I don't understand why farmers are told to fear groups that advocate for a healthy and humane food system.
The Nebraska Farm Bureau, Nebraska Cattlemen and many of the commodity boards are forming and funding new groups to counter concerns that many consumers have with the consolidation and vertical integration of our food system.
We Support Agriculture, A-FAN (Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska) and Common Ground Nebraska are three such groups.
They use fear, scapegoats and misleading information to divert attention from legitimate concerns many consumers have with a food system controlled by large, monopolistic corporations.
We Support Agriculture recently received $100,000 from the attorney general's office to fight the Humane Society of the United States. I attended one of its "informational" meetings in Blue Hill on Nov. 18, organized by the local Extension educator. The group used Humane Watch.org as its source of information regarding HSUS. This site is one of many developed by the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF).
CCF receives support from multinational food, tobacco and alcohol companies to mount campaigns not only against HSUS, but against unions, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other respected and credible organizations.
CCF is one of several shadowy nonprofits associated with lobbyist Richard Berman, who is notorious for feeding misleading information to the media and public officials on behalf of big corporations to protect their profits and market share.
One of the blatantly misleading statements I heard at the meeting was that HSUS' goal is to destroy animal agriculture and force everyone to become either vegetarian or vegan.
I am a member of Nebraska Farmer's Union. The spokesman for HSUS at the Nebraska Farmers Union convention in December was a Missouri hog producer who stated that 95 percent of HSUS supporters consume meat. Their goal is not to do away with animal agriculture; it is to facilitate a market system that links consumers and farmers more closely.
According to the USDA's Nebraska Agriculture Statistic Service, since 1980, Nebraska has lost 91 percent of its independent hog producers, 80 percent of its dairy producers and 40 percent of its beef producers.
It was not HSUS that drove them out of business. What drove them out of business was a market increasingly controlled by multinational food corporations that include the large meatpackers, which destroyed competitive and fair prices and operate with no transparency.
Unfortunately, the Farm Bureau and Nebraska Cattlemen have lobbied against market reforms. An example is the USDA's 2010 proposed GIPSA rule that would have required nondiscriminatory pricing and transparent markets for livestock producers. They also succeeded, through the courts, in removing the 1982 Nebraska citizen's anticorporate farming amendment to Nebraska's Constitution, (Initiative 300). Is their vision one that increasingly creates a food system that is controlled by the few and everyone else is a serf for the "‘feudal lords?"
I hope that all of us farmers and meat producers begin to realize we need to listen to our customers and resist being led even further down the path of corporate control of food production.