Opinions & sacred cows
by Ron Goble
Dairy producers have a lot on their plate these days. It’s hardly fair to add anything else to their list of responsibilities. However, some things just cannot be ignored. Trent Loos was in Tulare, Calif., recently as one of our keynote luncheon speakers during Dairy Profit Seminars during World Ag Expo.
Those who know Trent, know he wasted little time cutting to the heart of the matter when talking about preserving animal agriculture in America. That is a battle he has been waging ever since he started his public speaking crusade about a decade ago. As he paced back and forth in front of an attentive audience, he rattled off story after story, fact after fact, in an effort to arm his listeners with “ammunition” they could use when afforded opportunities to speak to those in the non-ag community.
“How do we educate the public when they don’t understand the basics of the cycle of life?” he asks. “The biggest challenge we have in the food, fiber, pharmaceutical and fuel industries today is that no one outside of agriculture, understands that everything lives, everything dies, and death with a purpose gives full meaning to life.”
“We have dairy cows because they generate the essentials of life: calcium, vitamin D and fat. How do we address the disconnect with the public? We must change our communication skills. We say a lot of things that people outside of the farming community don’t understand. If we are to explain the business of agriculture and food production we must speak in a language people can understand.”
We need to have our “elevator speech” ready. Because the time it takes for the elevator to go from the first floor to the seventh, is often all the time we have to explain what agriculture is and how science and technology advancements in ag assists the nonfarm person and the consumer. We have to explain these things almost in bumper sticker fashion, says Loos.
We can’t continue to say “they” are the problem. We must explain what we do, and why, because consumers are losing access to domestically grown food. Soccer Moms want: (1) access to food; (2) safe and healthy food; and (3) assurance we treat our cows right. We have a good story to tell, but are often reluctant to tell it.
In 1947, Americans consumed 47 gallons of whole milk per capita. In 2009, it was down to 8 gallons. When 50% of Americans are calcium and vitamin D deficient, share the fact that whole milk is full of those two essentials. Since we know soft drinks erode calcium in the body, how much more important is it to explain why people should consume milk and dairy products?
You know we have an uphill battle when you discover three U.S. universities are studying whether plants feel pain. And believe it or not, some of those researchers say plants do feel pain, and actually communicate to each other. As Loos says, only a nation where things come so easily can we study such ridiculous things. It reflects the enormity of the challenge.
Loos asked, how many called NightLine a few weeks ago after they aired a negative story on the dairy industry? Only one person raised his hand. We all should have called to tell them they didn’t get it right, and what they should have included in their coverage. Seize every opportunity to stand up for the industry and tell your story. We can’t clone Trent Loos, but we can exponentially multiply his message.
Have an opinion or response? E-mail Ron Goble, Associate publisher/editor, Western DairyBusiness at: firstname.lastname@example.org