“While the affluent nations can certainly afford to adopt ultra low-risk positions toward new advances in agricultural science and technology, and pay more for food produced by the so-called organic methods, the 1 billion chronically undernourished people of the low-income, food-deficit nations cannot,” said Nobel Prize winner, Norman Borlaug in a 2001 speech. “With low-cost food supplies and urban bias, is it any wonder that affluent consumers don't understand the complexities of reproducing the world food supply each year in its entirety, and expanding it further for the nearly 80 million additional mouths that are born into this world each year?
“It is imperative that this serious educational gap in industrialized nations be addressed. One way to do so, I believe, is to make it compulsory in secondary schools and universities for students to take courses on biology and food and agricultural technology.”
Until such wise advice is heeded, it's too easy to feel helpless in the onslaught of negative fiction spread by one eco-maniac, animal rights psychopath or another.
It's too easy to forget that the increased advocacy that industry survival demands is miles from the starting point. 4-H and FFA were the first agriculture-urban bridges of education erected around the turn of the century. Since then, they've done nothing but adapt and grow, while holding true to their original mission statements, which always had as much to do with cultivating intrinsic values like honesty and leadership as providing practical education.
Many of you likely know what it's like to receive the evil but bleary eye of a parent as you scribbled furiously to complete record books in time for the fair just a few hours away. Many of you likely have also lent your talents to members of these organizations as leaders, advisors, hosts, etc. God bless you.
Currently, 4-H serves 6 million young people. National FFA enrollment last year was 500,000. Combined, that's more than triple the number of agricultural producers.
As their own demographics indicate, that means lots of suburban and urban youth are learning about the connection between them and agriculture if not about agriculture, specifically. They're learning as they develop relationships with one another as part of a larger community. And, it seems that sense of community is what's missing in the lives of many people these days, young and old.
Get past these mainstays and the outlook is brighter than it's ever been.
Consider the National Beef Ambassador program, sponsored by the American National CattleWomen (ANCW) and the Cattlemen's Beef Board. The most recent team of five was selected last month. As a judge, I saw them in action with their peers competing for those coveted positions. You'd be proud to have any of them representing the industry.
Most recently, ANCW teamed up with Animal Agriculture Alliance to create College Aggies Online, expressly designed to foster agricultural advocacy.
Or, go online and check out www.ilovefarmers.org. It originated with current and former students at Cal Poly State University who are engaging their generational peers in the truth about agriculture.
This is just a short list, too. It doesn't begin to address other pro-agricultural efforts like those you'll find at Truth in Food), www.explorebeef.org, Masters of Beef Advocacy program (e-mail MBA@beef.org) or other sites that provide the wherewithal to respond to activist attacks.
What any of this has to do with cattle economics is simple: you can't grow an industry, nurture it, defend it and bequeath it, if it no longer exists.
Kids and young people have always been the surest investment because they represent the most positive of all who have come before. Whenever you have the chance, thank them and the volunteers serving them for carrying such a heavy load. Keep on doing whatever you can to help, too, just as long as their record books are done.