I recently traveled to my hometown in Pender County for a family barbeque. As in so many other communities across our state, family and friends had gathered to enjoy each others company over plates of Eastern North Carolina pork barbeque. It was a perfect event featuring a long-held North Carolina value: fellowship around a table.
Upon my return to Raleigh, I read about latest attack by the Humane Society of the United States on one of the things that brought folks together in Pender County: pork production. Using misleading, graphic ads on Raleigh city buses, HSUS has once again picked a fight with North Carolina agriculture, one of the brightest spots in our states economy.
The implication of the societys latest graphic displays is that North Carolinas farm families intend to harm their animals to maximize profits. That is not true. As someone who spent more than 20 years farming in Eastern North Carolina, I am appalled by its efforts to mischaracterize hog farmers and confuse consumers.
North Carolinas farmers work hard to keep up with the demands of our exponentially growing population here and abroad while keeping family food costs low. They are constantly implementing new technologies and techniques to provide adequate food and fiber for current and future generations. Advances in modern American agriculture allow 2 percent of the population to feed 100 percent of the people and produce the highest quality and most nutritious, affordable food in the history of the world.
Indeed, the nostalgic images of farms that feature a red barn with a few cattle, chickens, and pigs wandering in the yard are no longer accurate or sustainable. The farmers of today regardless of their farm size or type are involved in dynamic, specialized business endeavors. With respect to animal agriculture, farmers have improved their animal housing and handling practices, sheltering animals from extreme weather conditions, pests and the threat of attacks by other animals in their herd or flock. When necessary, they ethically administer approved medicines to prevent illness. They provide their animals with healthy, nutritious feeds.
In addition to preying on pork producers, HSUS is undermining other North Carolina businesses that sell and consumers who buy North Carolina pork products, including the barbeque vendors and their countless patrons who visited the State Fair. They also indirectly attacked last weekends barbeque festival in Lexington and its more than 125,000 visitors who came to North Carolina to share in our barbeque heritage. Moreover, they are spoiling your weekend birthday cookout, your son or daughters graduation party, college football tailgates and other community celebrations.
As animal agriculture continues to grow and change, farmers must always be concerned for their animals welfare, and they will always be dedicated to providing the highest quality, safest food in the world. Im proud to say North Carolina is a leader in this noble effort. Agriculture accounts for $77 billion of our gross state product. Two-thirds of the Farm Gate income comes from livestock and poultry production. In fact, North Carolinas pork production is the second largest in the United States. Our best effort to fight hunger and provide good jobs for our neighbors is through modern agricultural research and production methods based on sound science.
In order to move this conversation forward, we must all make an effort to bridge the disconnect between our states rich heritage and the food production methods that make it possible. Instead of using one-sided and misleading ad campaigns on the sides of city buses to misrepresent the farmers who put their heart and soul into feeding our families and the world, lets have a civil, factual and science-based conversation about agriculture and our food supply. Through events like the N.C. State Fair and the Food Dialogues® forums (one of which was recently held in Raleigh), there are wonderful opportunities for consumers to engage with farmers and agriculture experts to learn more about where our food comes from and the farmers who produce it. Maybe we can talk over a plate of barbeque.
Larry Wooten is president of the N.C. Farm Bureau.