I’m a firm believer in the power of bringing people together. As a German farmer, this has never been more important than it is today!
Unfortunately, anti-farmer propaganda has been polluting the internet but farmers have a voice and we can fight back and prevail.
I learned what it takes to make a difference a few years ago, when a German Green NGO waged war on glyphosate, a safe crop-protection product that keeps weeds out of fields.
I also learned that we have to share our stories. And that’s what I plan to do later this month when I travel to Mexico for a Global Farmer Roundtable and leadership training course hosted by the Global Farmer Network.
Like millions of farmers around the world, I use glyphosate. This excellent product prevents weeds from stealing the moisture and nutrients that my crops need, as I grow winter wheat, winter barley, triticale, corn, and canola in northwest Germany. We sell the canola on the market, but everything else goes to our pig stables, where we feed sows and fatten livestock.
Thanks to crop protection, we produce more food on less land. This benefits farmers like me because it makes us more efficient and lowers costs. It benefits consumers because they get healthy food and it keeps food prices in check. And it benefits the environment because it allows more space for conservation.
Unfortunately, green extremists oppose glyphosate and they routinely misrepresent its purposes and effects. They scream about how it causes cancer, but their false claims fly in the face of what scientists at the World Health Organization as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration in the United States have confirmed: Glyphosate is safe for farmers and consumers.
Because these ideologues can’t rely on the impartial findings of scientific research, the glyphosate haters have turned to propaganda and a few years ago, a German organization sponsored a scandalous video. It showed a cute baby, sitting in a field. Then a plane appeared in the skies above and sprayed glyphosate on the child.
The crude implication was that farmers were using mainstream crop-protection products that are harmful to babies.
Unfortunately, too many people are ready to believe this obscene message. They know little about modern farming. They have no idea what it takes to produce food. They don’t know why we use fertilizer or why a bigger tractor or harvester with tracks is better for the soil than a smaller, older machine. Sometimes they even imagine that farming half a century ago was better than how we farm now.
We farmers need a toolbox that includes modern seed breeding, modern crop protection and modern technic. And as farmers, we must explain why it is important that we have these tools available for our use and for feeding the world.
The good news, however, is that truth can defeat lies but only if farmers use their voices.
When the video appeared, farmers were justifiably outraged. We took to social media, protesting in the comments section of YouTube and posting rebuttals on Facebook and Twitter.
I was the first German farmer on Twitter beginning in 2009 but now many of us are active on a variety of social-media platforms.
The criticisms of that video were numerous and compelling. The greens eventually recognized that its basic unfairness was hurting their public reputation, so they deleted the video.
If farmers had not spoken up, that video would still be around today, misleading and potentially corrupting the opinions of unsuspecting viewers.
I’m proud of this success, but I also know that it’s not enough. We won’t defeat the enemies of modern agriculture simply by reacting to their lies.
Instead, we must tell our positive stories about food production. I’m involved with a couple of online projects: #AskTheFarmers and #AgChat. The idea is to help farmers hear the questions and concerns of consumers and let consumers understand how farmers produce safe and healthy food.
I plan to share these strategies with my fellow farmers from around the world as we gather in Mexico, under the auspices of the Global Farmer Network, a nonprofit group that seeks to unite farmers who call for trade, technology, sustainable farming, economic growth, and food security.
That will be my contribution, or at least a part of it. But I’m also looking forward to hearing about the experiences of others, learning of their own successes and thinking about how I can apply them to my challenges in Germany.
If we share our stories, we’ll all be better farmers.
Marcus Holtkoetter is part of his family’s 10-generation farm, where they grow winter wheat and barley, corn, canola and pigs in the northwest part of Germany. Marcus has an active social media presence as he tells his story and that of other farmers. Marcus has been invited to join the Global Farmer Network. www.globalfarmernetwork.org