• Food Dialogues with US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance

    by  • April 11, 2012 • Farm & Market Tours, Featured, Local Food • 17 Comments

    usfra logoDo you know about the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA)? It is a newly created umbrella organization of state farm bureaus and grower’s councils. Their mission is to “lead the dialogue and answer Americans’ questions about how we raise our food”. Their new website Food Dialogues is designed to help facilitate conversations about how people, the planet, and businesses are affected by agriculture.

    I have been a member of the Ohio Farm Bureau (OFB), member of USFRA, for over a decade. This relationships started because of their Nationwide insurance discounts and continues because I want to be part of the food culture in Ohio.

    sheep grazing kokoborrego

    Conflicted History

    My feelings about the Ohio Farm Bureau, and hence the USFRA, are mixed, though. While the OFB presents the stories of friends Sippel Family Farm and Marilou Suszko in their lovely and informative Our Ohio magazine, the values advocated by OFB are often out of line with my own. I passionately argued against the intrusion of ‘livestock care board’ into the Ohio state constitution while the Farm Bureau helped deceive Ohioans into voting for Issue Two a few years ago. Similarly, while I believe in the rights of workers to organize, the Farm Bureau presented anti-union arguments in last fall’s Ohio Senate Bill 5. I truly couldn’t understand their position on SB 2, as the farm bureau itself is an organization of workers.

    The USFRA is made up of other groups that ruffle my feathers, including Monsanto, Dow AgriSciences, and DuPoint as “Industry and Premier Partners”. Behind the scenes, these monied and influential businesses promote agricultural bills that generally work against the diverse, organic, small farms that I believe are healthiest for farmers, consumers, and the environment.

    Continue the Conversation

    Despite conflicts, I believe that staying in the discussion is important. If local food advocates turn their backs on the USFRA, our voice will be lost. Perhaps by making some noise about what we want to see in the food system, we can affect change.

    There are so many reasons to speak up. The honeybees and rivers need advocates to call attention to how farm waste can affect species far from farm sites. People who do not have the time or courage to speak up – the working poor, undocumented immigrants, and children – need us to insist on affordable food that does not compromise human and environmental health. People like me who care about antibiotic overuse must speak up for the farm animals who are given disturbing quantities and varieties of medicines to stay alive during stressful raising conditions. Farmer workers themselves, sometimes locked into contracts to use products that may be harmful to their personal health, need consumers to demand safe growing conditions.

    The USFRA is hosting conversations virtually at Food Dialogues and on their facebook page. I set up my profile and joined the Facebook page to ask questions like:

    • How will the USFRA support and grow the number of small organic farms in the US?
    • Why is there arsenic and antidepressants in chickens and what is the USFRA doing to stop this practice?
    • How can environmental protection be promoted when agricultural subsidies encourage over-production?
    • Transporting livestock to slaughter, produce across the country, and even farm workers between farms uses an excessive amount of fossil fuels. The Eat Local movement reduces this demand. How will the USFRA support reduced ‘food miles’?
    • Why are there no councils or groups of produce growers in the USFRA? Maybe if a vegetable council promoted fresh produce, Americans would have more access to affordable fresh food.

    Please join me in dialogue about growing food in the US. Leave a comment below (about agriculture, food, or anything you like) and enter to win a prize package of a Crock-Pot Programmable 6-Quart Slow Cooker and two reusable designer shopping bags from Envirosax.

    crockpot giveawayenvirosack giveaway

    Giveaway details: Prize package is a Crock-Pot Programmable 6-Quart Slow Cooker and two reusable designer shopping bags from Envirosax. Prize Pack ERV – $68. Prize is provided and delivered by USFRA; Entrants agree to not hold Rachel Tayse Baillieul or Hounds in the Kitchen liable for the prize. Entry open to US resident adults 18 years of age and older. Entries as comments on this site will be accepted from 10 am EST Wednesday April 11, 2012 – 10 am EST Wednesday April 18, 2012. One winner will be chosen on Wednesday April 18, 2012 by random.org and notified via email. In the event that a winner does not respond within 48 hours, a new winner will be selected.

    Disclosure: The US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance paid me a stipend to introduce readers to their Food Dialogues website and Facebook page. All opinions are clearly my own.

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    I live to eat and eat to live, planning every meal to include as much local and seasonal abundance as possible. My favorite color is purple, my favorite vegetable is whatever is fresh and local, and my favorite drink is whatever you're pouring. Follow me @racheltayse


    17 Responses to Food Dialogues with US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance

    1. April 11, 2012 at 9:12 am

      I just don’t trust this, especially since Monsanto is a big backer and is on the board for this. Maybe that’s naive, but I’ve heard enough about what they do to shut down small, family farms, and it sickens me.

      • April 11, 2012 at 10:27 am

        I agree but can we really just let the ‘powers that be’ continue without speaking up? They’re asking for dialogue and I think those of us who want to see change in the system have to engage.

    2. April 11, 2012 at 9:46 am

      While I applaud their effort to reach the slow food movement, I really feel like they are a wolf in sheeps clothing (and a really obvious one at that) I find it really hard to get behind an organization that is crushing our food rights and is so closely associated with the big ag companies that clearly have other motives then our health and well being.

      That said, I love crock pots and couldn’t begin to count the number of times that I wish I had a second one since I always seem to have chicken stock going in mine, and then it’s not available for pot roast.

      • April 11, 2012 at 10:28 am

        I felt really funny posting this because I don’t want to endorse the organization for the very reason you mentioned: it seems like the site is all talk and no action. Yet, I can’t ignore the call for conversation…

    3. Cat
      April 11, 2012 at 10:05 am

      As a mother of 2, almost 3, and low on funds, I have had to resort to using WIC assistance to temporarily help feed my family and am extremely conflicted with the choices I am given. Until I applied for WIC, the only eggs I would buy were free range (cage free until I realized that cage-free didn’t necessarily mean humane). I have had to put aside my ideals and values to accept government assistance, and something about that feels wrong. It’s temporary, I tell myself, but I fear I will become complacent in the face of free food. The food offered through WIC (with exception to the produce choices, the choices of which I have a little more control over and can choose organic) is from the larger farms that probably use all the antibiotics and medicines to raise their output. Makes me wonder if this is the best choice for my family.

      • April 11, 2012 at 10:30 am

        We all have to make choices about what we buy. I think cheap food is inexpensive only because the true costs (to the envionment and health) are being ignored. Hopefully by continuing to make noise, big ag might hear that consumers want change.

      • April 11, 2012 at 1:25 pm

        Cathy, we’ve been on WIC before, and there was so much about it that bothered me. And I realize that it is comepetely a first world problem that I’m complaining that I can’t get raw milk and pastured eggs with my gov’t assistance, but I was still very conflicted when the choice was real nutrition that I felt good about giving my family, and the gov’t assistance that made the budget balance. If you qualify for food stamps, there are fewer restrictions about what you can get. Right now we are on food stamps, but not WIC, because I can make my fs dollars really stretch and not compromise as much in the areas that are important to me. They take fs at Whole Foods, Costco, and Trader Joes.

    4. Candy
      April 11, 2012 at 11:02 am

      Antidepressants in chickens? I clearly have a lot to learn!

    5. Ashley M
      April 11, 2012 at 12:27 pm

      I don’t know much about these organizations, but I’m thankful that there are people in the conversation that are thinking critically about food access for all that is safe and environmentally sound.

    6. April 11, 2012 at 1:51 pm

      What a well thought-out post, Rachel! Though, as a regular reader/lurker of your blog, I wouldn’t expect anything different!

      As a brief re-introduction, we met last year during Ohio Farm Bureau’s “Bringing It to the Table” conference where you were a panelist about blogging, (which in my biased opinion was the best session of the day!)

      I just want you to know that I really appreciate where you are coming from on all sides of this, mixed feelings and all.

      I will be the first one to admit past discussions about our food have left something to be desired. But that shouldn’t prevent us from having meaningful and relevant conversations moving forward.

      Ohio Farm Bureau is a part of USFRA because we support these conversations about food and farming on multiple fronts. Before us is an opportunity to take a more open, transparent, and constructive approach to critical thinking for our food communities at all levels.

      Diversity of thought and opinions is encouraged for Ohio Farm Bureau to carry out its mission. So just as you encourage all to be a part of USFRA dialogues, we encourage all to be a part of ours as well. Our organization’s stances all start at the local level, where the more engagement our members provide, the more it affects what we do.

      I thank you for your continued membership and encourage you to explore the opportunity and impact you and your friends can have in your communities through Farm Bureau.

      I’ll also invite you and your readers to be a part of a Facebook Group called “Ohio’s Advisory Council” where any Ohioan can join in conversations about food, agriculture, the environment and pretty much anything of the like. It’s not a place to push agendas, but a place to share ideas and have conversations about the issues at hand. (It’s a closed group to keep it to Ohioans, but you can request to join at http://bit.ly/ohiosadvisorycouncil)

      I think you’ll discover some pleasant folks who will make for thoughtful, challenging and productive conversation. While these discussions are sometimes difficult, working through the hurdles will help develop the dialogue that is long overdue.

      I apologize for the long-winded reply. But I wanted you to know we appreciate your thoughts.

      We’d love to have you, your readers and friends be an active part in helping us have better conversations, both online and offline.

      Dan Toland
      Director of Digital Strategy
      Ohio Farm Bureau

    7. Ann
      April 11, 2012 at 2:01 pm

      I think the questions you posted are very good ones. I’m saddened by the fact that the USFRA is represented by organizations that hold such a deep conflict of interest. It reads more like a lobbying group than anything else.

    8. Allison
      April 11, 2012 at 6:39 pm

      Change has to come from somewhere. Thanks for a great post, Rachel!

    9. April 11, 2012 at 10:13 pm

      I feel the same about #agchat and #foodchat on twitter, though sometimes I feel that sometimes neither side is represented well. We call things pink slime – and they call it lean finely textured beef. Then we say – no way , and they point out, that in order to stop we’ll have to waste a lot more of the cow and cause more carbons. It’s so confusing, but not to listen is worse.

    10. Liesel
      April 11, 2012 at 10:16 pm

      I appreciate your candor and your commitment to dialogue. Although I think that local, smaller-scale, organic (certified or not) family farms are the best way to grow and distribute food in addition to backyard gardening, the shift back to that model will not happen overnight. I was encouraged to read the NYTimes article today about the FDA’s new guidelines requiring veterinarian oversight of the use of antibiotics in farm animals, and especially restricting the use of antibiotics to medically necessary situations to protect the health or life of the animal, rather than for growth promotion or other production efficiency reasons. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/12/us/antibiotics-for-livestock-will-require-prescription-fda-says.html?hp

      I have some residual confusion, because the news article makes this program sound like a rule or a requirement, while the FDA’s own press release and FAQs make it sound like a recommendation that the industry can “voluntarily” follow.

      I think this is a small step in the right direction, especially with regard to protecting public health in the face of increasing antibiotic resistance, and it at least begins to address one of the problems with industrial animal production.

    11. April 12, 2012 at 10:45 am

      The Farm Bureau was good when it started but like anything that gets too big, very few people can agree with all thay stand for or support.Size to me seems to be the problem. My mother once told me that she and my father were thinking of buying more land and becoming “big farmers”. They chose not to because they knew they wouid have to use more cheicals than what was good for any living thing, including the soil.
      Now My brother and sister in law are raising crops and livestock on their very small farm using organic methods. They can not get an organic certification because thy can not afford to keep other farmers run off water away from their land, but I would trust their chickens, eggs and Katadin “hair”sheep meat over any other food products because I know how the land and animals are treated. No Large farm can treat their crops with as much care and devotion to the earth as they can because they are devoted to the concepsts plus doing the work themseles.
      Don’t feel funny aboput the insurance, they buy the FB insurance because that is what they can afford,very few people can agree with everything when an organization gets too big.

    12. Carmen
      April 17, 2012 at 11:00 pm

      We try and grow or raise as much food as we can. But with just a single acre, that’s not much. Someday we hope to own a small farm.

    13. April 21, 2012 at 8:32 pm

      I’m glad to see that a dialogue is being talked about. The effort to confront big systems can get mentally and emotionally taxing. When I start to feel burned out, I turn back inward and focus on the little ways I can combat the wrongs that I see around me. Then when I’m reenergized, I’m pleased to see that the forces on “my side” have grown. Each time the call for action is louder and louder. It’s good to recognize that any progress is good, but it’s still frustrating to think about how far things still need to move.

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