On Friday, Aug. 21, TIME magazine published an article entitled “Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food.” The article’s message has been considered by many agriculture organizations, including American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), as a slanted attack on modern farmers.
Read the article by clicking on its title above. AFBF President Bob Stallman’s response is below.
Aug. 21, 2009
Editor, Time Magazine
“Farmers…make U.S. agriculture the nation’s most efficient and productive industry and by far the biggest force holding down the trade deficit. Revolutionary changes are sweeping the croplands, making agriculture an increasingly capital-intensive, high-technology, mass-production business…The successful farmer today must understand enough engineering and science to participate in a technological upheaval that is changing the very shape of the land and the nature of his crops.” Those words were published in an article titled, “The New American Farmer” by Time magazine on Nov. 6, 1978.
The challenges and triumphs facing America’s farm and ranch families have changed little since 1978. Based on lessons learned from those earlier farmers, today’s farmers have further improved food production, safety, quality and affordability. Judging from your magazine’s recent mugging of modern American agriculture (Aug. 31, Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food), your contemporary reporters would do well to take a comprehensive lesson in objectivity and good journalism from their predecessors. How did journalism at Time go off track?
Bryan Walsh’s article was a vicious attack on modern farmers and the processes they use to care for the land, their animals, their neighbors and communities, all while producing safe, affordable, healthy and abundant food for consumers. The article contained not even a hint of the type of objective journalism we are told we can expect from Time. In fact, the article was nothing more than a compilation of every false assertion and criticism made about today’s food production system. Further, the story was composed in a manner that the few words included to give agriculture a token voice were quickly trampled by yet another onslaught of anti-modern-agriculture rhetoric, much of it attributed to nobody but the writer himself.
Time and your columnists are entitled to your editorial voices, but readers and those unjustly disparaged by full-blown opinion pieces disguised as news also deserve a measure of consideration. Your effort came up short in all areas and if your reporters and editors cannot recognize this, that speaks volumes, and it helps explain the woe-is-me mindset of the endangered institution of mainstream media in America. As for farmers, we will stand tall knowing that Americans today have once again fallen in love with American food, and due in part to the healthy food we produce, they are living longer than ever before.
Bob Stallman, President American Farm Bureau Federation