Defending animal agriculture: What can the ag community do to help?

Defending animal agriculture: What can the ag community do to help?

Our take: Ag groups can work harder to help young farmers make their dreams come true (Part 4 of 4)

This is part four of a four-part series. Find links to other installments at the end of this story.

(Commentary) Leah and Kyle Broshears have a dream: to one day follow in their family's footsteps and raise their children on a hog farm on Leah's family farm in Jackson County, Ind. As we told you these past few days, their dream was coming true when they found themselves in a lawsuit over their planned livestock building.

They plan to fight in court, but they need help. That help has come, so far, from the Indiana Ag Law Foundation and the Indiana Farm Bureau. But they could use more.

After a 6-hour public hearing, Kyle and Leah Broshears were approved for a 4,800-head livestock barn in rural Jackson Co., Ind. They were later sued – before the barn was even built.

With grain prices down and hog prices up, there's a growing need for producers willing to gamble on a future in livestock. But they won't get anywhere if they don't have the resources to fight for their right to farm.

Larger livestock operations have deep pockets, and have won court victories as a result; the odds are stacked against small or young operators like the Broshears. These folks have to hire small town lawyers who may not have the experience needed. That's where farm and commodity organizations can make a real difference.

We've been fed a steady stream of warnings about the dwindling number of farms. We've heard that young farmers are in mass exodus – headed for jobs with more pay and less risk. If Ag groups and their farmer members stay silent on issues like livestock expansion, who is to blame for small farmers going elsewhere? How will young people return to the farm if the opposition is organized far better than we are, and isn't one bit afraid to put their money where their mouth is?

The Broshears are asking for help through an online gofundme account called Save our bacon. It's new and could be a framework for something that might once and for all put up a strong defense for animal agriculture.

Of course, that may be a hard sell, considering few people know about the Broshears' situation. But Ag organizations can validate and showcase the Broshears' story among their members, and out in the Ag community.

"The opposition, in a sense, have crowd funded their lawsuit against us," says Leah. "They are trying to bully us out of this process by crushing us with attorney fees. We would like to level that playing field."

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We're always talking about standing united, but frankly, creating new ad campaigns to educate the public about agriculture may not be enough. Someone has to roll up their sleeves and do the dirty work – call the general media, write letters, and publicly promote the Broshears' crowdfunding idea as a way forward for agriculture.

Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc., has done a good job communicating how technology plays a role in the Broshears' crowdfunding effort. Many groups do work behind the scenes to help farmers know what to expect when they wish to build new livestock facilities. They help farmers understand the local regulatory process and work through worst case scenarios.

"All organizations are stepping up what I call social support of livestock expansion," says Greg Slipher, Indiana Farm Bureau livestock development specialist. "There is a big difference between helping folks through social support, vs. monetary support, which is a whole different set of circumstances – where do you draw the line, and who deserves what? Making those determinations is difficult."

Ag opponents grab the biggest megaphone they can find, stand on the highest mountain and scream out lies, misinformation, false emotion - and sell it all as fact. These people will do anything to achieve their objective. If that's not enough to get Ag organizations motivate to act, what will?

Ag groups can use their bully pulpit and media influence to endorse the Broshears' unique crowd funding effort, so that more and more people throughout the Ag community will donate to their cause.

If we are not as passionate as our opponents, and as willing to do the hard work, we will lose.

This is part four of a four part series. See the other installments:
Defending animal agriculture: Saving the family farm
Defending animal agriculture: Legal battle begins before building
Defending animal agriculture: Fighting back, legally
Defending animal agriculture: What can the ag community do to help? (current entry)

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