Know What You’re Supporting

This weekend some of the music industry’s biggest and loudest will come to Kansas City for the 25th annual Farm Aid concert. Great! A group of people who care about our industry and want to help us by raising awareness and money. Who doesn’t want to support that. But there seems to be something fishy about this concert. I don’t hear the large farm organizations hooting and hollering over this great event and I haven’t spoken with anyone who is actually attending the event. So I went digging for answers and sadly, I wasn’t surprised at what I found.

Farm Aid is organized by a group of talented and well-known musicians – not farmers. Red flag No. 1. Under the issues tab on the Farm Aid concert website, the list of issues supported by Farm Aid’s Good Food organization includes family farms, food labeling and farm to school programs. All good causes. But look closer and you find a link to the organization’s position on factory farms – which Good Food defines as large agricultural enterprises where animals are raised in confined settings and feed purchased or grown feed instead of allowing the animals to graze. Red flag No. 2. According to that definition, anyone that feeds sheep, cattle, pigs etc. during the winter months is now a factory farm. So I guess that means I’m one of the bad guys now, despite the fact we feed our cattle corn and milo grown on our farm.

Moving on down the list of Good Food issues, I come to genetically engineered – or genetically modified – foods. I support GMOs because they allow a declining number of farms to feed a growing number of people. But the Good Food organization believes GMOs can be blamed for the death of millions on butterflies, increased antibiotic resistance and the contamination of the general food supply. They want everyone to abandon GMO crops and move to only organic fruits, vegetables, grains and beef. In 2001, Good Food created the Farmer to Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering, an organization still hard at work today informing family farmers and consumers who care about the environment about the legal, financial and health implications of genetic engineering in agriculture.

The most deceiving part of the concert and its public promotion is that it veils itself as a means to support the average farm family. Who doesn’t want to do that. But a closer look at the money distributed during the concert’s 25-year history shows that less than 1 percent of the money has gone to Kansas. We have thousands of farm families. Where is our assistance?

It’s groups like Good Food, concerts like Farm Aid and campaigns that promise to help farm families while lobbying against some of the most important aspects of modern-day farming  that give the outside world an unclear and distorted picture of agriculture. When you hear about an organization promoting itself as an agriculture advocacy group, take a second look. You might be surprised at what you might find behind the flashy slogan and promise to save rural America.

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