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Farmers' groups need to get angry

Don Curlee for the Capital Press, February 26, 2009

Agricultural organizations are important groups that help farmers express their needs and give clout to that expression. But they have a downside.

When farmers gather for these groups' meetings they sometimes leave their real deep feelings, often anger, behind. Those stay on the tractor seat or at home in the farm office.

Give them credit. They want to achieve a purpose through their meetings. They are convinced the best way to do it is to be civil, agreeable, cooperative. But without the passion, the purposes they achieve are sometimes hollow.

Many farmers these days seem to be fighting mad, but that emotion doesn't always come through in their committee and organization meetings. Their true feelings seem to become diluted when they spend time discussing their printed or scheduled agendas.

Finding farmers who have strong emotions about state and federal regulations, the misuse of precious water supplies, consumer misunderstanding of the farm or interference in their affairs by know-nothing outsiders is not difficult. On a tractor seat farmers are more than willing to share frustrations in language not always appropriate for a family newspaper.

Accepting the polite, well considered and articulate expression of the organizations is difficult for close observers when so many farmers in touch with this column express more direct emotions.

Professional boxers perform best when their seconds or corner men understand their temperament and act in accordance with it. Sometimes corner men have to slow down their combatants. At other times they have to inspire them, pump them up.

It appears that most organizations representing farmers these days are good at calming down their constituents, but not too swift at boosting them toward an aggressive stance.

Some of the adversaries farmers face are beginning to believe the farm community is a toothless tiger. Its politeness and reserved approach can be easily interpreted as weakness.

If the adversaries (Why don't we just call them enemies?) have it right, it will take extra encouragement by the corner men in the farm community to stir the real emotions farmers feel.

Certainly the extreme environmental community, animal rights rabble rousers and others critical of farm practices display more than adequate emotion.

It might be time for farmers and their organizations to exhibit their true feelings.

Should they appear bombastic? Maybe. Combative? Probably. Assertive? For sure.

It's not a matter of the most emotional position winning. It's just a matter of farmers expressing what they feel, and insisting that their organizations back them up, demonstrating strength and determination.

"Gentlemanly" might have to take a back seat to "direct," "unmistakable," "strong-worded," even "threatening." I'm guessing that people beyond those who read this column will get the message.

If the enemies object and come storming back with language of their own, that's OK. That will give the farm community an opening to counter with a stiff right cross. The corner men will be ecstatic, and so will the fans of gutsy farmers.

Don Curlee is a veteran freelance ag writer and editor based in Clovis, Calif. E-mail: agwriter1@sbcglobal.net.
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