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Jonathan Knutson

What would you have said about these ag topics?

A few months ago, a reader sent me a very nice email calling me a "wonderful advocate for agriculture." Though I appreciated the comment, it surprised me. I've always thought of myself as an ag journalist who does his far-from-perfect best to understand and explain a complex, complicated subject, not as an advocate for ag.

But, yeah, I suppose I am an ag advocate at times. Over the past few decades, I've been at gas stations, supermarkets, convenience stores and other public places where I've occasionally heard people make comments, almost always negative, about ag.

Sometimes I don't respond. The body language and tone of voice of the person making the comment indicate that nothing good can be achieved by engaging him or her in conversation.

But sometimes I do respond — respectfully, of course. Here are six examples of public comments I heard and how I responded. My imperfect memory prevents the quotes from being exact, but they come pretty close.

Rainy weekend

Comment (made on a rainy Saturday morning in July during a dry summer): "I hate this rain. It's ruining my weekend."

My response: "I'm sure it's annoying. But the rain helps the crops, and that's good for the entire economy."

What would you have said?

Farm payments

Comment: "Farmers get all kinds of government payments, and taxpayers are stuck paying for these awful subsidies."

My response: "Yes, there are farm payments. But some go for conservation, and helping the environment enjoys a lot of public support And some of the payments provide a safety net that pays part of farmers' bills in tough times. The rationale is that the safety net helps to ensure a safe, secure and affordable food supply."

What would you have said?

Complaining farmers:

Comment: "Farmers and ranchers whine too much."

My response: "Yeah, farmers and ranchers complain at times. But that's true for people in every line of work. And a lot of farmers' and ranchers' grumbling is getting rid of built-up stress and frustration, which they need to do."

What would you have said?

Cold snap

Comment (made during a bitterly February cold snap): "I'm tired of ranchers complaining about the cold weather. They chose to be ranchers."

My response: "Yes, they did. But did so snow plow operators, members of power line crews and other people with outdoor jobs that need to be done. I think they all deserve a little sympathy right now."

What would you have said?

Working hard

Comment: "I don't know much about farming or ranching, but I know farmers and ranchers work very hard."

My response: "Yes, they do, though modern equipment has reduced some of the sheer physical drudgery. The bigger challenge is dealing with the stress from stuff like weather and prices that they can't control."

What would you have said?

On the road again

Comment: "It bugs me when farmers drive their equipment on the highway. They mess up traffic for the rest of us."

My response: "I understand what you're saying. But farmers pay taxes, too, and they need to get their equipment from one field to the next."

What would you have said?

If you have better responses to any of those comments, please share them with me. And please consider how you'll respond the next time you hear a public comment about agriculture.

After all, Agweek readers, just like Agweek columnists, are advocates for ag.

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