Trent Loos: Be a soldier for agriculture
February 25, 2011
Walk down the aisles of any grocery store, and thousands of products are available for consumers to select from. The U.S. has the most safe, abundant food supply in the world, and yet, many are surprised to learn that one in eight Americans go hungry at night, according to the latest census conducted by the USDA.
Trent Loos, Nebraska cattleman, radio personality and speaker, talked about the many food misconceptions and how ranchers can work to correct them and share the agriculture story with today’s consumers.
“Fifty-two million people in the U.S. today are food insecure, and First Lady Michelle Obama’s push for locally grown food is an elitist point of view that is compounding the problem,” said Loos, who travels more than 200 days out of the year speaking to groups across the country. “Meanwhile, the media continues to spew the politically correct rhetoric of the day, which is leading to food shortages in this nation. If ranchers give in to the squeaky wheel of popular perception, who’s going to pay the price? Our consumers, of course.”
Challenging the local food movement may not be the best way to win friends, but Loos offered his opinions of why buying local is a good option for many, but not necessarily a feasible option for all.
“Food is part of healthy living,” he explained. “While the USDA and Mrs. Obama give lip-service to improving the health of our nation’s youth, they cut exercise from the program. Funny how the same food when I was a kid was not a problem and it is now a problem today. Their vision of food only involves rejection of the very science and technology that allows us access to affordable food. The number of those who are food insecure continues to climb and will do so greatly if this flawed food policy is followed.”
Loos made some compelling statements about connecting producers and consumers, and urged ranchers to get involved.
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“The best advocates are the best listeners,” he said. “Pay attention to what our consumers are watching and start up a conversation about food production. You always have to be looking for a place to plant the positive information.”
Loos shared some positive examples and great conversation starters to keep in mind. For example, many consumers might be surprised to learn that ZIP (zinc, iron and protein) deficiency is the number-one health threat of children in the U.S. Of course, beef is a great source of all three of these nutrients, and a mother’s testimony on this topic is a great way to connect with other families, he explained. A healthy, well-balanced diet with nutrient-dense beef is important for health.
While it may sound like odd advice, Loos wants producers to question the things they have always done on their ranches and step outside of their comfort zones.
“Lee Cockerell, a highly regarded leadership consultant, once said, ‘Begin to doubt what you have always believed,’ and I think he’s right,” said Loos. “Twelve years ago, I went to my first animal rights convention, where people questioned everything I ever knew. You also have to question everything you have ever known and be confident about the things you do. Saying that you’re just doing what Grandpa and Dad always did isn’t good enough. You have to know why we put cattle in a feedlot and why we feed corn. Unless you’ve been in a position where your views are challenged, it’s hard to be prepared for questions about why we do what we do.”
Loos challenged producers to make visiting with folks outside of agriculture a top priority.
“We have to spend more time talking to people we don’t know. Social media is a tremendous avenue, but it’s not the total solution. Each one of us has to accept the challenge to be a soldier for agriculture and tell our story.”
With a growing population that will exceed 9.2 billion by 2050, agriculture will need to more than double it’s output. Loos urges the less than 2 percent of folks who are directly involved in production agriculture to get involved and share their stories.
“With science and technology, the U.S. agriculture industry has been propelled to be the leader in efficient, reasonably priced food,” said Loos. “There must be a value in the stories we are telling, and it could be sharing what you do on your farm. That’s a tremendously power situation. What I am opposed to is the government telling me to only eat what is available seasonally. We can transport food from coast-to-coast very safely and efficiently, and why would we slap that in the face? Celebrate agriculture’s successes; that’s what I say.”