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Farmers respond to their critics

A new agriculture organization, The Hand That Feeds U.S., has been formed to explain the farmer’s side of the story to the media. The effort is in response those critical of farmers on various issues, including areas of food costs and the environment, the group said.

“It makes no sense that we’re being demonized by many of the nation’s top newspapers,” said Linda Raun, a rice grower in Texas. “We haven’t done a good enough job telling them our story.”

Monday, two U.S. senators, Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., wrote an open letter to U.S. media outlets noting that opposition to debate leading up to the 2008 farm bill was “largely marked by misinformation.”

Andy Quinn, a Minnesota corn and ethanol producer, said, “We’re the best farmers in the world, but we’re far from being master communicators. For too long, we’ve let a handful of environmental extremists and coalitions bankrolled by big business define our industry in the news.”

Among tidbits of information cited by Farm Policy Facts:

- Americans spend 9.8 percent of their income on food _ less than consumers in any other country.

- For every dollar Americans spend on food, farmers get 20 cents.

- Of the $2.99 retail price for a one-pound loaf of bread, farmers receive 12 cents.

- Only 10 percent of funding in the farm bill goes to farm programs. More than 70 percent of the farm bill-related spending goes to food and nutrition programs such as food stamps.

- 95 percent of U.S. farms are run by families, farmer partnerships or co-ops. Less than 5 percent are corporate farms.