The organization known as "The Hand That Feeds U.S." has been formed to educate urban news reporters, to answer agriculture's critics and explain why farmers and farm policy are so important to the nation's future. The American Sugar Alliance, the peanut, rice, cotton, corn, sorghum, and ethanol industries have joined forces and have introduced their web presence at www.thehandthatfeedsus.org.
"We're the best farmers in the world, but we're far from being master communicators," said Andy Quinn, a Minnesota corn and ethanol producer. "For too long, we've let a handful of environmental extremists and coalitions, bankrolled by big business, define our industry in the news."
Linda Raun, a rice grower from Texas, is a spokesperson for the campaign. She says producers haven't done a good enough job telling the media their story, which has led to agriculture being demonized in many of the nation's top media markets.
Although farmers can't match dollar for dollar with opponents of agriculture they do have some powerful friends. Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., on Monday wrote an open letter to the news industry urging them to learn the truth about American agriculture rather than the campaign of misinformation that has distorted rather than enhanced public understanding of U.S. farm policy.
"Agriculture has always been and remains today a vital component of our nation's well-being," the senators wrote. "A strong agriculture sector favorably affects our national security, wealth, health, and environment. Therefore, the public is owed honest information on the subject, not the highly sensationalized misinformation used with the deliberate purpose of pitting the general public against the very hand that feeds us."