Change rarely occurs because of a single voice.
Agriculture is currently at the forefront of the global agenda, but farmers at the local level and area communities alike need to work together to ensure it remains that way. If you think about it, agriculture impacts all of us, from the foods we eat to the clothes we wear. It’s important to sustain our farmers through the proper support, thereby fostering their success and encouraging future generations to explore the farming industry.
The Voice of Many
It’s time-tested: change rarely occurs because of a single voice. More often, it’s the voice of many, banding together, that helps to make a statement heard. Grassroots advocacy frequently begins with the voice of one or two people in a community, then slowly expands to become a powerful force—a statement political parties and other powerful organizations are unable to ignore.
Some of the most groundbreaking changes in the U.S. came about because they were kickstarted by grassroots organizations. The civil rights movement in the 1960s started with a small group of people and a common goal. They held church meetings, organized sit-ins, wrote letters and marched to get their message across… and they prevailed! More recently, the Occupy Wall Street movement had 2,000 protesters marching up Broadway in Manhattan’s Financial District. They carried a powerful message—“We are the 99%”—drawing attention to income inequality and the perceived undue influence of corporations on the U.S. government.
Making a Difference
Likewise, local groups like the Peoria County Corn/Soybean Promoters are helping to make a difference through legislative decisions and educating the public about the importance of their crops and the products made from them. Their recent efforts have focused on working with the Peoria County road commissioner to build support for repairing bridges critical to farmers, who use them to haul their grain to market. Such efforts help to maintain and enhance the voice of farmers and the industry. But it doesn’t stop there.
According to statistics from the United Nations, there will be an additional 2.41 billion people to feed by 2050. As the population continues to rise, the agriculture industry is faced with finding solutions to increase world food production. This complex issue spans the science of attaining higher yields to reducing the financial burden of global production. It is estimated that the private sector will need to help bridge a $90-billion annual agricultural investment gap in developing countries to address food security needs.
So, while yields must rise on shrinking agricultural land to serve market demand, finance options have become less available. That means greater risk for farmers and more pressure to put social and environmental considerations aside to pay back loans used to grow their operations. Meanwhile, social and environmental organizations are heating up lobbying efforts on animal agriculture and sustainability practices. As the system strives for balance, passing legislation that supports agriculture becomes more challenging and requires active participation at the local level, which can create a ripple effect that expands to a global level.
Developing Local Leadership
Grassroots associations not only encourage local involvement, but provide a platform to develop local leadership. These groups bring tremendous benefits by:
- Providing a channel for direct communications between farmers at the local level and key legislators
- Highlighting local agricultural issues for legislators and communities, thereby increasing awareness and encouraging support
- Fostering the development of future leaders, as well as educational and networking opportunities
- Developing a stronger voice for farmers in the state legislature and in Washington, DC.
As many farmers feel they are losing control of their industry, it’s important that consumers begin to get involved at the grassroots level as well. As we all band together, we can do extraordinary things.
There are numerous organizations focused on education and advocacy, including groups like Illinois Farm Families and the Illinois Soybean Association. By joining these grassroots efforts, you can learn more about how agriculture impacts our everyday lives, and keep up-to-date on current trends and legislation. iBi