops or the grazing and regeneration of grasses provides to a healthier planet. One example is a study out of Michigan State University in which they cite the fact an acre of corn utilizes a NET 5-8 tons of carbon dioxide depending on yield ability of that acre of corn. Information such as this needs to be a part of any conversation of how agriculture influences our "climate,” and I would say in a positive way if real data was included in the narrative.
CA: What is the American Farm Bureau doing as a response to these videos?
DL: American Farm Bureau was an obvious target in this propaganda. They have come out with some initial statements; however, I know they do not want to come across in a retaliatory manner and rather ramp up the providing of real stories from farmers and ranchers to be shared across social media and other sources. In addition, reaching out to the "BIG" media for an opportunity to provide information and facts utilizing the same platforms those who oppose us are using.
CA: What is the North Dakota Farm Bureau doing to educate the public and lessen the urban-rural divide?
DL: Reaching out to consumers became a large priority for us several years ago and continues today! We have a partnership with a dietician to provide the nutritional aspects of the food people eat. Another thing we have done is drastically increase our media relations to become the go-to voice of agriculture in North Dakota and provide content and information about what farmers and ranchers do and the many things which must be addressed every day on the farm. Therefore, providing more information so the non-farm public can be more aware of who and what farmers are and do!
CA: If I am a local farmer (or I am employed in the ag industry here in North Dakota), and I am feeling burned by this propaganda, what can I do about it? At my level out here in North Dakota, will anything I do really make a difference?
DL: Farmers and ranchers are the very ones who, as individuals, can do the most to shed a positive light on agriculture and correct the misinformation. Simple conversations with the friends they have and family which live in town or have not been around the farm or ranch, in some cases for generations now, is extremely important. People would be surprised how much disconnect there is even right here in the very rural North Dakota! Never miss an opportunity to share a story and information with everyone! Sometimes the discussions can be difficult when people have heard so many of the indoctrinating messages from the environmental and animal rights extremists and have a somewhat negative outlook before you engage in a dialog with them. Realism, calming, and factual conversations with those folks will get you a lot further in them supporting us instead of belittling them if they are truly willing to have a sincere discussion. Also, I would welcome any and all farmers, ranchers and those who just truly support agriculture to join our organization, NDFB.
Anyone who is interested in becoming a NDFB member, can contact their office at 1-800-932-8869. Remember, non-farmers and ranchers can be members too. If your livelihood is connected to agriculture, please get involved.