July 15, 2004
July 15, 2004 -- Agriculture is never without its concerns, which we, as sheep producers, know all too well. Fortunately, the U.S. sheep industry has committed, proactive members who are always ready to address issues of concern. I am always amazed when I see in print the list of accomplishments our industry achieves year after year. We are known for our successful work in sustaining funding for Wildlife Services. We continue to lobby for issues of importance, such as Country-of-Origin Labeling, animal identification and the scrapie-eradication program, to name a few.
Yet for all our hard work we often forget the general public's perception of us is altogether quite different. I was reminded of this in early winter when I learned the Farm Bill would come under attack by the press and consumer groups as being a contributor to the American obesity epidemic.
The so-called reasoning behind this theory is that American agriculture is overly subsidized, that there are too many farmers and ranchers in business who grow too many crops and raise too much livestock. If some of us would just go out of the business, the theory goes, food sources would decline and so would the waistlines of Americans.
The words "personal responsibility" obviously come to mind. Yet the press reports almost daily of Americans who have filed lawsuits against fast food chains and other food suppliers that somehow forced others to make bad decisions. Such logic is beyond comprehension, and yet American agriculture is being forced once again to protect itself against propaganda that hurts all in the trade.
This latest accusation was one of many behind the recent formation of a Commodity Roundtable. American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) Executive Director Peter Orwick and I attended the first roundtable meeting in late winter. It is good that ASI should be involved in this general public relations effort to support a positive farm bill and hopefully avoid major future budget fights in Washington.
ASI's executive board recently approved ASI's financial support of this effort, albeit comparatively smaller compared to that of other commodities. Funding and volunteer work by this group will enhance the image of American agriculture. I hope you will do your part to dispel the myths surrounding our trade, by spreading the word that U.S. farmers and ranchers feed and clothe not only Americans but millions of people around the world.