Highlighting ag-vocacy: WESTI Ag Days opens with advocacy focus
Worland – For two days, nearly 100 farmers, ranchers and agribusiness men and women gathered together at WESTI Ag Days to learn about the latest research and get inspired to advocate for the agriculture industry. The event opened with nationally renowned speaker, Nebraska rancher and radio personality Trent Loos, on Feb. 14 who honed in on advocacy and advancements in agriculture.
“My wife Kelly and I decided 20 years ago that people didn’t know where their food came from,” Loos said. “We’ve been chasing this rabbit for 20 years. In 2018, our greatest challenge is no longer that people don’t know where they food comes from but the fact that too much of what they don’t know isn’t so.”
Loos looked at how Americans view a number of topics, stating people have been fed rampant misinformation that negatively colors the ag industry.
“We need to educate people,” he explained.
Loos recounted several encounters with people in his life, asking the audience, “How do we educate people who don’t even understand the basic cycle of life?”
He continued, “Our challenge is we have school teachers, regulators and people who live in places like the White House who don’t understand the basic premise of life – everything lives, everything dies, and death with a purpose gives full meaning to life.”
As farmers and ranchers, Loos said it is the agriculture industry’s job to manage life for the benefit of others.
“We create death because, only in death can something else live,” he said. “But, there is a disconnect. The only place most people have any exposure to death is with a loved one. They don’t tend to plants or animals, and they don’t understand the work ethic and responsibility we have to raise an animal, butcher that animal and have the respect for what our livestock give us.”
Loos commented, “This is the gap we have to bridge today.”
Since the 1900s, Loos said agriculture has made great strides, and he noted many people don’t understand or appreciate the improvements seen in the industry.
“In 1900, it required five acres to produce enough to feed one person for a year. Today, it takes one-third of an acre to produce enough food,” he explained. “Because we have science and research that comes from land-grant institutions, we have the technology to produce more with less.”
From the soil health perspective, Loos said many Americans accuse farmers of “raping, pillaging and plundering the earth,” adding, “but they don’t understand basic history.”
“From 1930-37, the Dust Bowl happened as a result of soil erosion due to high temperatures, wind and drought,” Loos emphasized. “From 2007-07, that same area had less measurable precipitation than 1930-37, and the least amount of precipitation measured in history. Did we have the same Dust Bowl scenario? No.”
Improved technology, better stewardship and better understanding have allowed farmers to produce more with less while also protecting the environment in which they farm, he added.
“Everything we have in life is thanks to six inches of top soil and moisture at the right time,” he said.
Loos also looks towards the next generation of farmers and ranchers in the youth on today’s ranchers.
“Too often in farm and ranch communities, we don’t appreciate what it is that we have in the opportunity to raise kids in conjunction with animal agriculture,” he said. “We’re building life skills – no matter how much our 16-year-olds despise it.”
Farm and ranch kids understand life, work ethic, respect for living things and more that many Americans are never exposed to.
However, he cautioned that this generation of Americans bring some new challenges.
For example, Loos looked back on an experience where his daughter didn’t understand a phrase, then turned to him and said, “Dad, either you tell me what it means, or I’m going to Google it.”
“Today, if someone has a question about soil health, antibiotics, the danger of sugar consumption or anything else, they don’t call a dietician, Extension educator or veterinarian,” he said. “Instead, they get on their phone and type it into Google.”
Loos explained American are devaluing human life one step at a time.
“People say the devaluation of human life started with Mickey Mouse being human. Then, instead of Sylvester the Cat eating the cartoon mouse, they became friends,” he said. “One of the first movies that really brought this home was Finding Nemo. Every kid in America knew, ‘Fish are friends, not food.’”
Today, more Americans sleep with their pet than sleep with another human, which further devalues their understanding of human life.
“Who are two of the most important people in our future? Without a doubt, the farmers and ranchers who continue to manage our natural resources so U.S. citizens have a supply of food, fiber, pharmaceuticals and fuel,” Loos said. “Right alongside them, are the U.S. military, who risks their life to protect Americans and the world from human oppression.”
“The reason we’re here is to make food, fiber and fuel for citizens,” he commented, “but we have not left enough time to exercise our right to be heard.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.