Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The "Inequality of Consequence"

I have been watching the media coverage of various events lately and I am struck by the recurring pictures of protesters everywhere. Protesters in the middle east. Protesters in the Wisconsin State House. Protesters at the local school board (concerned citizens in larger than normal numbers). And now I hear a rally is being planned by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) for the next meeting of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board (OLCSB) on May 5, 2011.

We the people
Why have otherwise peaceful places of government suddenly fostered soooo many protest? What should we think of these things? How should government respond?

Let me speak to the one that I have some knowledge of, the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.

The voters of Ohio established the board to consider issues surrounding farm animal care in the state of Ohio. The bipartisan board is to look at these issues through multiple lenses. Economics, bio security, animal welfare, and science to name a few. They have made several decisions on issues over the last year and are moving forward methodically toward others. The announced rally by HSUS promises to be the first test of the board's resolve in the face of  opposition. Will the board hold firm to it's announced intent to allow the close confinement of veal calves for a period of time or will it reverse direction in the face of opposition?

As a farmer, I really enjoy the quiet of my rural life where the main rule of peaceful existence is "Mind your own business, and your neighbor probably isn't as big an idiot as it appears as you drive by". I, along with the millions of others that supported the establishment of the board, don't want to have to deal with protesting and rallying. We want to live quiet and peaceful lives at home, with our wives, our children, our land, and our animals. I really don't want the board to start making decisions based on who posts the most comments to a proposed rule, or who can rally the most vocal crowd at a meeting. The board is supposed to me making decisions based on the best available science, experienced reason, and thoughtful comment.

But vocal opposition to governance seems to be the way of the world right now. Is that right? Is that good?

I fully expect the agricultural community to quietly conform to the decisions of the Care Board even if those decisions do great harm and ultimately force decisions that otherwise would not be considered. Will the vocal opposition ultimately conform to the decision of the board? To do so would indicate their acceptance of the idea that the board is looking out for the best interest of the people of Ohio and the care of the animals within it's borders.

In God we trust
Why is there angst in the agricultural community over these decisions?

There appears to be a basic inequality of consequence between the agricultural community and the vocal oppositition to Care Board decisions. What do I mean by an, "inequality of consequence"?  It is the idea that to one community of people a board decision has greatly disproportionate effects than the same decision has for another community.

The agricultural community knows that a bad Board decision can be disastrous to the agricultural community on all levels. Emotionally, socially, financially, and even spiritually a decision hits the agricultural community very deeply. For some there will be no opportunity to "fight again another day". For some a bad Board decision will force them to decide where to live and what to raise. Some will move to new communities, disrupting marriages, families, schools, Churches and all the things that go with being relocated. They and their talents will have been forced out of the agricultural community of their choice, never to return.
The pursuit of happiness

From my view point, a board decision that is upsetting to the vocal opposition is, well, upsetting. They may be mad, frustrated, and disgusted but at the end of the day they can go home to life pretty much as it always has been. A single decision does not change the social fabric of the community they live in. They will not be forced to decide if they want to continue to live and raise their children in the state. It will not put them at financial peril. Their lifestyle will not have been threatened.  It may actually strengthen their resolve and pull their community together. In any event they will be able to "fight again another day". Their talents will not have been lost to their community.
We must earn their trust

I have left several questions unanswered in this short discussion. I hope they propel your thoughts forward.

Thanks you for your attention.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The role of "Food" in your life.

I have been away from posting for a little while because I have been involved in many meetings that have consumed my time. February and March are the "meeting season" for farmers if you are unfamiliar. Seed meetings, crop protection meetings, annual meetings, church meetings, family meetings, business meetings, and so on. But all this time in meetings has given me time to experience people in a new way.

Farm people seem to look at life/food slightly differently than our non-farm counterparts. I admit I have not yet got a good handle on how my non-farm counterparts think but I know it is differently. As a farmer, food is life. Food animates every action of every day.

Farm people know at the bottom of their soul that food can interrupt their day at any time. Just today my facebook "friends" had a lively stream going about doing chores in their formalware and heals. If the cattle get out while you are at church, guess what? If the machine breaks and chores are delayed, guess what? If someone gets sick or delayed, guess what? You may be taking care of food in your formalwear and heals. Life/food just interrupted your day.

Likewise, a farmer knows at the bottom of his soul that food puts money in his bank account and takes it out without warning or asking. It is not uncommon to see the equivilant of a year's worth of college tuition move in and out of my bank account from a change in the weather on a foriegn continent. If the weather is "good" and prices are favorable, guess what? If the weather is bad or prices are troubled, guess what. Life/food just interrupted your day.

The same can be said for disease outbreaks. A crop can be wiped out by a single disease. A herd distroyed by a single outbreak. These events are always lurking in the back of a farmer's mind, reminding him/her that life/food can inturrupt your day at anytime.

As a consequence, when I sit down at a meal, there is a small voice in the back of my head that gives thanks to a force far bigger than I am for my provision. It is this voice that I am unsure my non-farm counterparts hear.

I read the mommy and the foodie blogs. I watch the cooking channels. I don't hear the constant undercurrent of wonder that there is food to eat being expressed. People seem to assume that there will be food. Food in all manner of variety and abundance, abounding food choices, affordable food, food, food, food, everywhere. My counterparts seem to look at food and see arts and crafts (presentation), chemistry class (new recipes), sensual experiences (flavor and color), medicine (health food), entertainment (party food) and at some level nutrition. I don't get the sense that my counterparts are looking at food and seeing there life and financial welfare passing before their eyes.

I am not sure my writing skills have allowed me to capture all that I am saying in this post. I see a fundamental difference in how the two communities think about food. I am just not sure I can put my finger on it yet. I do know that as a consequence the two communities can come to some very different understandings of what, how, and why food should be produced. Can you help me put my finger on this better difference better? If you are a non-farmer how do you think about food? What role does it play in your life? I would love to hear from you.

I appreciate your thought.