Lipstick on a Pig – Corporate AgroChem Guides Industrial Ag’s Next Makeover

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The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) has collaborated with the Food52 cooking website to craft a series of videos about what it’s like to farm and practice animal husbandry in the U.S.

According to Food52, the purpose of the series was simply “to talk with farmers and ranchers across the country about what goes into their everyday lives, and how they grow and raise food,” wrote Samantha Weiss Hills when announcing the project in August of 2015.

The foodies at the National Geographic treated the campaign as something akin to benign story-telling by “organized agriculture,” though writer Maryn McKenna did acknowledge up front that the campaign was “intended to reframe consumers’ understanding of where their food comes from.”

She continued, “Part of the point of the videos, of course, is for production agriculture to take back its narrative from undercover footage shot by animal rights groups; and also to finesse the touchy issue of ag-gag laws, which would prevent outsiders seeing inside farm operations, by offering an edited view from inside the farm fence.”

What McKenna left out was exactly who is the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, a significant bit of context.

The USFRA was founded in 2010 “to reverse consumers’ negative perceptions about a broad range of issues including so-called ‘factory farming,’ the use of agricultural chemicals, livestock management practices, processed ‘industrial food,’ and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS),” according to ag industry trade publication Agri-Pulse.

The paying members of the USFRA include agrochem giants such as Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, and Syngenta; pharmaceutical companies such as Merck Animal Health, Elanco Animal Health, and Zoetis; and other well-known corporations such as John Deere and Cargill.

The Alliance describes its membership on its website as “more than 80 farmer – and rancher-led organizations and agricultural partners representing virtually all aspects of agriculture, working to engage in dialogue with consumers who have questions about how today’s food is grown and raised.”

According to Spinning Food, a report on the food industry front groups which are attempting to shape the range and lexicon of our collective conversation around food and agriculture, the USFRA spent nearly $30 million between 2009-2013 engaging in that “dialogue.”

“There is not one organic or sustainable [ag] industry group among its members,” according to Spinning Food. “Meanwhile its policy platform defends GMOs, the routine use of antibiotics in animal agriculture, and the safety of synthetic pesticides.”

Recently this included production of the film, Farmland, in an effort to counter the effects of the popular 2008 documentary, Food Inc, which was highly critical of current industrial models of food and agricultural production and animal husbandry.

It has hosted carefully orchestrated panel discussions across the country called “Food Dialogues” in an effort to appear open and transparent, and to frame the outline of acceptable conversation around food and ag. Who doesn’t want a dialogue, after all? How reasonable.

Here’s more reading to provide additional context for Big AgroChem’s latest makeover-in-progress:

2015: The Beginning of a Paradigm Shift for Big Food and Agriculture?

What You Need to Know About the Corporate Shift to Cage-Free Eggs

No More Exposés in North Carolina

 

View the USFRA’s ‘Day in the Life’ series below.

A Day on a Pig Farm

A Day on a Dairy Farm

A Day on a Cattle Ranch

A Day on a Produce Farm

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