Food Inc - An Example Why We Must Continue Educating Others About Ag

Posted: 10/1/2009

Posted By:  Steve Dick

Last week I had the opportunity to see a film that was released earlier this summer.  The film is the documentary titled Food, Inc.  For those unfamiliar with the film, it is a one-sided view of modern agriculture and food production.  The film has not been shown at any major theatres in South Dakota and had a very limited showing in Milbank at the end of July. 

About 300 people attended the film's showing at a hotel ballroom in Sioux Falls, many of them patients of the chiropractor who sponsored the film.  Although many of the folks in attendance probably had a grandfather or an uncle who farmed, and more than likely have very fond memories of visiting the farm, it was obvious throughout the film that they have very little exposure to modern day agriculture. 

When images of chickens being transport in cages on trucks, filmgoers sighed their displeasure. They let out similar sighs at images of hogs being transported in trucks or cattle standing in a feedlot.  These gasping sounds throughout the movie indicated to me that there is an incredible disconnect with agriculture.  The interesting part is that some of agricultural practices shown are not a whole lot different than what happened 50 years ago:  chickens were put in cages and loaded on trucks, and hogs and cattle travelled to a packing house in a truck.  Apparently those filmgoers with memories of grandpa's farm weren't visiting him the day the Campbell's Soup truck came to pick up the old laying hens. 

In addition to the clever editing, the filmmakers reached back into old files to bring out some of their favorite images ... hogs on top of barns in North Carolina during a flood and an old cow being propped up with a fork lift at a packing plant ... all images that received more gasps of disbelief from the audience.

What the film did not show was the environmental stewardship and animal welfare that farm families practice every day, just like they did 50 years ago.  The difference now is that technology has made it possible to reduce to the impact that agriculture has on the environment and achieve the types of yields and efficiencies that our grandfathers could only dream about.

Changing farming practices along with advancing technology have allowed for a 37 percent reduction in the land needed to produce one bushel of corn.  Even more importantly, those yield increases are happening on existing land with less energy and less soil erosion. 

 When I left the hotel ballroom where the film was shown, I was even more convinced that farmers and those of us who believe in the future of U.S. agriculture must work 24/7 to tell our stories.  All too often, however, this is a task that many farmers overlook while they are busy producing a safe, reliable and affordable food supply for our nation and the world.


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