It's a reality - some Americans still view the American farmer clad in overalls living on a small acreage complete with a cow, a few chickens and a big red barn filled with hay.
We in Kansasall know it's quite different picture on today's high-tech farms and ranches.But still, there is a perception - a population - that needs education.
I recently interviewed Ken McCauley, a White Cloud, Kan. farmer, about anAssociated Press investigation about ethanol. The longtime leader in the cornindustry says the piece is missing several key facts and takes many aspects of the industry outof context.
His neighbors are concerned, he said, and have asked him what thecorn industry is doing in response.
But when he asks what they're doing, it's very little.
They say they are too busy, he told me. So is he, he notes as hefinished his corn harvest earlier this week. Yet, he knows someone has to tellagriculture's story to a large sector of the American public that doesn't knowwhat's happening on the farm.
More, he said, need to step up to the plate.
Rural Americais an essential component in keeping the nation secure. The residents who livein these large swaths are vital in the nation's future. But this is the reality- those not living in rural Americais a much bigger population - and that population doesn't necessarily know howtheir food gets on their tables. Or, in this specific case, the process ittakes to get fuel in their vehicles and the impact it has on the rural economy.
I've heard from a few angered by the AP stories. Others aremaking statements. Some ethanol industry groups are sending out emails with allthe information that producers need - without having to do work. There arefill-in-the-blank letters to the editor, example tweets to put on Twitter. Theyeven made sample Facebook posts that people can use - largely under the hashtag#apfactcheck.
Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board,posted on Twitter on Nov. 8 that the "Associated Press is prepared to releasesome really pathetic journalism next week trashing ethanol, it is short on fact& long on gunk (oil)."
Meanwhile Mindy Larson Poldberg, director of government relationsfor the Iowa Corn Growers Association tweets: "Dear AP, where is the $7 corn,as stated in your article? As of 3:14 p.m. price of corn currently trading at$4.32 for Dec."
South Dakota Corn also tweeted "Setting the record straightfollowing the @AP's slanted & shameful attack on American ethanol."
Even Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley has weighed in, "Biggest envdisaster in Gulf of Mex belongs to Big Oil- not farmers."
An AP investigative reporter involved in the series, Matt Apuzzo,recently was on reddit.com chat program answeringquestions about the story and defending it. Most of the questions coming from afew folks in the ethanol industry including Geoff Cooper, the Renewable FuelsAssociation's vice president of research and analysis.
An interesting side note, Apuzzo and a team won the PulitzerPrize in 2012 for documenting the New York Police Department's widespreadspying on Muslims. Sally Buzbee - yes, the daughter-in-law of former Hutch Newspublisher Dick Buzbee, led the team. Read about that here.
But here are the real facts: You can't stay in a comfort zone andexpect to educate the world about the agriculture industry. Like it or don't,there are reports out there, stories you might agree with or don't agree with,and you should know what they say. Farmers and industry leaders need to stayinformed.
That has long been my goal as an ag journalist - and I plan tocontinue to provide agriculture producers in the state of Kansas with information about what ishappening - sometimes good and sometimes bad.