America's farmers are extending an olive branch to the same urban media that have often been critical of agriculture, and some powerful U.S. lawmakers asked the nation's reporters in a letter to give them a chance.
"It makes no sense that we're being demonized by many of the nation's top newspapers," said Linda Raun, a rice grower from Texas who is participating in The Hand That Feeds U.S., a new farmer-led project to improve relations with big-city reporters.
"It's not the newspapers' fault," she continued. "We haven't done a good enough job telling them our story. We've been negligent in explaining that farmers and farm policy feeds and clothes every person in this country, employs 20 percent of the nation's workforce and will be at the center of America's economic recovery."
Andy Quinn, a Minnesota corn and ethanol producer agrees. "We're the best farmers in the world, but we're far from being master communicators. For too long, we've let a handful of environmental extremists and coalitions bankrolled by big business define our industry in the news."
Quinn and Raun believe their project, funded by numerous state and national agricultural trade associations, is a good first step in helping agriculture set the record straight. The multi-year effort will consist of a Web page, http://www.TheHandThatFeedsUS.org, as well as a series of face-to-face meetings with reporters across the country.
"We plan to build long-lasting relationships with journalists and show them that family owned and operated farms, not giant agribusinesses, are the true face of agriculture," explained Texas cotton farmer and coalition member Steve Verett.
Even though the farmers admit they'll never be able to match agriculture's opponents dollar-for-dollar, they do have some high-profile cheerleaders on their side. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) published an open letter to the news industry "respectfully urging (reporters to) take the time to learn more about this effort, U.S. farm policy, and the farm and ranch families that keep America fed."