I am fairly slow to anger, and it takes quite a bit to light my fuse. But an ad on the radio really lit it earlier this week. The ad was for a local grocery store that specializes in organic foods. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with my fellow producers who chose to produce organic crops. It is an excellent business model, a good way to add value and a lot of work. However, this grocery store ad stated that their food was grown in a responsible manner.
The use of the word responsible is what got under my skin. I was hot, dirty and tired from walking pasture fence all day. I have to admit, I felt like a very responsible rancher. However, the rest of the drive home I started thinking about all the responsibilities I have as a producer of the food we all eat.
First, I am responsible to the animals I raise. Do not misunderstand me, the animals I raise are for food, but that does not limit my responsibility to them. I provide my animals the highest quality feeds in the right amounts. This is done through a combination of the education I received and experience. All of my animals are proved a well balanced diet and in the right proportions. Yes, my animals are fed gmo crops raised with modern, safe agriculture herbicides. These crops provide a safe, abundant food supply for my animals and I am proud to use it.
I also have a responsibility to provide them with the best care I possibly can. This means I spend many hours caring for them, in all weather conditions. If they require treatment for a medical condition I provide it. If they require more care than I can provide, I call my veterinarian. Because I feel a responsibility to my animals, I do not hesitate to utilize the best in modern anti-biotics. I cannot stand to watch my animals suffer needlessly if the proper medicine is available.
However, those anti-biotics are seldom used on our farm. We pay close attention to preventative measures and rarely have to treat sick animals. Often the anti-biotics we stock expire and we have to dispose of them rather than use them. Proper animal husbandry prevents many ailments, but if like humans, they do get sick in spite of the best care. In those rare cases I will do what it takes to help heal them.
The next responsibility I have is to the consumers of the food I produce. I am responsible to produce a safe, wholesome product and that is exactly what I do. I feed my family the same food I sell to your family. I would never even consider raising a crop or animal that I had any doubts about being safe to eat.
I also feel a sense of responsibility to produce as much food as I can with the land and livestock I have been blessed to oversee. Farmers and ranchers are dwindling population charged with producing more food with fewer acres for a rapidly growing world population. To do this we must utilize the best in innovations in agricultural science, tools like gmo crops, herbicides and fertilizers allow us to produce more food on those decreasing acres of farmland.
Finally, I feel a sense of responsibility to my family. I am responsible to the generations who have farmed the land before I came along. They weathered tough times and passed the land and the love of agriculture to me. They did the best they could with the technology they had to take care of the land. It is now my duty, my responsibility to utilize the advantages I have been given.
We have learned how to use methods such as no-till to save the top soil. We couldn’t plant our crops no-till without gmo crops and herbicides. We continue make strides toward using less herbicide and fertilizer while producing more grain each year. This will leave the land in better shape for another group I am responsible too, future generations of Ag producers.
This is a very short list of the things and people I am responsible too as an Ag producer. I know my fellow farmers and ranchers feel the same way. The idea that, because we utilize the best in modern technology available to us does not make us responsible producers of food is not right. I believe that most of the farmers and ranchers I know are producing food in a manner that is responsible to the consumer, the livestock they own and the land they utilize. So go to Dillons, Hy-Vee or any other supermarket and rest assure, the food you buy was raised in a responsible manner.