The Changing Priorities of NC Agriculture

Earlier today, North Carolina Governor Pat McCroy shocked the state when he vetoed a bill that would allow companies to sue workers who record undercover videos, saying he doesn’t want to discourage employees from reporting illegal activities to authorities. Opponents said the bill (commonly refered to as the “ag-gag bill”) targeted whistleblowers in the agriculture industry.

As a small slaughterhouse owner, I have followed this bill closely. Even though I open the doors of my facility to guests and my family has a relationship with HSUS (a huge opponent of this bill), I definitely do not want anyone to come into my home or my business under false pretenses and make recordings of activities (good or bad) without my knowledge…I have nothing to hide but I also believe privacy should be respected and valued for everyone.

However, the Governor’s decision to veto this bill speaks to a larger issue in NC agriculture, and our industry leaders would be wise to pay attention.

For weeks, I have followed a website / Facebook campaign “NC Farm Families” as they struggle to garner the 5,000 signatures needed to submit a petition to Governor McCroy on behalf of our state’s pork producers. This campaign has the support of industry giants including NC Farm Bureau, Murphy-Brown, Smithfield, the NC Pork Council, Hog Slate, and many more (www.ncfarmfamilies.com). I, too, signed this petition and fully support the pork producers and NC farmers this petition aims to protect. However, given the importance of the pork industry and the number of people directly employed by these companies, one had to question why support has been so slow to come…especially in contrast to the 80,000 signatures that HSUS of North Carolina delivered to the Govvernor this week against the ag-gag bill.

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I am sure there is a lot more to both of these campaigns than I am aware. However, as a NC livestock producer and agvocate, the initial difference in support for these two causes tells me that our current agriculture methods and marketing are not working. Traditional agriculture is losing ground with consumers…they are clearly sending a message and we would all be wise to pay attention.

I have worked on a feedlot in Nebraska and now raise and market grassfed cattle. I have bought organic foods for my family but watched African farmers struggle to survive without GMOs and biotechnology. I have sprayed pesticides on a corn field and used natural fish oils on a pasture. I understand that different farming methods are not right or wrong…they are just different…and I have learned to respect both the farmers who grow them and the consumers who support them.

Today North Carolina consumers – and the Governor – sent a clear message to agriculture. While I don’t seem get invited to the fancy meetings at the NC Dept of Agriculture and no one ever asks my opinion at NC Farm Bureau meetings, I pray that our industry leaders can open their eyes to the bigger issues facing agriculture in our state and bring new and unifying voices into these conversations before we lose even more ground in our struggle to produce safe and nutrious foods.

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