Readers respond to farm and food column

At the end of every fiscal year, June 30, and the end of every calendar year, Dec. 31, readers claim this space to offer their views of my views.

Take Mike C. from Texas who, after I wrote an spring column on how climate change will affect food production in 2050, sent a parody of a similar story with the following opinion printed in large capital letters in its side margin.

“You socialists Democrats will fall for anything that Hussein Obama and those wacko scientists send down the pike. … After we had one of the coldest winters on record, (you) conveniently changed ‘global warming’ ‘to climate change.’”

Beef industry

A mid-February column on a U.S. Department of Agriculture investigation into an earlier USDA investigation — I didn’t make that up — a USDA investigation into a USDA investigation — over shenanigans in the federally-chartered beef checkoff, brought a similar analysis of my work from Jim S. in Montana.

“When it comes to the beef industry, (Guebert’s) ignorance of the topic is readily apparent. … It’s easy to tell when he is writing on a subject that’s over his head, he resorts to sarcasm and name calling.”

One veterinarian three time zones away in Delaware agrees. After a mid-March column on a pending USDA proposal to “allow poultry company employees to do the job currently done by 800 or so USDA inspectors” on slaughter lines, Dr. K. emailed a knuckle-cracking complaint.

“I have become accustomed to ‘ill-informed articles’ in the news media,” it began, “but to be honest, I am surprised to see such a blatant lack of knowledge. … Your article … is poorly researched verbiage. I read your article every week and will read it in the future with a ‘jaundiced eye.’”

Big ag

A late-April column that outlined how Big Food and Big Ag have parted company over the Humane Society of the U.S. and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals brought a smoking hot email from John Y. from, well, he didn’t say.

“PETA and HSUS are no friends of mine! Both these organizations are pegged to the LEFT. They are anti-gun, anti-hunting, anti-fishing, and anti-meat. Do you understand what that means to … ranchers and farmers? I do!”

One Illinois reader spent much of the long winter and delayed spring writing emails to me pointing out my “obvious” lack of skills as both a reporter and ag journalist. One mid-April grenade captures their tone well.

“As usual,” it starts, “your column provided little useful information to operating farmers and farm crop-share landlords. … I learn more in 15 minutes listening to (a local radio station) than I glean from reading a month’s worth of your columns…”

Moreover, he added, “Please, no more columns on your farm childhood and your rural church. You are supposed to be a provider of agricultural information, not a wannabe novelist.”

Friendlier year

Most of 2014’s reader mail was friendlier. Several eagle-eyed readers wrote to thank me for posting links to column source material on the “In the News” page of the column’s website, farmandfoodfile.com.

“Thanks for setting what should be a universal standard for all opinion columns,” wrote Ken S. from Indiana.

Full disclosure: I do not post the links. I email them to the talented, no-fear team at Foxwell Digital, daughter Mary Grace and son-in-law Andrew Foxwell, who post them. They do electrons; I do pronouns.

Many readers wrote to ask about a before-mentioned book that collects the best of the “southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth” columns. Officially, there’s nothing to report; unofficially, however, it’s a go with a spring 2015 release by (you didn’t read it here) a big university press.

More information on the book will be posted on the website when it becomes, ah, official. In the meantime, keep those emails and letters coming. After all, you have another “reader” column to write in six months.

About the Author

Alan Guebert was raised on an 800-acre, 100-cow southern Illinois dairy farm. After graduation from the University of Illinois in 1980, he served as a writer and editor at Professional Farmers of America, Successful Farming magazine and Farm Journal magazine. His syndicated agricultural column, The Farm and Food File, began in June, 1993, and now appears weekly in more than 70 publications throughout the U.S. and Canada. He and spouse Catherine, a social worker, have two adult children. farmandfoodfile.com More Stories by Alan Guebert

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