Copyrighted article reprinted with permission.
Responding to a question from a reader about why there were so many stories about agriculture making it to the front page, editor of the Chico Enterprise Record took time to explain what My Job depends on Ag has done with a bumper sticker and a Facebook page. We live in a time when most of the eating public is so far removed from the farm that they do not understand why agriculture is important to them, even when they are not dining on California Grown products. Thank you Chico Enterprise Record! We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Editorial: Here, ag news belongs on the front page
We had farm news on the front page of this newspaper a couple of times this week, something that puzzles a small but increasing number of our readers.
There was a time when everyone in these parts understood that agriculture was the linchpin of the economy here, but those times have changed. Ag is still the critical element, but the awareness of that has faded.
There are so many distractions today. Everyone carries around an electronic device (or several) that allow them to live in a world of their own choosing. You can always find an abundance of support on the internet for whatever you might want to believe. You can filter your input to screen out anything that might challenge even the sketchiest world view.
Ag suffers in today’s world because delusion just doesn’t work. You don’t get to make the rules. Mother Nature and the buyers of your crops make the rules. The internet won’t offer an out if the rains don’t fall, or if a bumper crop in Australia or Turkey undercuts the price of what you’re growing. The internet might offer you a popular target to blame, but you’re still out of luck if you’re a farmer.
And ag suffers because it produces food, curious as that sounds. Far more people are interesting in how you can cook kale than what it takes to grow it commercially.
And worse, the internet is filled with ignorant and sadistic people who find farmers an easy target.
There’s no rain? Why are you wasting water growing food?
Huh? We don’t even know how to reply to that.
The criticism continues: You’re impacted by growers in other countries? Why aren’t you concentrating on feeding people in your own country?
Huh? People here want fresh apples in spring, ripe oranges in fall. They expect fresh peaches to be in the supermarket in December. You don’t get that unless you have a global market. There are these things called “the seasons” that happen every year that determine when crops are available locally. That only works if it’s a two-way street.
Let’s not even talk about bananas.
It’s all corporate farmers … GMOs … pesticides … caged chickens … antibiotics … all the things that the market demanded so it could have the amount and quality of food it had come to expect.
And now the internet, with its craving for targets, has gone after the suppliers, for doing what its customers asked. The demand’s still there, but farmers are so good at adapting that the impacts haven’t bitten the general public yet. Compared to dealing with Mother Nature, internet trolls are minor league.
Our farmers carry on, and here they carry the economy with them. That’s why it’s front page news when the almond crop tops 2 billion pounds, even though the Sacramento Valley no longer has the monopoly or even the biggest part of that. It’s interesting that the nuts are bigger this year since the drought has ebbed, isn’t it? That’s front page news, right?
Well, how about the news about a study by Chico State University Professor Eric Houk that found the ag economy provided $4.5 billion dollars to the 13 Northeastern California counties in Chico State’s service area. And that was in 2014, when the drought was biting into rice acreage.
The big three were walnuts, almonds and rice, totalling about $2.5 billion. And since those crops are only grown in Butte and the counties around it (not much rice in Modoc), that’s a quantitative local benefit you’re working against if you want to say tourism or the art community, or … anything … is driving the local economy.
That’s front page news, right?
Well, if you don’t think so, so be it. But if you want to stick your head in the sand, be aware no amount of fertilizer or water will ever allow anything of value to grow from it. n