Editorial: Farmers must erase lines dividing agriculture

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CAPITAL PRESS – It’s part of human nature to want to draw lines. We all use lines to create imaginary “communities.”

It’s us versus them. It’s urban versus rural, and it’s big versus small. We gravitate toward the communities with which we most identify. Conversely, we stay away from and criticize the communities we don’t understand.

Ironically, social media such as Facebook was first seen as a way to erase those lines. We would all become “Facebook friends” and decide to get along.

In reality, the rants and misinformation that can be seen on social media and elsewhere online have done more to divide people than anything else. Pick a topic and social media and the internet are filled with vitriol about it.

Instead of unifying us, Facebook most often divides us.

It happens in agriculture, too, and we must reject it. We must reject the notion of drawing lines and splitting agriculture. It’s not a matter of holding hands and singing “Kumbaya.” It’s a matter of survival.

Large or small, organic or conventional, most farms face similar issues.

The web of regulations that hangs over farmers and ranchers is rarely specific to a large or small farm. Nor are water issues specific to a conventional or organic farm. Finding adequate labor is an issue common to any farms that need it.

When it comes down to it, all farms share far more issues than they don’t.

David Granatstein recently retired from Washington State University as a sustainable agriculture specialist.

He remembers decades ago, when organic was viewed by many in agriculture as a “fringe” movement. Stereotypes proliferated of what an organic or conventional farmer was like.

Now, organic practices have been adopted by thousands of farmers, many of whom also grow conventional crops, depending on the market. Organic is one of many options farmers have as they follow market trends.

“My goal has always been to build bridges and help people see there are things they can learn from each other,” Granatstein told reporter Dan Wheat. “The world isn’t black and white, but gray.”

We agree.

The only thing drawing lines does is diminish the voice of agriculture. Politicians and regulators use the lack of a single voice to push rules and laws that might make sense in Portland or Seattle but not in rural areas.

Time and again, we see those who take advantage of the lines that have been drawn to work against all farmers. They know that if agriculture’s house is divided they can push through regulations, such as high fees for water or reducing access to public land, that will impact all farmers and ranchers.

Ultimately, everyone involved in agriculture should be proud to be a part of a single group: “farmer.”

Posted by: CAPITAL PRESS, February 28, 2019