Education key for ag



August 30, 2010 - 12:00 AM

Education is the key to defusing efforts by animal rights groups to radically change the ways the livestock side of agriculture functions, Dr. Dan Thomson said here Friday night.
Thomson, an instructor in agriculture at Kansas State University and a recognized authority on animal welfare activism, spoke at the annual meeting of the Allen County Farm Bureau. His presentation in the Iola High School lecture hall preceded a dinner and business meeting.
Farmers “worry about saying the wrong things” and consequently “don’t say the right things” about how they care for animals in production of food that is “the safest, most wholesome, most nutritious” and cheapest in the word, Thomson said.
“The simple truth is that no one cares about animals more than those who raise them.”
He noted that 6 percent of American’s disposable income is spent on food, while the Chinese spend 33 percent and those in Africa spend as much as 90 percent, meaning they work primarily to subsist.
“We worry about lots of things; in much of the world they worry just about eating,” he said.
Education enters the equation because so few Americans have a connection to agriculture today, Thomson said. Just a few decades ago, as much as 50 percent of the U.S. population was directly involved in some phase of agriculture. Today the figure is one-half of 1 percent.
“We care for animals but work for people” — many of whom have no inkling of how food arrives at supermarkets, Thomson said.
“We need to put people’s faces on agriculture,” he said, with education of the young the best approach.
Thomson thinks requiring all sixth-grade students to have a comprehensive course in agriculture would help immensely in making agriculture real and not an abstract process. Another step would be a theme park — he called it Farmville — where tourists could immerse themselves in techniques that are everyday occurrences for farmers.
“You can’t bring the city to the farm, but we could take the farm to the city,” he said.
The Humane Society of America and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are two of many animal rights groups that mean to destroy meat production as it is known today, Thomson said. He said it was up to those directly involved in agriculture to take steps to show that they don’t abuse animals in efforts to feed more than 300 million Americans and many others throughout the world.

DURING the annual meeting, the Craig and Denise Mentzer family was recognized as Farm Family of the Year for leadership in agriculture, Farm Bureau and the community. Strickler Holstein Farm received the Natural Resources Award for innovative measures to protect and conserve water and recycle manure.
Marie Martin Goodspeed and Paul Goodspeed were presented  the Century Farm Award for keeping a farm in the family for 100 or more years. 
Allen County Farm Bureau Association received commendation from Allen County Emergency Response Center and Sheriff Tom Williams for leadership and promotion of the reflective address sign project.
Garvin Daniel and Craig Mentzer were elected directors. Layne Sterling was elected president for the coming year, David Tidd vice president and Darin Tidd secretary/treasurer.

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August 30, 2010