The Planted Row: Make sure the policy makers get it right

Stan Wise Farm Forum Editor
Farm Forum

It has been, to say the very least, an interesting year.

We seem to have entered a “post-fact” world, a phrase that is becoming more common outside of academic circles. Back in January, famed economist and political scientist Francis Fukuyama, a key figure in the rise of neoconservatism and a contributor to the Reagan Doctrine, wrote that in this post-fact world “virtually all authoritative information sources were called into question and challenged by contrary facts of dubious quality and provenance.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not live in a post-fact world where actual facts can be challenged by “alternative-fact falsehoods” which are then used by huge portions of the population to ignore any piece of information they dislike and then support policy positions that are not backed by sound reasoning and data.

I know, I know. What does this have to do with you? You’re a producer, after all, and you’re going to do what just about every producer since the beginning of this country has done — you’re going to feed livestock and grow crops until the bank or your health says you can’t anymore, and to heck with all the rest.

But what if I told you that you had the chance to help make sure the people making the policies that will govern your agricultural operation have some honest-to-God facts to consider? What if you could make sure the people making the rules know how things work in the real world? Would you be interested in the difference between fact and fiction then?

I hope, for all our sakes, that your answer is yes.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture mailed the 2017 Census of Agriculture questionnaires to producers. The last ag census was in 2012, and they are only conducted once every five years. These questionnaires are more involved than the yearly surveys, and their completion is required by law.

Still, some farmers don’t treat them with the importance they deserve.

I’m a member of several agricultural social media groups, and recently some farmers proudly declared that they refused to fill out the ag census forms. I can’t tell you how disheartened I was to learn that.

The questionnaires are used to get an accurate picture what American agriculture is really like, and the data they generate is used by farmers, ranchers, trade associations, researchers, policymakers, and many others to help make decisions in community planning, farm assistance programs, technology development, farm advocacy, agribusiness setup, rural development and more.

This census is your opportunity to make sure the bigwigs who decide what our next Farm Bill will look like will truly understand the state of America’s farmers and ranchers. I think the time you spend participating in the ag census will be just as productive — for you and the entire country — as any other time you spend in your farm office this winter.

This year we have watched some our country’s leaders tell demonstrable lies in public. The only way to argue against such lies is to speak undeniable truth. But we can’t know the truth if we don’t have the facts.

Please take this chance to prove to the world that the people doing the real work in this country care about generating real facts.

From everyone here at the Farm Forum, happy new year.