I didn’t know much about agriculture when I started farming, so there were questions I didn’t ask, and things I didn’t worry about. “Check-off dollars” made that list. I sort of sloughed it off as one of the necessities of the industry, ignoring the details and giving the organizations that benefited all the trust in the world.
Now, however, I have a few questions.
I started to wonder a little more after Lyndsey Smith’s recent article Cattle Levy Axed, But Will Ranchers Get Their Money Back? and more as my involvement in the organizations and groups who claim check-off dollars grows. I have also had discussions with many producers about said groups, and they often have a hard time recalling acronyms, let alone what the groups do within agriculture and for farmers.
Why are we so afraid to ask the hard questions? And why are these groups so often hesitant to give any semblance of an answer?
I have explored pages and pages of websites in an attempt to decipher what an acronym truly stands for. In some, clearly defined goals, aspirations and achievements are outlined and celebrated. These are the organizations you know and trust. But, in many cases, romantic mission statements, pictures and carefully crafted (confusing) news stories are all that grace the web. In those cases, you can go to the source, but prepare to learn nothing from a typical political answer. Is that enough? I don’t think so. Either these organizations need to step-up and communicate their achievements more effectively OR they need to identify what they aim to accomplish and begin routinely evaluating their progress in meeting those goals.
But the responsibility doesn’t just lie with the organizations. It’s your role, as well as mine, to not be apathetic.
One of the conferences I attended as a youth delegate allowed me to have a short discussion on media training. It was incredibly interesting to learn how to be on the other side of the camera, and then to begin to understand why some people are so incredibly difficult to interview. I was told to have three key messages, and always go back to those points (also a good tactic in negotiations: remember the salesman who pushed three characteristics of a product as its finest qualities, even when you asked about something else). So, people with media training learn to dodge questions that don’t involve the rehearsed answers. And, rookies like myself are too shy to confront that.
In my work with RealAgriculture.com, I’ve been cautious in the questions I ask, and have accepted answers I shouldn’t have; answers that left me more confused or aggravated. Why are we so afraid to ask the hard questions? And why are these groups so often hesitant to give any semblance of an answer? Producers are expected to be transparent, so why don’t we expect the same transparency from those who work for us?
Producers are expected to be transparent, so why don’t we expect the same transparency from those who work for us?
So, as a journalist, I promise you I will be better prepared to ask the hard questions, to confront non-answers, and to improve the level of knowledge-transfer, IF, as a producer, you ask the same questions, seek the same clarity and truly understand where all of those check-off/levy dollars are ending up.