|For the week of May 15, 2006|
Whose Agriculture is it Anyway?
Rumor has it that a grain industry lobbyist recently asked what the immigration debate had to do with agriculture. Well, for starters, failure to include comprehensive guest-worker provisions in immigration law could cause up to $9 billion annually in overall losses to the U.S. agriculture industry and losses of up to $5 billion annually in net farm income and, well, so on and so on….
The story is not meant to make an example out of any specific lobbyist, but only to point out that agriculture means many different things, depending on who you ask or what you farm. For someone farming row crops or representing grains, the loss of immigrant labor has a smaller effect on their business. Yet, the outcome of such issues could result in side effects that impact their sector in a bigger way.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different issues facing producers, which vary by commodity, geographic location, size of land, type of business structure, state and local laws or even which color of farm equipment they own.
So, whose agriculture is it anyway?
Someone once said that strength lies in differences, not similarities. U.S. agriculture sure does have its share of differences, but could it be this multiplicity that gives us strength as a whole?
It has also been said that diversity is the one true thing we all have in common. It could likely be said that the love of agriculture is something all farmers and ranchers have in common.
Perhaps this helps producers bridge their differences when it comes to formulating and rallying around a central goal, during such times as farm bill deliberations. Or, times like the last budget reconciliation, when 117 agriculture-related groups put aside their differences and stood together for a common interest.
U.S. agriculture as a whole must look out for itself. As the old cliché goes, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. This couldn’t be truer than when negotiating world trade agreements, fighting local eminent domain abuses or going to bat for renewable fuels.
When all of U.S. agriculture is on the same page, it is an undeniable force with which to be reckoned. And although being on the same page all of the time is steeped more in wishful thinking than reality, a general understanding and regard for another sector’s position sure does ease the way.
At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter if your tractor is red or green, the important thing is that we are all working together for the good of the industry, as well as the nation. Truth be told, agriculture doesn’t only belong to the potato farmer from Idaho or the Oklahoma rancher. Its impact stretches up and down the food chain, into the kitchen of every home in America and across the globe.
So, whose agriculture is it anyway? It belongs to everyone.
Tracy Taylor Grondine is director of media relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation.