July 31, 2014 | Arlette Sambs

Show-and-Tell Season

Summer brings opportunities to show people where food comes from

About 10 years ago, I volunteered to (OK, was roped into) help run our local dairy breakfast. I’m still involved because I enjoy working with other volunteers and seeing non-ag people witness what happens on a dairy farm. I also help our county and a neighboring county host a pork chop dinner to showcase local pork production and feed hundreds of people who don’t have a farm background. These events, plus all of the county fairs with livestock shows and food from producer associations, are great exposure for agriculture — and part of what make summer great!
Still, I wonder if most consumers care about the process of planting seed, manufacturing feed, breeding and raising livestock, all to ensure there is high-quality, safe, tasty meat in their local grocery store.
In the early ’80s, a friend told me about seeing an interview with a shopper at a Chicago grocery store. The interviewer asked the shopper if she was aware of all the farm foreclosures. Her response was “I can’t help what’s going on there. Besides, I get my meat at the grocery store.”
I’m sure today more people know where food comes from. But do many realize that retail pork prices have increased because a disease is and has been killing about 100,000 pigs every week, leading to decreased supplies and higher prices? Yes, some producers are making a lot of money right now — but were in the red just a year ago. Those hit hardest by PEDv will struggle, while researchers continue to search for answers as to how the disease reached the U.S. and how we can stop its spread.
Most consumers see record beef prices. I doubt, though, that many could tie it back to herd liquidation forced by the 2011 drought. They may never be able to understand the three years of impact on lives and livelihoods in the beef industry that increased the cost of their burger.
In the feed and grain industry, we’re seeing futures drop with favorable weather and with China’s cutback in purchases of DDGs. Fortunately, we understand how grain, livestock and so many other aspects of agriculture will cycle. We’ve seen it and lived it before. We know how to operate, how to be agile, and how to work our way through ups and downs.
Which is why, despite a few clouds on the horizon, summer is a great time to enjoy the food we help put on the world’s table. Working at the foundation of the world’s food chain, with all its heartaches and rewards, is a good place to be!

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