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The ups and downs of ag news in 2012

Posted Tuesday, January 8, 2013, at 4:17 PM

Now that 2013 is upon us, and we survived the Mayan threat of Dec. 21 and found ourselves on the other side, I think it is time to look back at 2012.

In agriculture headlines, it was a busy year: labor laws, parody videos, pink slime and drought.

However, there were several victories along the way. The biggest one was probably the withdraw of labor department law changes which would have changed the dynamics of the family farm.

The laws would have kept most rural children from getting a chance to run a tractor, feed a cow or even work at a local livestock barn. Although I have no doubt the proposed changes came with the best of intentions, it took teamwork, social media, legislators and word of mouth to get the labor department to back down.

All of it was a wonderful testament to the power of speaking out.

Another victory in 2012 came in the way of an innocent video posted on YouTube by a college student at Kansas State University.

Parodying a hit pop song, three brothers, Greg, Nathan and Kendal Peterson from Kansas, took to YouTube to highlight what life as a farmer is really like by putting an agricultural spin on LMFAO's hit song, "I'm Sexy And I Know It."

This week it had 8 million hits, which is amazing. But even more amazing is the 11 million views their newest video, Farmer Style, has received. With scenes shot by their sister Laura, the boys have shown that people are interested in what really happens on a family farm.

Although I don't know many singing, dancing farmers, I do know many people who could easily have shot similar work scenes on their family farm. Those scenes, which can't be seen by a city-dweller driving 70 miles an hour down the highway, give a peek at farm life to those who really are interested in what happens on a farm daily.

Another good thing for agriculture came at the 11th hour on Dec. 31, when Congress extended parts of the 2008 Farm Bill, along with "Fiscal Cliff" legislation.

Failure to pass legislation would have had huge tax implications for Americans. However, it seemed like the real possibility of milk prices doubling was what really grabbed headlines.

For me, it seemed to reinforce the belief that if people really saw how certain practices would affect the price of their groceries, they would react.

While it may seem nostalgic to want pigs raised outside, chickens to range freely, or corn to pollinate openly, the truth is the cost of those practices in our growing population would be extreme.

The practices U.S. farmers have put in place in the last 50 years have led to the lowest-priced and most-abundant food supply in the world, despite increased urbanization. It's the same food I feed my family and will continue to feed my family.

Of course, with all the positives came many negatives.

Those included the loss of hundreds of American jobs when beef trimmings from Beef Products Inc. were labeled "Pink Slime."

The debacle, which will eventually affect all our pocketbooks, showed the power of media and a catchy phrase could still trump sound science.

One of the biggest agriculture stories this year was the Drought of 2012. Although we heard a lot about it, the mainstream media didn't cover what could have been.

Unless they were reading farm magazines, the common American doesn't realize that without modern technology and genetically modified crops, this year's crop would have been non-existent.

With as little rain as we had, most farmers will tell you it is nothing short of a modern miracle that we had any crops at all. With the intense heat, animals including pigs and chickens would have been lost by the thousands without climate controlled barns. Feed for surviving livestock would have tripled in price.

But somehow that story never got told.

Perhaps someday the Peterson brothers will sing about it in a video. After all, that seems to get people's attention.

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