U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance
|Key people||Bob Stallman (Head)
Randy Krotz (CEO)
|Area served||United States|
The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance is an alliance of agriculture related groups and organizations that promote industrial agriculture in the United States. Their aim is to promote a positive image of modern agricultural practices. They are supported by checkoff funds from the United States Department of Agriculture and by cooperate donations. They have been criticized for not including organic agriculture, close ties with Big Ag, and underplaying the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed.
Origin and aims
The alliance was formed in 2011 as a coalition of many of the United States largest agricultural groups (e.g., National Corn Growers Association and National Pork Producers Council) to counter publicity that the alliance believed was not in the best interest of agriculture. The alliance has been concerned with the release of videos showing the mistreatment of pigs, chickens put into battery cages to lay eggs, chicks tossed into meat grinders, close confinement of livestock, and the use of hormones and antibiotics in feed. They are also concerned with negative publicity crop farmers have received from organizations opposed to biotech crops and the overuse of pesticides and fertilizers.
Their view is that a utopian world without genetically modified food, pesticides, and fertilizers is not feasible if the goal is to feed the world. The alliance's aim is to show the food consumer that a less than perfect world is reasonable. They believe that the vast majority of people who do not live in rural areas of America are misinformed about how food is produced. On their view, non-rural people have been misled into believing that all pesticide, fertilizer, and antibiotic uses in agriculture are harmful; their aim is to show the consumer that this is not true.
In 2011, its annual budget of $11,000,000 came in large part from mandatory marketing fees or checkoffs from the United States Department of Agriculture. These mandatory fees are paid by farmers after they sell their products. Part of their annual budget also comes from Monsanto (a producer of genetically modified crops) and DuPont (a producer of pesticides), which have each promised to contribute $500,000 annually to the alliance.
Checkoff funds from the United States Department of Agriculture cannot be used to lobby government. In 2010, the USDA ruled that the alliance could only use checkoff funds for specific projects and activities.
In 2011, the alliance commissioned a survey of farmers, ranchers, and consumers. A total of 2,417 consumers and 1,002 farmers and ranchers were surveyed. Seventy-two percent of consumers said that they knew little or nothing about farming or ranching and 86% of farmers and ranchers believed that consumers knew little or nothing about farming. Forty-two percent of consumers believed that food production was heading in the wrong direction, while 58% of farmers and ranchers believed that consumers have an inaccurate perception of farming and ranching.
With the aim of bridging the gap between consumers and farmers, the alliance launched a search in June 2012 for a national spokesperson. Will Gilmer, of Lamar County, Alabama was selected. He received a $10,000 stipend to defray the cost of spending time away from his farm and he had the opportunity to select an agricultural related charity for a $5,000 donation from the alliance.
The alliance funded the making of a documentary film, Farmland, that opened in select theaters in the United States on May 1, 2014. The aim of the documentary was to counter the messages about modern agriculture in recent documentaries such as Food, Inc. and King Corn. They hired James Moll as director who agreed to do it only if he had creative control.
One segment of farming that is missing from the alliance is organic farming. In 2011, Bill Deusing, head of the Northeast Organic Farming Association told the New York Times that "As a rule, we like to be for things, not against them, but this [the Alliance] represents everything we are working against."
The alliance has been criticized for claiming to represent ordinary farmers and ranchers. It has been suggested that its affiliates and sponsors are the types of groups associated with Big Ag, such as Monsanto, and John Deere, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Sugar Alliance, and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. The alliance's website tends to support industrial agriculture such as genetically modified crops, while questioning the value of alternative agricultural practices (e.g., free-range chickens). Randy Krotz (CEO) of the alliance told Bloomberg Businessweek that the alliance does not favor one form of agriculture over another and that "My personal feeling is, there is a lot of information there on every side of agriculture."
The alliance has been criticized for its stance on the use of antibiotics in animal foods in agriculture. Data from the Food and Drug Administration has shown that 80% of all antibiotics sold in the United States are used in animal feed. The alliance has argued on their website that, for example, 41% of the sales for antibiotics in animal feed are tetracycline antibiotics but that tetracyclines make up only 4% of the sales of human antibiotics. They argue that as long as different antibiotics are used in animal feed than are used for humans, the use of antibiotics in animal feed should not produce an antibiotic resistance problem for humans. This argument has been criticized for ignoring the changing use of antibiotics for humans and that resistance to one antibiotic can produce resistance in others.
- Crumb, Michael J. (1 February 2011). "Farmers create new alliance to fight bad publicity". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
- Moskin, Julia (27 September 2011). "In Debate About Food, a Monied New Player". New York Times. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
- Martin, Andrew (29 January 2014). "Beyond 'Got Milk': Small Farmers Don't Like Where Their Ad Money Is Going". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
- Aubrey, Allison (22 September 2011). "Farmers And Ranchers Reach Out To Talk To Consumers". NPR. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
- Harper, John M. (22 September 2013). "US Farmers & Ranchers Alliance Survey Show Disconect Between American Consumers and Their Food". Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
- Staff Reporter (23 January 2013). "Sulligent farmer is national emissary: Dairyman to help explain farmers' role to consumers". Tuscaloosa News. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
- Ragusea, Adam (2 May 2014). "Agribusiness Funds 'Farmland' To Counter Hollywood Message". NPR. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
- Lawrence, Robert (1 October 2013). "Antibiotic Resistance: How Industrial Agriculture Lies With Statistics". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2 May 2014.