What Does Mainstream Media Think About Farmers?

Husker Home Place

Farmers like to see themselves as independent and insulated from the rest of the world, but it matters how we're portrayed on the national stage.

Published on: February 12, 2013
Forget about “red state” and “blue state” issues and complexities. Forget about politics in general. Forget about the fact that our rural culture is considered almost foreign to many urbanites. Because the farm policy battles of the future will be fought in a surprising arena.

The fight for national food security and agriculture policy in the coming decades will not be fought on the farm, or anywhere near our own turf. Those fights will take place in the media, and it’s high time we put the gloves on and get in the ring.

Almost immediately after Dodge aired their moving Super Bowl commercial, “So God Made a Farmer” tribute to America’s farmers, with a voice-over by a national icon, Paul Harvey, activists who oppose almost every sector of conventional agriculture began typing their rebuttal blogs and mythical pieces about their own perceived evils of modern agriculture. They pass on their own, personal and ill-informed views of modern agriculture methods or “industrial agriculture” and “factory farms,” as they like to say, as fact.

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The pure volume of anti-farmer and anti-agriculture rhetoric is astonishing, and most disturbing to me is that some of it comes from fellow farmers. Be that as it may, having the facts on our side doesn’t diminish the power of perception. We need all farmers, all kinds of systems and methods of production to feed the world. And we need to understand the power of the media more fully, and use facts and that media to put forward the real image of America’s food producers, before the detractors even get started.

The farmers I know were depicted in the Paul Harvey spot accurately. Harvey knew a lot about farmers, and his take, given to the national FFA convention back in 1978, still rings quite true. By bashing the commercial, are detractors saying with a straight face that America’s farmers are not honest, are not hard working, and are not genuinely committed to their profession? Are they honestly saying that farmers do not put in long hours, do not sacrifice life and limb for their livestock and land, and do not care about future generations of farmers in their families?

Our country is blessed with bountiful, safe food, and food that is more accessible to everyone than in most modern nations. That is fact. If it were not so bountiful, I doubt if farmers would have anyone question their integrity. But, because farmers do such a good job, here we are, trying to defend how we do it.

TV commercials have power. Mainstream newscasts have power. What happens in the entertainment world, at movies and concerts and on cable network newscasts matters in our fields and on our farms. And it will matter more and more as time goes on, because in today’s society, food is taken for granted so much that no one even thinks about farmers until there is a food scare or some tragedy that will drive food prices up.

That’s why the Dodge commercial was so powerful. It used imagery, emotion and the voice of an American icon to give tribute to folks who don’t get much respect. Farmers and farm organizations need to know that it will take more commercials, more factual information, more accurate depictions about what goes on in modern agriculture to help our urban customers keep informed and understand more fully what we do and why we do it. As that happens more often, the detractors will become louder and louder, but they will be heard less and less.

Being silent is no longer an option. The Dodge commercial was a giant step forward in allowing the voice of the next generation of farmers to be heard, loud and clear.

Be sure to watch Nebraska Farmer online and read our February print issue of Nebraska Farmer for news, information and tips on meeting the challenges of drought. Your best online resource for drought information is the Farm Progress Dateline Drought.