There are certain phrases or words that in a given context are used primarily to denigrate or smear one’s opponent.
For example, the word factory used by itself means “production facility.” In the context “factory farm,” however, we’ve been conditioned to assume the farm in question is an unholy monstrosity where the environment is plundered and animals are abused for fun and profit.
For years, opponents of modern production farms of any significant size have been unfairly smeared with this label. Using the tactics of infamous radical Saul Alinsky, this slander has served to both separate and polarize large-scale farms from those bucolic pictures of tiny agrarian homesteads that once dotted the rural landscape.
I noted a new such covert phrase this week: “family-size farm.” Perhaps this sounds like mere semantics, but consider the context: Chuck Hassebrook of the Center for Rural Affairs (an organization known for attacking large scale farms for over 30 years) said this week that the current farm safety net only benefits large land owners in the form of higher land values and cash rents. He claimed the system leaves Washington with too little money to invest in “proven rural economic development strategies.”
Specifically, Hassebrook claimed that “by putting a real limit on payments to the biggest farms, we could make the farm program work better for 98 percent of farmers, the family-size farms, and then have the money to invest in creating the future of rural America.”
So the new code word for farms that aren’t run by evil corporate mega-farmers is “family-size.” Why is this a big deal?
This is a big deal because more than 98 percent of farms nationwide are family owned and operated. This is what the environmentalists call “an inconvenient truth” because for years the factory farm smear has led us to believe that large scale farms are owned and operated by nameless, faceless global conglomerates who meet in shadowy rooms in the basements of their ivory towers. In reality, almost all farms are owned and operated by families like mine, who want to do the best job possible producing our food and protecting our natural resources.
Enter the new code word. Because farmers and agricultural advocates no longer accept the implied stigma associated with not being a “family farm” by pointing out that almost ALL farms are indeed family owned, the anti-farm crowd is adding nuance to its arsenal. Saying a farm is “family-sized” insinuates that there is a size at which a farm is no longer a wholesome family operation, but rather a corporate “factory” mega-monstrosity. Adding this cleverly-crafted code word also allows the environmental and animal rights extremists to continue setting up straw men for their radical agendas. If a logical thinker challenges their wild and baseless accusations by saying “I know a farmer that…,” then the activist can simply say, “Oh, I’m not referring to ‘family-size’ farms, but to those giant corporate factory mega-farms.”
To me, my opinion of farming is size-neutral because it’s going to take all American farmers to feed the additional 100 million citizens expected to populate our nation in the next thirty years.
From organic to conventional, biotech to non-GMO, farming is a diverse and continually evolving profession. Rather than pit neighbor against neighbor and production practice against production practice, I choose to support all farmers, and thank them for the work they do in producing the food and protecting the natural resources on which we all depend for sustenance.