Family farms under attack: What you need to know

05-30-2012 in Livestock

It’s a farmer’s worst nightmare: being woken up in the middle of the night by threatening phone calls, your kids falsely accused simply for growing up on a livestock farm, activists contacting your landlords spreading misinformation to upset them – all because you wanted to grow your family farm by adding livestock or poultry. Believe it or not, it’s happening right here in Iowa.

Activist groups opposed to modern livestock production have been raising a ruckus in the state for several years now; however, the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) has noticed a recent resurgence of these groups and a major change in their tactics that can, unfortunately, wreak havoc on even the best of plans. CSIF strongly recommends farmers not only proactively talk to neighbors, but also family members, community leaders and business partners – especially landlords.

“In today’s environment, farmers have to market themselves. Personally communicating with everyone you can think of before dirt is even turned is crucial,” CSIF Field Specialist Kent Mowrer said. “Make telling your story part of your business plan. Tell the story of your farm, your family, why you’re growing, what it means for the community and how you’re protecting the environment, even if you don’t feel you need to. If you don’t, the opposition will tell a much different tale and it won’t be an enjoyable experience.”

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, an activist group opposed to modern livestock production, recently claimed victory when a central Iowa farm family withdrew their application for a construction permit for a hog barn. Despite the fact that the farm family had exceeded all rules and regulations and identified the best location for the barn, the opposition came to the family’s home late at night demanding to talk with someone, protesting on the front lawn. They also picketed for hours at the family’s non-farm business. They wrote editorials, started a vicious social media campaign and circulated hard copy and online petitions. They dug up the contact information on the farm family’s landlords and business associates to further spread their campaign with untruths, and put pressure on them to have the farmer stop construction.

“The game has changed. It is important that farmers take proactive steps,” Mowrer said. “Iowa’s regulatory environment is still relatively livestock friendly, but every farm needs to be prepared for opposition.”

CSIF is a non-profit, non-lobbying organization that assists livestock farmers who want help interpreting rules and regulations, guidance on good site locations for barns, counsel on enhancing neighbor relations and tips on how to protect the environment at no cost. This positive, solutions-based approach to helping livestock farmers and Iowa grow is a collaborative effort involving the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Turkey Federation and the Midwest Dairy Association.

To learn more, or for assistance in developing your own personal communication strategy, contact the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers at 1-800-932-2436.

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