Even farmers fall into the trap of divisiveness

Hello, Trumbull County.

Agriculture, like politics, is becoming increasingly polarized in our society. Last summer’s debate over labeling foods containing GMO crops was a great example of this, as consumer groups, food manufacturers and politicians argued over who was right or wrong.

This one example from a long list shows that farmers are not in control of their message when outside groups, typically with a financial interest, become involved in seeking to discredit those on one side or the other of this disagreement.

While it’s disappointing that this occurs, it’s not surprising, because these groups have a financial investment to protect. What is surprising is that individual farmers sometimes fall into this same trap of attacking other farmers who have views or practices in opposition to their own.

Last summer, while at a meeting with industry professionals representing a range of agricultural sectors in Ohio, a single comment by an organic farmer really highlighted this issue. When this individual was asked why farmers should grow organically, he implied that his fellow farmers sitting at the table were irresponsible for using pesticides — or as he called it, “toxic soup” — on their crops.

Let’s be clear, organic agriculture also uses pesticides to control diseases, insects and other unwanted pests.

Rather than talking about the benefits of organic farming — lifestyle, financial incentives, marketing, etc. — this individual chose to vilify other agricultural practices in order to make organic farming appear superior, and did so by omitting some important facts.

I have heard similar arguments against organic farming, so this polarizing practice certainly goes both ways.

The problem is that all farmers should be on the same side, whether organic, traditional, till, no-till, GMO, non-GMO, etc. With so many outside voices driving the conversation on agriculture, farmers need to focus their attention on the 99 percent of what they do and the values that unite them, and less on the few things on which they disagree.

Uniting on that common front will allow Ohio farmers’ voices to be amplified against the many other entities out there who are attempting to guide the future of agriculture for the farmers, and often without the inside knowledge of farmers.

l There are a few events coming up that you should put on your calendar. On March 9, the Trumbull County Master Gardeners will be hosting a pruning class and workshop at the Trumbull County Ag Center. OSU Extension Specialists Jim Chatfield will be here to show you how to properly prune your landscape plants. Jim will be using our demonstration gardens to demonstrate proper pruning techniques, so please dress accordingly. Pre-registration is re-quested.

l If you are thinking about getting your private pesticide applicators license, we are holding a training session on March 14 at the Trumbull Ag Center. This session is not required to take the ODA pesticide license exam but will provide tools that will help during the exam.

Pesticide testing dates for Trumbull County are March 13, April 10, and May 8. You can register for the exams at www.agri.ohio.gov/apps/odaprs/pestfert-prs-index.aspx.

l Our yearly Northeast Ohio Agronomy School will be March 15 at the Williamsfield Community Center. We have a great lineup of speakers to discuss farm finances, crop disease outlooks and manure management. Pre-registration is required by March 8 at 440-576-9008.

l For information or to register for any of these events, call the OSU Trumbull County Extension office at 330-638-6783 or visit trumbull.osu.edu. Don’t forget to check out and “like” OSU Extension Trumbull County’s Facebook page for current programs and up-to-date information.

Lee Beers can be reached at beers.66@osu.edu