Farmers: What Would You Say To This Man?

I heard recently about an agriculturalist who believes strongly that farmers should have three goals:

1. Protect the Earth, the overriding priority.
2. Benefit society, provided the Earth is protected.
3. Make a profit, but only if the first two goals are met.

I can almost hear the howls of protests from Agweek readers. The overwhelming majority of you will argue he has those priorities exactly backward, and insist that your farming operation achieves all three goals (though profits are sometimes elusive).

I don’t know the aggie in question, so it’s risky to speculate about his motives or his level of agricultural knowledge. But I’d guess he’s a well-intentioned man who doesn’t realize the realities of modern agriculture.

My response to his agenda? I’d tell him that farming is first and foremost a business, and farmers need to make a profit. And I might add the classic line from Adam Smith defending the profit motive: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

If you had a chance to talk with the man, what would you say — respectfully and constructively — to him?

1 Response

  1. Travis

    No howl from this guy. The old adage “we owe our existence to 6″ of topsoil and the fact it rains” is appropriate here. Every single year 10 tons of topsoil are lost for every human being on this earth. Think about that. 70 billion tons of topsoil lost to erosion through bad policy and bad agricultural practices every year. Not sustainable at all.

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