Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has only been in Congress for a couple months. But she’s already made quite a ruckus. And it seems like farmers keep getting dragged into the controversy.
It happened again when this video of AOC discussing cows and methane came out (note: I’m embeding this tweet because this is the one I saw repeatedly, not because I know and support the tweeter):
So I’ll be blunt: I’m fairly certain that she doesn’t actually know that much about agriculture. At least that’s how she comes across in the (albeit short) clip. She stutters a bit, tries to make a reference to corn, and then throws out the trendy “regenerative ag” label.
Nor have I ever seen her give any specifics about agriculture. The Green New Deal was fairly vague and only referenced “sustainable farming.” My digging hasn’t revealed anything specific either. So again I don’t think AOC really has a good handle on modern agriculture.
And I don’t necessarily say that as a criticism. I totally get why a girl from New York City doesn’t know much about farming. Why would she? She doesn’t really know how food is produced. And that’s okay as long as she’s willing to admit that. Is she? I’m not so sure.
Let’s assume she’s willing to learn. What do I want her to know? Well, I suggest AOC meet with actual farmers on their farms. And not just farmers who meet some random sustainability definition. She should tour the country meeting family farms growing everything from corn to hogs and flowers. Learn, learn, and learn some more.
But I also want her to know that the story of American agriculture is about innovation, reinvention, and progress. Today, the average farmer feeds 165 people. In 1960, the average farmer fed only 26 people. And we’ve managed to do that while decreasing the amount of inputs (water, fertilizer, etc.) we need. We’re more productive and efficient than ever. We’ve come a long way in the last 60 years, and all indications are we’re going to get better.
Could we do better? Of course. Humans are always progressing. And agriculture is no different. Just like we’ve advanced over the last century, I have no doubt we will continue to advance over the next 100 years.
But let’s start the conversation with that idea in mind. We don’t need a “solution” for agriculture. Instead, we should look to agriculture as a model for how an industry can adapt, improve, and move into the future.