When I took over as Editor here at WAR and penned my first “Thoughts” column, I quoted my Grandpa who many times said, “they might have to get hungry before they figure it out.”
I knew in my heart that was true, but I did not know, nor believe, that I would live to see that day – especially in as little as two years.
Most Americans have yet to “get hungry” in the face of this pandemic, but as grocery stores work around the clock to keep shelves stocked, our nation caught a glimpse of what “hungry” could mean. Yes, it is scary and yes, panic was to follow. As I said back when I wrote my first column, Grandpa was right, the world needs this industry to survive and that’s good news.
When America saw those empty grocery store shelves many, perhaps for the first time in their lives, thought past the store and realized that the cows grazing the pasture, the tractors plowing the ground, the machines milking the cow, and most importantly, the humans caring for and laboring on farms and ranches are at the root of our national security. Americans began to appreciate agriculture.
For me, coming to this realization in two years from when I penned that column seems quick. I understand for those of you that have been laboring on the land for fifty-plus years it may have been a long time coming. Just looking back at the issues our industry faced in the past two years, I think a change in tide was much needed. Even over the past six months, agriculture suffered tremendously. We endured some of the most drastic weather events, ever changing market prices, trade wars, activist attacks, climate change blame, the Tyson fire, and now this.
And we survived all that. But even those that I turn to for advice, a new outlook, and wisdom gained from years in the business began to get down. Folks who are passionate about progressing the beef industry were moved to tears saying something must happen if people my age want to keep the ranch together for generations to come. We knew the real sustainability problem was financial stability, yet we all continued to press on, hoping for a God-sent change.
I think we have come to that turning point. In the spirit of looking for the silver lining, the blessing in disguise, and the light at the end of the tunnel, I believe our industry will come out on the other side of this Corona pandemic in a much better situation.
Americans are pausing to appreciate agriculture. Smog in the cities is reducing and skies are becoming clearer as people stay home, illustrating that the beef supply chain is not the biggest contributor to climate change. Congress has recognized our role in the food supply chain and deemed our industry “essential.” The Department of Justice has been made largely aware of the practices the meatpackers have engaged in for years to benefit themselves at the paralysis of supply chain partners. Our nation’s lawmakers have gone out of their way to aid our industry in this time of need, knowing our wellbeing is equivalent to the wellbeing of the entire nation.
We may not see it in the midst of the panic, but agriculture is situated to come out of this pandemic with a stronger foothold. We have the ear of our lawmakers, willing to help make changes that could improve our bottom line for years to come. We have the appreciation of our nation and people that may have been easily persuaded to believe agriculture is evil.
All of this means that as agriculturalists, our job to share our story is as important as ever. Our job to get involved in the conversations about solutions to our biggest issues is as important as ever. And as always, our job to wake up each day, face the nation’s depressing news, the snowstorm, or the blazing heat and still care for the animals, fields, and people around us is as important as ever.
American farmers and ranchers, you have chosen an essential occupation. You have chosen to wake up each day tasked with feeding a nation that sometimes may not appreciate you. You have chosen to partake in an industry that cannot quit in times of struggle.
And for that choice, you will be rewarded. Better times are just around the corner. Thank you to each and every one of you for “hangin’ in there.”