Farmers and ranchers need to adopt technology and they need to stand up for their rights. But most of all, they need to share their stories, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman told members at the American Farm Bureau Federation's 97th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show.
Stallman's address — his last after 16 years as the head of the nation's largest farm organization — echoed the challenges farmers and ranchers face when government oversteps the limits of the law.
He reminded attendees that the organization's struggle to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency's latest, flawed water policies was not yet over.
"You know, if we're going to let the federal government dictate where we can and cannot farm — or cut trees, or build homes, or otherwise use the land for any productive, economic activity — then this is not the Land of Liberty," Stallman told attendees. "It is not the country that our forefathers envisioned—nor is it a country that will be able to feed itself for very long."
Struggles notwithstanding, technology is helping to make farmers' lives easier than they were just a generation ago.
"We have tremendous potential through new technologies: unmanned aircraft, data mining, biotechnology, robotics and who knows what else is coming," Stallman said. "These advances stand to make farming and ranching more productive, less costly, less labor-dependent and even better for the environment."
Stallman urged members to share their stories with the world, on social media and elsewhere.
"You know, we farmers used to complain that no one paid any attention to what we did — that people thought their food just came from the grocery store — and that we in agriculture didn't have enough ways to get our message heard.
"Well, people are sure paying attention to farming and food production now! And in this age of social media, we no longer have to depend on others to tell our story for us. We have unlimited opportunities to engage—one-on-one or with thousands of followers—and have real conversations about agriculture."
Stallman reminded Farm Bureau members of the importance of fairness and the dangers of depending on government.
"When we ask for the aid of government, we should not be surprised when we find ourselves bound by the chains of government," Stallman said. "When we seek sustenance from the government, we have no moral standing to fault others who seek the same.
"We cannot have the freedom to live, work, play and pray as we see fit if we are willing to take those same freedoms from others. Just as our nation has emerged from contentious political and ideological battles before, we will do so again. You and I — all of us — have the responsibility to keep America great."