- Published on Tuesday, 13 November 2012 03:56
- Written by Montana Farm Bureau Federation
BILLINGS – The theme “tell your story” was repeated in workshops and echoed by speakers during the Montana Farm Bureau Convention Nov. 12 in Billings. Whether the speaker was Dr. Frank Mitloehner of University of California/Davis, Erika Poppelreiter speaking on behalf of the U.S. Farmer and Rancher Alliance or Russell Nemetz of the Northern Ag Network, the message to the farmers and ranchers attending was clear—tell consumers what you do.
“Normally when you look at cows, you don’t think of them as a source of air pollution, but animal activists are trying to claim that cows are the main culprit for bad air,” said Mitloehner, an associate professor and air quality specialist in Cooperative Extension at UC/Davis. The scientist has generated and published research refuting old data that cows are the number-one cause of air pollution in California, not cars, trucks or planes.
“I found the state of California was using inventory from 1938 that had cows as the top polluters, and the methane number was calculated erroneously into smog-producing numbers,” Mitloehner said. He set out to prove this information was very dated and inaccurate. Thanks to his research, the EPA now says agriculture only produces 6 percent of all greenhouse gases, with livestock only contributing 3.4 percent—not the 18 percent claimed by an earlier study.
“There is urban pressure building up against agriculture, such as people suing farmers, say at a dairy, who have their agricultural operation next to a subdivision,” noted Mitloehner. “The truth is the dairy is a lot more environmentally friendly than homeowners in a subdivision who are running lawnmowers, driving trucks, catching planes to visit relatives in other states, and obliviously spraying lawn chemicals.”
He said the best way to provide food for a growing world population as well as be even more environmentally sensitive is to continue to improve livestock efficiency. “Agriculture continues to advance and we are now growing more with less,” he said. “Developing countries do not have efficient livestock. For instance, it takes five cows in Mexico to produce the milk that one cow in the U.S. produces.”
The scientist noted the only way to combat unfounded negatives from anti-agricultural activists is to speak out. “Everyone in agriculture needs to tell their message and invite the public to their farms and ranches,” Mithloehner said. “When students or the general public see for themselves what you do on your farm or ranch, the propaganda falls apart.”
Poppelreiter with the U.S. Farmer and Rancher Alliance, echoed Mitloehner’s sentiments in a morning workshop. “People want to have transparency about how their food gets from farm to fork. Farmers and ranchers need to be willing to share what they know and how they raise crops and animals,” she said. “Conversation is powerful because it can enlighten and change opinions. It’s important that people in agriculture engage the public, acknowledge the concerns of the consumer, share how they are constantly improving their farm or ranch management, and earn trust.”
Northern Ag Network’s Russell Nemetz, who provided the motivational speech to kick off the convention Monday morning, said, “We all have to be better ambassadors for agriculture. You have to tell your story,” he said. “The one thing the consumer needs to remember is that food doesn’t just magically appear. It’s grown and processed by people involved in agriculture, and it’s time farmers and ranchers have dialogue with the public about what they do best…feeding and clothing our nation.”
The MFBF Convention continues Tuesday, Nov. 13 with the Resolutions Session, luncheon speaker Dale Moore, deputy director of public policy for the American Farm Bureau and the evening Awards Banquet.