Consumers Need to Support Ag

Help Consumers Understand Ag

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Many Californians aren’t aware of the amount of agriculture in the state, and the diverse crops that are grown here, and sometimes this leaves farmers in the back seat when it comes to policy making. Cindy Smith is the Ag Policy Relations Director at Gowan. She spoke with us about the importance of consumer relations in agriculture and helping them learn to support ag.

“That’s the key message that we have to deliver, because increasingly the people who are making decisions in Washington DC are disconnected from the field,” Smith said.

“So they really need to understand that the decision that they make has an impact on a farmer, and if it has an impact on a farmer, it has an impact on a consumer,” she explained.

We all know that it’s difficult to blame consumers for not knowing about agriculture.

“Unless you live next to a farm, or you have a family member who’s in farming, a person just will not know much about agriculture,” Smith said.

“Farmers represent less than two percent of the population, in the United States, so it’s very understandable that the consumer may not have a direct connection to the farm,” she said.

“Helping consumers understand what farming actually mean, and what farmers think about, and care about, when they’re growing foods that we eat, or that go to our clothing or whatever, I think would really help consumers have a better appreciation of the value and the importance of keeping American agriculture viable and successful,” she explained.

“Talk to the people you know, talk to them at church, talk to them at Rotary, talk to them at work. They’ll tell you: ‘I like the idea that these apples, peaches, carrots, come right here from California, and I want them to continue to be available,’ ” Smith said.

“The disconnect is that I’m not sure they always understand that some of the policy decisions made might threaten that. Making sure that consumers make that connection, I think, is key for our success, too,” she said.

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Simplifying Ag Terms Important in Advocacy

Advocating for Ag with Simplified Terms

By Brianne Boyett, Associate Editor

It’s important when the agricultural industry is speaking with others outside the industry to use more simple ag terms that people can understand.

“Every industry, whether you’re a lawyer, a doctor, an agriculturists, we talk in code, and we kind of assume that other people understand and mostly, they don’t,” said George Soares, a partner of Kahn, Soares & Conway LLP.

Soares said we have to be clear in our message, and the way to do that with most public officials is to simplify the message, build off the simple starting point and through conversation, providing as much detail as you may need to provide.

“Instead, we lunge in, with all that we know about a topic, and many times, we just lose our audience by doing it that way,” Soares explained.

For example, many  wanted to comment on the importance of chlorpyrifos, a crop protection material that was meeting new regulations.

“You might go into a meeting with a legislator and launch in with the word chlorpyrifos and people cannot pronounce it, much less understand it,” Soares said. “We need to talk more simplistic, whether it’s chemicals or virtually anything that we do in agriculture, because the typical person just cannot relate.”

Soares suggested keeping the human condition in mind when talking with people.

“In my view, the human condition is a simple term but it takes the issues down to its essences. It’s talking about people and the effect on people of decisions that are being made,” he said. “It’s not a particular layer of people, but all people are impacted.”

“For example, when you prevent water from flowing like it should in California, what is the impact on the human condition? When you start probing at that level, you tend to get people’s attention,” Soares explained. “But too often, we in agriculture get ourselves lost in the technical and in the great detail of things, instead of boiling it down to its essence.”

Soares discussed the 2010 water bond negotiation and the fact that it wasn’t obtaining many votes until he brought in a group of Latinos to share how the lack of water affected them personally.

“It was very interesting, as it almost turned the votes on the dime, supporting the water bond. Because now, in the minds of the legislators, here are real people, experiencing the human condition. That brought a lot more authority to their message than other people. The legislatures started listening, and all of a sudden, the impossible became possible,” Soares said.

The legislature saw that these people might lose their jobs, have to move and most importantly, lose their American dream.

“An employee can speak more effectively about impacts on themselves instead of having their employer represent their interest in a conversation. We’re just not as believable as the individual themselves, speaking for themselves,” Soares explained.

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VIDEO: Other Stressors, Not Pumps, Leading to Delta Smelt Decline

VIDEO: Wasted Freshwater in Failed Attempt to Save Delta Smelt and Salmon

By Laurie Greene, Editor

Other Stressors, Not Pumps, Leading to Delta Smelt Decline,” a video produced by Western Growers, explains why the communities, business, and farmland in the Central Valley and southward still experience regulatory water cutbacks that are extreme in some cases, while 3 billion gallons of extra freshwater flow out to sea in the failing effort to save the Delta Smelt from extinction.Western Growers logo

The VIDEO addresses this loss of freshwater unused by California residents and businesses still suffering from both drought conditions and environmental water cutbacks and that could have gone into water storage.

Decline in California Fish Population and Delta Smelt, Salmon

Western Growers accuses government agencies in charge of managing California’s water of restricting the Delta pumps far beyond what is required by the law. “As a result,” the association said, “billions of gallons of El Niño water have been flushed out to sea. Shutting down the pumps has not helped the Delta smelt and salmon recover, and government regulators are ignoring other stressors such as predation, invasive species and wastewater discharges.”

Delta Smelt Troll 2016
Delta Smelt Troll, Survey 6, 2016: “There were no Delta Smelt collected.”

______________________

Western Growers, founded in 1926, is a trade association of California, Arizona and Colorado farmers who grow, pack and ship almost 50% of our nation’s produce. Their mission is to enhance members’ competitiveness and profitability by providing products and services with agriculture in mind. Services include Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliant health benefits for farmworkers, cost-saving and environmentally-focused logistics, food safety initiatives and advocacy for members. 

They ask, “If you enjoy fruits, vegetables and nuts, support our members and the produce industry.”

Featured Photo: Delta smelt by metric ruler (Source: USFWS)

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