My local newspaper recently wrote an article about Food Inc., the much-hyped movie that tries to give modern agriculture a black eye. I could not sit quietly by and wrote the following:
Four generations of my family have farmed in Miami County. My great-grandfather started our farming operation, my grandfather spent countless hours working the soil and now my father, uncle, husband, cousin and many dedicated employees continue the tradition today. I have personally been involved in agriculture for my entire life, from my days in 4-H and FFA, my farm broadcasting career to my current position in our wine and grape industry. Agriculture is my life’s calling and I am dedicated to producing food that is safe, abundant and affordable.
The movie Food Inc. has received much publicity and an appearance on The Oprah Show. People need to remember it is a single point of view. This movie was made to make money. Michael Pollan, who wrote the book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, on which the movie is based, is not a scientist or a nutritionist. Rather, he is a journalism professor who knows how to carefully manage his words for a big impact.
While the film does not attack farmers directly; it focuses its attention on agricultural and food companies. The movie does make some supportive comments about farmers and includes a sound recommendation that consumers should “know more” about your food. However, its inaccuracies attack modern farm practices. The modern food system is positioned as a corrupt, evil industry that is harming employees, animals, and consumers while using its power and influence to hide its business practices from view. These accusations are simply not true.
The movie implies that organic foods are less likely to contain e-coli or other contaminants. This is also false; the 2006 e-coli outbreak in California spinach was caused by an organic process.
As a producer, we have an ethical obligation to make sure the animals on our farm are well cared for. We would not be in business today if we didn’t provide our livestock a safe, healthy environment in which to grow. That is why our hogs live in climate-controlled buildings. This keeps them out of the harsh elements of winter and out of the path of predators.
I have always believed there is room for all types of agriculture. Whether it is organic or conventional, free-range or climate-controlled buildings, producers are free to farm in a manner that best serves their needs. However, if people like Pollan get their way, policy will be created that will force modern agriculture out of business and a growing population to go hungry. It is estimated by the year 2050, we will be feeding over 9 billion people across the world. We can’t feed all of them on organic practices. While there is room for people to enjoy locally-grown farm goods, economies of scale demand that American farmers feed billions of hungry mouths a year.
Agriculture is the lifeblood of many rural communities across Indiana. Farms dot the landscape wherever you travel in Miami County. Rural communities help maintain a viable economy by creating jobs, supporting local businesses and contributing to the tax base.
Over 96% of all farms in America are family farms, which can be large, small, or somewhere in between. I understand that contemporary agriculture doesn’t look like it did in the past. The farm my great-grandfather started doesn’t look like the farm we have today. But we’re not unlike many other industries that have had to become more efficient to survive. The production practices we use are ethically grounded, scientifically verified, and economically viable. They allow us to meet the growing demand for food. My family is proud to help feed the world.