I just returned from the American AgriWomen (AAW) Mid-Year meeting in Phoenix, AZ. We spent two full days listening to speakers and developing our policy positions to take them back to Washington D.C. for our annual Fly-In. This was my first Mid-Year meeting but not my first AAW event. Every time I am with these amazing ladies I am inspired keep on advocating for agriculture. Being surrounded with people of like mind and the same goals re-affirms the actions I’m taking to “AgVocate.”
However, probably what I enjoy the most at AAW events is the diversity of agriculture that is brought together. I’ll be honest, I know very little about corn and soybeans but what I do know about is seed crops. That’s probably why I am AAW’s seed crops chair. So gathering with these ladies makes for a great exchange of knowledge and issues facing agriculture in the different regions of the country. We can learn and develop ideas together!
Women in Timber (WIT), an affiliate of AAW, had a large presence at the meeting. WIT is an organization that serves a similar purpose and mission as AAW so it only makes sense that we team together and for the first time WIT and AAW will be in DC together for Fly-In. For multiple reasons I am personally so excited to see WIT and AAW working together.
1) I love the timber industry. I have spent some time working with people in forestry. From my experience they are well-rounded when it comes to the impact of natural resource policy and legislation. They are aware that just because a piece of legislation or policy doesn’t specify their product or industry that can easily change and be detrimental to ALL natural resources. A perfect example of this was during the 2009 Oregon Legislative session and field burning hearings were going on. While the purpose of the bill was to eliminate grass field burning and only specified certain counties, the timber industry testified on the farmers behalf. Knowing all well that they could extend the reach of the bill and easily slip something in that could pertain to slash burning.
2) We can learn from the timber industry. It’s my opinion that we, that natural resource community, got behind the environmental movement because we didn’t feel the need to tell our story. Foresters, farmers and ranchers felt the food on their table, the clothes on their back and the roof over their head told our story for us. This lesson can easily be seen from the economic devastation that the spotted owl did to the timber industry. I’m not saying they didn’t work to fight the “green agenda” when the spotted owl issue arose but at that point the “Green” PR campaign was far ahead. However, we are aware of this now and any time we forget why we’re “AgVocating” it’s easy to look back and see where not telling our story got us.
3) It is VITAL we stick together. I know we all have our separate challenges in our relative industries, but if we are not unified we are more likely to be “picked” off one by one. Our end goal is the same, to keep our natural resource industries vital and relevant in the United States. They are our livelihoods and the green agenda is set out to destroy that.
I am already looking forward to the next time I can get together with the women of WIT and AAW. I know we will be able to accomplish amazing things together, as we already do great things!
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has produced an “analysis” today stating that out of the top 5 commodity groups (US Rice Producers, American Soybean Assoc, National Cotton Council, National Assoc of Wheat Growers, and National Corn Growers Assoc.) and the 228 board members that only 3 of them are women. That is disappointing.
However, today a couple of articles that reported these findings were severely misleading as they took the analysis to mean that women really have nothing to do with “Big Ag” (a term I hate) and their PR campaigns using women are just ploy to fool consumers.
One article in particular caught my attention because of the opening line “Big Ag is big business — and big profits” and continued on with negative verbage slamming successful conventional farms and commodities. The article “Male Dominated Big Ag woos women with paternalistic marketing blitz” by Sheila Karpf made several erroneous accusations at conventional agriculture. A sector of agriculture I love.
1) “Big Ag is big business — and big profits” So what? First of all what’s “big ag”? It’s a successful family farm that has grown through good production, marketing and financial management, and agriculture is agriculture no matter what size the farm is. Also, I wish someone would tell me what is wrong making a profit because I have yet to figure that out!
2)Big Ag is using women in campaigns to “polish their tarnished reputation” There is no “tarnished reputation” there is an image of agriculture that has been misrepresented since Rachel Carson. People in the natural resource industry fell behind in marketing because of the obvious, why should farmers market when they are producing the food on your table. However we now have come to realize that people are disconnected from their food and have “hunger” to learn about it. That’s what organizations like the EWG don’t like. Today, farmers and ranchers are spreading the word that food is produced safer than ever before whether it’s conventional or organic. Farmers and ranchers are telling their story of how they care for their land and animals because it’s their business and their livelihood. If they don’t care for their farms and livestock they’re out of a job. Science is being used to point out that the chemicals used on crops are not poisoning the population. Farmers are demonstrating how using science in farm operations has reduced environmental impact while becoming more efficient in production. We are correcting the misconceptions and lies that have been spread over the last 40 years.
3)”since we’re keeping score, the leaders of all three national organic food and agriculture organizations are women…” Here tally these: 50% of the farmland owned in the US is owned by women. Five women are currently serving as their State’s Department of Agriculture directors. That includes Oregon, Idaho and California. There are farm and ranch organizations dedicated to the advancement of women in agriculture such as American Agri-Women or American National Cattlewomen. Ms. Karpf was clearly not looking very hard for women involved in “Big Ag.”
It is a shame that more farm and ranch women are not in “titled” leadership roles in agriculture. However, their voice and leadership is heard and seen in day-to-day farm operations and board rooms. In my own family farm decisions are not made without my mom’s approval. That’s the way it’s been for four generations.