Thursday, June 27, 2013

Farms the new frontier of terrorists?

Over the space of two nights this month, the sugar beet crop in two fields in Jackson County, Oregon, was destroyed. Someone, or a number of somebodies, chose to destroy a valuable crop, likely because it consisted of beets that had been genetically engineered to be resistant to Roundup, a herbicide.

It would be nice to see the criminals who did this caught, and according to reports by the Oregonian, the FBI is taking the case seriously.  They have deemed the case "economic sabotage and a violation of federal law involving damage to commercial agricultural enterprises," according to the report of reporter Kimberly A.C. Wilson of the Oregonian, the only major media outlet so far to report on the issue from what I can tell.

Farmers do their best to manage weather risk (they can and do lose part or all of their crops due to weather), volatile markets (prices often drop when the crop does well), government regulations (which get more onerous each year), and common problems like theft but the wanton destruction of a year’s crop by criminal activity can’t be planned or managed.

Grange members stand united against what amounts to terrorism against our American farmers. No matter what crops our farmers choose to raise, no matter what animals our farmers choose to nurture, if it is legal American farmers deserve to be able to supply their fellow citizens with that product. It doesn’t matter if you are an animal rights or anti-GMO (genetically modified organisms) believer, actions such as these are unacceptable and criminal.

I have a hunch that those who committed this crime are operating on emotion. I’ve heard a lot of argument against the use of GMOs over the last couple of years. While I believe that everyone has a right to their own opinion, when someone claims that GMOs will cause the death of the human species, any middle or common ground is hard to find, and facts to support that argument are hard to find. Every peer-reviewed scientific study I have seen or heard of shows that no difference can be seen between the end product of a natural seed, a naturally modified seed, or an engineered seed.

The National Grange has debated the issue of GMOs for a number of years and from those debates we have created our current policy. We support the use of GMO seed and want studies on their safety to continue. It is a pragmatic viewpoint and yet one that is based upon the available facts and science. I am sure that it will continue to be discussed and debated in our organization and by the public for many years to come. As new studies are conducted, their results will be included in the policy development process of the Grange.

It is good to have passion, but if we allow that passion to overshadow logic and facts we will see more crimes such as this one in Jackson County. It is our duty to engage in discussion and debate the issues of the day. Through this process we only stand to learn from each other.

The Grange stands in support of the American farmer, especially those who are the victims of terrorist acts like this one because of the crop they’ve chosen to plant. Every American should join us in condemning criminal acts like the one reported.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

William Saunders Award for Rural Awareness

Yesterday I had the privilege of presenting RAM, a division of Chrysler, with the first William Saunders Award for Rural Awareness. The award was given to recognize the positive impact that their Super Bowl commercial had for rural America.

Their use of Paul Harvey’s famous “God made a Farmer” audio, coupled with their visual montage of rural America and the people who live there, was powerful and tugged at the heart. The ad showed the hard work, dedication, and lifestyle of those who provide the food, fiber, and fuel for America and the world.

The people who conceived and created this commercial did an outstanding job of raising rural awareness. The fact that they sell trucks doesn’t diminish what they’ve created in any way. 

In fact, this is how America is supposed to work. RAM is simply a group of people who own a company whose management (men and women) hires more people to develop, make, and sell trucks to people who need those trucks for their farms, businesses, and personal use. They understand who they serve and provide what their customers need and want.

I find myself reflecting on the fact that the Grange, philosophically, shares that same attitude without the commercial element. We allow people to join together in common cause without giving up their individuality. We are an organization that serves our members and our communities.

America is people and those people create businesses like RAM and organizations like the Grange. When we are all putting our efforts together, our communities flourish and people prosper as a whole. The Grange will continue to recognize people, organizations, and companies who recognize our American Values and who never forget their Hometown Roots.

Congratulations to RAM for being the recipient of the William Saunders Award for Rural Awareness!