By: Hope Pjesky
Since 2007 I have been blessed and honored to have the opportunity to travel to several other countries and visit agricultural operations. I have also had the opportunity to host farmers from many other countries on my farm in northern Oklahoma.
During this time, one thing has become obvious to me and that is farmers everywhere have a lot in common. Farmers all have similar challenges and opportunities.
I support all farmers, no matter what country they are from. I know farmers from every continent and I have lost count of how many different countries and I support them all.
I support all farmers, no matter what size their farm is. My farm is middle sized by American standards. I know some very large farmers from developed nations and some smallholder farmers from developing nations and I support them all.
I support all farmers, no matter what they produce. I produce beef cattle and wheat on my farm. I know farmers who produce virtually every kind of crop and food animal on earth and I support them all.
I support all farmers, no matter what production practices they use. I use conventional production practices on our farm. I know farmers that use organic, biodynamic, natural, free range, grass fed, no-till, confinement and high tech production practices using all the latest technology including biotechnology, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones and other animal health products and I support them all.
I want all farmers to be productive and have a good life. I am careful to not be selfish in the policies that I advocate. Because I have a much larger world view now, I only speak out on issues that I believe would benefit all farmers. I encourage all farmers to look beyond their individual farm and think about the larger agriculture and food industry around the world.
When I was in Southeast Asia I saw some farmers that had a much better quality of life than other farmers in the same countries. The difference was they had been given the tools to access world markets for their products. I support free trade because it benefits both small farmers in developing nations and larger farmers in developed countries.
I know farmers from many countries that cannot access technologies that they want to use that have been proven safe and effective because their government has banned the use of them. I also know consumers that would like to be able to purchase products that they do not have access to because their government will not allow the products to enter their country even though they are perfectly safe. These people should have the right to choose.
There are also many farmers in this world that would be much more productive if they had at least the same level of private property rights that farmers have in the United States. These are the issues that I advocate for and I try to be as ideologically pure on these issues as I can. I strive to never to be a hypocrite.
I have also learned that there is no universally good or bad agricultural practice and no perfect size for a farm. A practice that you believe to be the best in your area could be completely wrong in another part of the country or world. Something that you think would be a horrible practice in your area can be absolutely correct in another place.
With nine billion people to feed by 2050 and a quickly increasing middle class around the world, farmers around the world should not be competing with each other. Farmers should be supporting each other so that all farmers can be productive and have good lives. If that happens consumers will also benefit. There will be markets for all of our products.
One of the biggest challenges that farmers all have is activist groups that attack agriculture from every possible direction. How can farmers ever expect to be successful in combating those attacks if farmers are saying negative things about each other? In fact some of those activist groups get their negative ideas about agriculture from other farmers.
I support all farmers. Wouldn’t everyone be better off if all farmers felt that way?
This post first appeared as a guest commentary article in the November 2014 issue of Farm Journal.