Tuesday, September 16, 2014
   
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Holoubek: Positive spin about ag needed

Disconnect from farming creates problems.

Average Americans are three generations removed from the farm which means a detachment from their food supply.

Willow Holoubek, an agricultural producer from David City and organizational director of the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (A-FAN), said disconnect leads to many people not understanding agriculture and how it has changed.

“We want to increase the awareness of Nebraskans about our safe and secure food supply,” she said.

Holoubek spoke at Gothenburg Public Library Thursday at the invitation of the Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce.

In the evening, she was the guest speaker at a public barbecue at the Monsanto Water Utilization Learning Center.

Promoting agriculture is important, she said, because it’s big business in Nebraska—business that has come under attack from some animal rights groups and others.

“One out of three jobs in Nebraska is related to agri-business,” she noted.

For example, Holoubek said Nebraskans living in the state’s top seven livestock-producing counties—including Dawson County—enjoy higher levels of personal income than people living in other, non-metropolitan counties

However she said animal rights groups, like the Humane Society of the United States, are pushing for laws that threaten the livelihood of farmers and ranchers.

Holoubek said many consumers have difficulty distinguishing between animals and pets.

“They feel guilty owning a pet and eating meat,” she said, noting that some animal rights extremist groups play on human emotions. “They use smear campaigns and use pictures of atypical operations.”

Ballot initiatives in several states have put regulations on farming and ranching, such as the banning of sow gestational stalls in hog production.

What many people don’t realize, she said, is that the stalls can help prevent sows from lying on and suffocating their babies.

Holoubek added that the stalls also cut down on the use of antibiotics because swine are separated and don’t injure themselves from fighting in pens.

“In pens, pig mortality is higher,” Holoubek said.

Many Americans still have picturesque views of farming in the 1950s.

Farming and ranching practices have had to change, she said, because of increasing populations worldwide that need more food.

In 1950, Holoubek said the U.S. population was 150 million. One farm and ranch produced enough to feed 30 people.

Since then, the number of farms has decreased from 5.6 million in 1950 to two million today. But a single farm now feeds 155 people.

Holoubek said farmers produce 262% more food with 2% less inputs than in 1950.

More food is needed, she said, to feed a growing demand for meat and dairy products in developing countries.

“We need to reassure the world that farmers and ranchers produce safe food and care about their animals as much as previous generations,” Holoubek said.

More about A-FAN and agricultural practices in Nebraska is available online.

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