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June 19, 2014

Understanding the Politics of Food

For more information on Newsline, contact: Kari Barbic, Media Specialist, American Farm Bureau Federation, karib@fb.org.

 
Agriculture has a lot to be proud of regarding production of food, according to one ag economics professor. Seanica Otterby has the story.
OtterbyThere have been many positive changes in food production, which is important moving forward, according to Oklahoma State University Professor Dr. Jayson Lusk. Still, Lusk says there needs to be more thoughtful discussion to ensure there are avenues for new technologies in food production to address challenges of feeding a growing population.
LuskI spend my career researching the consumer, and partly it is to understand what kinds of new technologies and products will be profitable to market, but also to try to understand the consequences of public policies. I think creating a political environment in which people are accepting of those new technologies will be a significant challenge going forward.
OtterbyLusk says consumer behaviors toward food production interact with agriculture in two ways. One is through the marketplace as consumers decide which products they pay for.
LuskConsumers use their wallets to determine the prices that farmers ultimately get paid, so there is a need to pay attention to what consumers are doing. But there’s also important to see how they’re voting, and I think that’s where some of the significant challenges have come about recently, whether we’re talking about animal welfare issues or genetically engineered foods, that sometimes, consumers will vote for things that they won’t be willing to pay for, and that can often put producers in a pickle.
OtterbyMost people don’t know much of where their food comes from, but Lusk says they don’t have to. He says the fact that consumers want to know more about food production is a promising opportunity.
LuskUltimately, I think for producers, just telling their story, being open, not defensive, and trying to just describe why they use the technologies they use and what are the things that motivate them on their farm are really important in engaging with the public on those issues because I think the public really does want to know. Farmers are being talked about. They might as well get in the conversation.
OtterbySeanica Otterby, Kansas City.

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