The Coming War On Agriculture

As the annual gathering for members of the ag retail community, the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) meeting is a great place to hear about the major challenges and opportunities facing the marketplace. I’ve written about several of the more high profile of these in recent columns.

However, there’s one topic I’ve not discussed yet. Part of the reason is that it didn’t come up as often as such topics as a downturn in fertilizer demand or questions about the next Farm Bill. But I believe it has the potential to dog the industry not only in 2014 but for many, many years to come.

What is this danger? One ag retailer I spoke with at ARA put it best: “I’m worried about the coming war on the way agriculture is done. There’s a dangerous disconnect between agriculture and the public and it could threaten many of the ways agricultural business is conducted.”

In many ways, this fight is already underway. For years, various special interest groups have spread their opinion that biotech crops are bad (despite scientific evidence to the contrary). In a similar manner, the regulations regarding farming near waterways and application procedures are becoming more strict.

Which topic do you expect will be the most active in 2014?

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And if industry insiders are to believed, ag retailers that handle crop nutrients are next on the list in part because of the aftermath of the West Fertilizer plant explosion. Likewise, as new cropping systems tied to crop protection products such as dicamba and 2,4-D enter the market, agriculture can expect even more scrutinity from regulators and the general public.

To combat these potential threats, it will be important to not only keep up with any activities in your areas regarding these topics, but stay in regular touch with your local, state and national trade groups. Otherwise, the problem will undoubtedly get worse before it gets better.

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One comment on “The Coming War On Agriculture

  1. Eric hits the issue squarely. Ag has been experiencing multiple attacks from people who do not understand the industry, but worry about how the work is done. Our business is relatively visible, with large equipment operated on farms along highways and roads. Historically ag has relied on state and national trade associations to defend our work and the products we use to grow food and fiber (on lean budgets). We have witnessed the introduction of farmers learning to talk to the public about the way they work and care for animals and crops. These get positioned by the uninformed or malicious citizen activist as simply mouthpieces for the large ag business companies. I am becoming very concerned that our regulatory authorities, which conduct robust evaluations of the data in deciding that new technology and products meet a rigorous standard of ‘likely to not adversely effect human health or the environment’, are not doing enough to communicate this process to the public. Absent this, the public is left to hear only the fear-mongering. EPA and their State Lead Agencies which bear the mantle of managing the use of these products, need to step up their outreach education to the public. If they are not careful, the public will start to believe the activists and take the authority for managing these products to their local communities, with little scientific engagement or rigor.

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