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Activists vs. Agriculture: Farmers Versus Ranchers

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By: M.P. Cremer

McDonald’s and Burger King; Microsoft and Apple; Hatfields and McCoys; farmers and ranchers??? This is a column I’ve been avoiding for years now, but it’s time we address the elephant in the room: What’s the beef between farmers and ranchers?

Some of you may be sitting back in your seat and wondering what I’m even talking about – this is OK, up until a few years ago I didn’t realize there was any issues between the two parties. However, in recent years, I’ve come to notice a…well, there’s no other way to put it…weird relationship between these two sets of agriculturists.

Let’s define our terms before we go any further.

By definition, a farmer is a person who owns or manages a farm. A farm is “an area of land and its buildings used for growing crops and rearing animals, typically under the control of one owner or manager.”

A rancher, as defined, is a person who owns or runs a ranch. A ranch is “a large farm, especially in the western U.S. and Canada, where cattle or other animals are bred and raised.”

The two definitions are similar, but to me, the biggest difference comes with what the rancher or farmer prioritizes most. Farmers prioritize crop production more than they do raising animals while ranchers prioritize raising animals over crop production. The two parties are not exactly the same, but they share a common goal of raising products to feed others.

Because of this shared goal/end result, one would think farmers and ranchers would get along like two peas in a pod, but according to ranchers and farmers, one would be sorely mistaken.

According to an abundance of Google searches, this feud began when the western part of the U.S. was settled. Back when land was there for the taking, farmers and ranchers would battle it out to see who got prime grazing/crop producing land. Nowadays, we have a better idea of what land is better for crops and what land is better to raise animals and, for the most part, many farmers and ranchers respect those boundaries.

For example, there’s a large number of farms in northeast Texas because the land is great for crop production. However, in south-central Montana, there’s a large number of ranches because the land is good for cattle and not crops. Meaning a person who wants to grow hundreds of acres of commercial soybeans isn’t going to buy land in Big Timber, Mont. and start tilling the ground. It’s basic ecology.

As I said earlier, nowadays, agriculturists respect these differences a little more than they did in the days of the Wild West. 

So, what’s the deal? I wish I could pinpoint an answer and run with it, but as most relationships go, this one is complicated. I think it all comes down to a difference in choice of lifestyle and the competition which accompanies it.

Looking at their yearly timeline alone, you’ve got planting and harvest season for farmers and calving and shipping season for ranchers. Farmers have equipment in their barn where ranchers have livestock in theirs. Farmers worry about commodity prices where ranchers worry about market prices. Farmers do most of their work from the seat of a tractor whereas ranchers do most of their work horseback or on an ATV of sorts.

I think this difference creates a competition between the two parties. Maybe I’m wrong, but it always seems like one has something snarky to say about the other. This is not unique to farmers and ranchers, we see it all the time in everyday life: Ford owners and Chevy owners, basketball players and football players, your small town and the incredibly similar  small town 20 miles down the road. 

To outsiders, all of these things are just two patterns cut from the same cloth; but to the parties involved, it seems like they’re vastly different – and don’t you dare say otherwise.

But here I go, daring to say otherwise: You know what the biggest difference between farmers and ranchers is? How they’re not so different at all.

They each begin work when the sun comes up and sometimes stop when the sun goes down – most of the time they work until after dark.

They each pray for rain, take pride in their labor and focus all their time and energy on making sure whatever land they own is plentiful for generations to come.

They each feed you and me, and they do a dang good job of it too.

Sure, there are some differences, but at their core, ranchers and farmers are doing everything they possibly can to provide basic nourishment for the world – so why not capitalize on this instead of focusing on our differences?

Agriculturists around the globe need to work together to protect our livelihood, they need to quit battling it out amongst themselves and focus on a common enemy because that’s exactly what the common enemy (lab grown food) wants us to do. I mean, how can we as agriculturists expect the rest of the world to take us seriously if we can’t get along, or better yet, lift each other up?

So, what if the farmer next door never vaccinated a sheep? Who cares if the rancher down the road has never operated an expensive combine? No one gives a rip if your neighbor raises cows or corn. At the end of the day, everyone has a place in the world. If farmers and ranchers don’t learn to work together and respect one another’s roles in the food system, they’ll be destroyed by lab grown, ultra-processed, FAKE food.

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