Storytelling

The coming social storm and what it means to agriculture

In our new Post-post modern era, facts are dispensable. It’s the myth that counts.

Kevin Coupe writes and publishes MorningNewsBeat.com, one of the most intelligently composed newsletters floating around the internet.  His ‘beat’ is nominally supermarket retailing but he often wanders off into other areas that interest him. On Tuesday, he commented about a Chicago Sun Times piece about the "sanctuary restaurant movement.”

Some background - and it is political but that’s not the point of this column. Coupe wrote “According to the site, ‘Sanctuary restaurants have a zero tolerance policy for sexism, racism, and xenophobia. We believe that there is a place at the table for all. Sanctuary Restaurants is a joint project of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United and Presente.org with participation by dozens of restaurants nationwide. Sanctuary Restaurants offer support and resources to workers impacted by hostile policies and actions, including women, immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQI people and others.”'

My point is this: With a new Administration assuming the highest office in just a few days, we are going to witness something like a 180 degree turn from the policies of the last eight years.   Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing will be debated for the life of our country.  Some of the debates will be sensible and well-mannered. Too many of them will descend into unreasoned rage and madness.

Regardless of the political impact made by the Trump years, what we will witness is a change in public attitudes about social correctness and acceptability not seen since the incredibly turbulent 60s.  What was once tamped down and called politically incorrect will be resurrected and discussed endlessly.  There will be a lengthy period of social upheaval caused by once unquestioned and passionately held beliefs suddenly upended and publicly debated until new beliefs, a new political correctness, slowly emerge.

And where does all this lead, you might ask?  What American agriculture grows and how we do it will be examined as never before - every plowed row, every new born calf, every chick and piglet will be a subject of debate. Farmers and ranchers who choose to passionately defend the status quo and not consider the ever-changing, always fractionalized opinions of the buying public will find a thorny, weedy, tough row to hoe. 

Uncomfortable discussions will be made, pitting rural against urban, big ag against little ag, slow food vs fast food.  It will be occasionally unpleasant and often hostile as both sides firmly believe right is with them and the other side is populated by know-nothing fools. 

Here’s the problem faced by agriculture: those know-nothing fools (AKA the coastal elite) are their customers.  They are the people who will be making decisions about what to buy and many of them will decide based on how the cattle, pigs or poultry are raised, whether or not GMOs are involved in the production, and whether or not they believe the system is sustainable.

You thought the battle was bad last year or a few years ago?  Hang on, the ride is about to get bloodier. People who don’t farm make most of their buying decisions emotionally, real facts be damned.  If it ‘feels’ right, they’ll buy.  If it doesn’t, they will walk away.  In both cases, the battle will be fought on social media, the modern way people attempt to communicate with each other. Those old fashioned methods - radio, tv, newspapers and news magazines - are the stuff of us old fogies. 

So get ready to tell your story with heart and soul.  In our new Post-post modern era, facts are dispensable. It’s the myth that counts.

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