I, along with 5 million other Americans, am a member of the National Rifle Association.

That number is debatable, by the way - NRA’s detractors say the organization isn’t as large as it reports itself to be.

Regardless, the NRA is a force to be reckoned with. From Connecticut to Capitol Hill, the NRA takes on anti-gun opponents fist first. It’s time Agriculture took some fighting lessons from the NRA.

I compare Agriculture to the NRA for these key reasons:

  1. People get very emotional about firearms and food - especially as it pertains to safety issues.
  2. The media LOVES gun stories and food stories because they garner viewers, listeners, readers, and online lookers. Why, you ask? Because firearms are a political hot potato that everyone has an opinion about. As for food, it makes for universal headlines — everyone eats.
  3. The math is roughly the same. The USA has 2.2 million farms and somewhere between 3 and 5 million farmers (depending on how you define and count farmers and ranchers). In a country of 320 million, Agriculture and NRA members are clearly outnumbered.
  4. Modern Agriculture and the NRA have loud, well funded, vehement detractors. Humane Society of the U.S., PETA, dozens of environmental groups, the Anti- GMO crowd, are just a few enemies of Ag who believe we’re poisoning Earth and mistreating livestock. Not to mention the groups who think we’re polluting the air with cow farts. Ag’s enemies are motivated by environmentalism and animal welfare, NRA’s opponents believe guns equate to murder.
  5. The anti - gun and anti - Ag crowd are both extremely bold. Animal rights activists trespass on farms to record salacious video. That’s bold. NRA protestors showed up at last months convention armed with picket signs against conventioneers wearing side arms. That’s bold and possibly also stupid.

So, what can Agriculture learn from the National Rifle Association?

  1. Appeal to emotion, not science. Ag uses science in its arguments but people don’t comprehend science — 26% of Americans don’t know Earth revolves around the sun! Science has no place in an emotional argument. Sure, the NRA could give statistics on gun ownership, murder rates, and crime prevention. But instead, they make it about your rights, your hunting buddies, and protecting your family.
  2. Frame the debate around patriotism and the constitution. Modern agricultural techniques nourished this great land into a well-fed, economic powerhouse. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were farmers. Ever notice that the NRA references the second amendment, freedom, and the role of an armed citizenry in every debate it faces?
  3. The NRA has a well organized, united front. They take up the battle for all gun owners, not just their members. We in the business of agriculture must allow for differences of opinion but battle our detractors with a unified, pro-Ag message.
  4. Agriculture talks to itself too much. If our industry were an individual, we’d be that crazy guy in the park muttering to himself. You needn’t convince me, a farm owner, why herbicides are useful. Go tell the average American citizen who’s 3 generations removed from production Ag. The NRA works the media like a PR agent and speaks to the masses. The result? Less than half the country owns firearms but a majority support the right to own firearms.
  5. Most importantly, the NRA doesn’t back down from the fight. Agriculture, on the other hand, turns the other cheek every time we get hit. Our normal response to any food issue or attack is to trot out a farm family in front of the barn and tell everyone we’re American farmers, we work hard, and we care about the food you eat. Great, but our opponents don’t fear our retaliation. For that matter, groups like HSUS don’t even respect our property rights.

Admittedly, I’m more willing to embrace confrontation than many Ag types. I was raised the youngest of nine kids with four older brothers. Worse yet, a movie about a devil child who shared my name came out when I was 7 years old — yes, I learned how to fight as a child!

Agriculture is under attack and it’s time to follow the NRA example. Meaning, we need to stop taking a pitch fork to a gun fight!