Stronger together

So, two weeks ago Sunday night was the Super Bowl which I didn’t even watch. By the time we came in from the barn, cleaned up, ate, and put the kids down to bed, it was the third quarter, and as soon as I sat down I was asleep. I was told I would have been put to sleep by boredom even if I would have watched it. Thanks to social media the next day, I had a recap from all different viewpoints it seemed.

From Adam Levine and his, um….. performance to the not so impressive commercials, one topic I kept seeing from many of my fellow ag friends was the Bud Light commercial. So with my curiosity spiked for the first time ever, over Bud Light, I headed straight to You Tube. I wasn’t impressed, to say the least, but not really for the same reason that so many others seemed to me upset.

For those of you who didn’t see the commercial,  it was a renaissance-era/ Game of Thrones commercial where the characters are brewing Bud Light when a barrel of corn syrup is delivered to the king. In the background, barrels inscribed with the words rice, hops and barley are seen behind the king. He very quickly announces he doesn’t brew Bud Light with corn syrup. They then state that they must take it to Miller Lite at once since they use corn syrup and the commercial then goes into a series of unfortunate and somewhat humorous attempts to make the delivery.

Upon delivering the barrel to Miller Lite, the Miller Lite kingdom exclaim that they have already received their delivery of corn syrup and to try Coors Light since they too use corn syrup to brew their beer, making it very clear to consumers that Bud Light doesn’t use corn syrup but Miller and Coors do. In what was an attempt to be jovial and funny, the commercial outraged many corn farmers across the United States. Many of the posts and articles I read were corn farmers boycotting Bud Light for not supporting them.

There are many things I see wrong with the entire commercial and the reaction it is receiving.

The first thing I find the most disappointing is that the commercial takes full advantage of an important topic to consumers, one that is more often than not, very misunderstood. Bud Light made corn syrup out to be a bad thing — and it’s not. Corn syrup is simply sugar in a liquid form that has been extracted from the corn plant and in reality, the corn syrup is actually consumed by yeast during fermentation and never ends up in the beer you drink. I am most upset that once again, a company blatantly preys on misled consumer fears to make a profit.

While a part of me understands that many feel that Bud Light doesn’t support American corn farmers, the other part of me is a bit disappointed that they do feel that way.  Now, before I start getting calls from local corn farmers, let me explain why.

Farm and ranch families comprise just 2 percent of the entire population in the United States. TWO PERCENT. That is all. Farmers and ranchers are constantly getting a black eye from consumers. We are blamed every single day for water quality issues, inhumane treatment of our animals, and our cows are even blamed for causing climate change, and the list goes on. I’m not saying every single farmer does things right 100 percent of the time, there are bad apples, but all in all the industry and the technology in the industry have done more good than harm. So why in the world, when we as in industry face so much adversity and challenge, do we instantly turn against each other? Bud Light still uses rice, hops and barley to brew their beer, which last I checked was grown by farmers, too. We as an industry need to learn that we are stronger together and that by letting the outside world use their marketing gimmicks to divide us, we are ultimately making ourselves more vulnerable. We are a tiny group of people compared to the entire U.S population, and we have to stand together and support each other. We (all farmers) should be mad that the commercial capitalized on consumer fears and used agriculture to do it.

What we need to do is to use the commercial, and the entire Super Bowl even as an opportunity.  While farmers account for 2 percent of the population, over 100.7 million viewers watched the Super Bowl and commercials across all platforms, according to CBS. Nielsen reported that over 80 percent of the U.S. population who has televisions watched the Super Bowl and the commercials. That group of people were all exposed to a marketing campaign that exposed a major consumer topic in the agricultural industry. We have to make the choice to educate rather than to become defensive, and we have to do it together.

We also need to be a part of organizations that advocate on behalf of agriculture and our communities. Organizations that work to educate and share the story of agriculture, and with that being said, here’s my Farm Bureau plug. YOU need to be a member. If you aren’t a member, or you are a member that isn’t really involved at all, I encourage you to contact me or a board member, so we can show you how successful we are when we work together, tell our story, and use the voice the organization gives us. We can’t rely on everyone else to do it for us.

Mandy Orahood is an Ohio Farm Bureau organization director serving Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, and Trumbull counties. Mandy grew up on a cattle farm in southeast Ohio, earned her associate and bachelor’s degrees in Livestock and Animal Sciences from The Ohio State University. Before working for Farm Bureau, she was a meat inspector with the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Mandy can be emailed here