A leading lobbyist thinks farmers and ranchers are "too nice" to those who oppose them and that more needs to be done to fight their influence.
"Our voice in Washington is shrinking, and the unfortunate thing is we can't do a damn thing about it," said Steve Kopperud, senior vice president of Policy Directions, Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm specializing in agriculture issues.
Kopperud, who for 18 years served as executive vice president of the American Feed Industry Association and is the founder of the Animal Agriculture Alliance, spoke at the recent Nebraska Governor's Ag Conference at Kearney.
"The problem we face is that of all critical industries we have, agriculture is being told to go backwards," Kopperud said. "Why is agriculture not being praised for embracing safe and modern technology for feeding not only this country but most of the known planet?"
The reality of U.S. and world food production is that two-thirds of North America cannot support crop production, Kopperud said, meaning a switch to a vegetable-based diet, as animal activists insist on, cannot be physically done.
"This is why we have animal agriculture. It is the single most efficient protein conversion unit we can come up with. That does not absolve us from professional, top-notch production practices."
Kopperud then described the opposition to those practices producers face from groups like the Humane Society of the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Consumers Union, the Center For Food Safety and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
"These groups demand the abandonment of technology that keeps you profitable and on the farm. It is the loss of production equipment, to antibiotics to keep animals healthy, to biotechnology, to you name it, they believe that these things will tip the planet on its axis," Kopperud said.
Producers are weak against these groups, he said, because they are not talking to consumers, processors or retailers.
"If you wish to stay in business, you need to get off your butt and start talking to consumers, politicians and the media. This is not about educating anyone," Kopperud said. "What they want and deserve is assurance that the people who produce food in this country are responsible and professional.
In the end, Kopperud said, producers need to put a face on the food on people's plates.
Reprinted in part from High Plains Journal