To correct misinformation about beef production and consumption, Cassie Payne has established the blog, "Food, Think." She says the use of social media has provided an unprecedented opportunity for her and many others to share real-world experiences and ag messages with a large urban audience.

Among the individuals following her blog is her former professor from Vanderbilt University, who has provided feedback to Payne telling her how “refreshing” the information is that she shares about the real people in the food industry.

Payne’s posts include commentaries on articles in popular press that address food production and research-related issues such as genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and hormones. In August, she commented on her visit to a Nebraska feedlot, where she was especially impressed by the level of constant care given to the animals.

For more of Payne’s perceptions, view her blog athttp://foodthinkforum.blogspot.com/

USDA Secretary calls for ag advocacy

Recently asked how rural Americans can remind lawmakers of agriculture’s importance to the nation, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack responded:

“The first thing we must do is educate the rest of the country about the significance and the importance of what farm families do and what rural communities do for the entire country. There seems to be an undeserved lack of appreciation or acknowledgement on the part of mainline media, and many political leaders, for what you all do for us."

Vilsack says America has an extraordinary advantage over the rest of the world because it has the rare capacity to feed itself.

"Whenever people walk out of the grocery store in this country, they walk out with more money in their pockets as a percentage of their paycheck than virtually anybody else in the world. Even with food prices going up 4-5%, Americans are still using only 6-7% of their income for food," he says. Meanwhile, consumers in other countries – both developed and developing – utilize 15-50% of their income for food.

"Never appreciated, never acknowledged, never understood" is how Vilsack characterizes consumers' perception of agriculture.

“So if we want our folks, our political leaders to understand the significance of what you all do, and support it adequately, the 99% of us who don’t understand what you all do have got to understand how important that 1% is,” he says.