Definition of Relevance \ˈre-lə-vən(t)s\ – noun
a : relation to the matter at hand
b : practical and especially social applicability
I’ve heard the word relevant in relation to agriculture several times in recent months – from Senator Chuck Grassley, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and National Corn Growers Association president Pam Johnson, among others. Not that they are questioning the relevance of agriculture, but that Congress and society in general seem to be not just questioning, but even ignoring, the relevance of agriculture.
What is more relevant to a productive and sustainable society than a consistent, affordable and nutritious food supply? Nothing. What will it take to make the non-farming public realize that what they take for granted is not only relevant but vital?
One way would be if we encourage this whole notion of “grow your own” subsistence farming. Most people would gain a whole new appreciation for farmers if they had to produce all, or even part, of the food they need to eat. They would also gain a whole new appreciation for crop protection products when they get insects and diseases in their crops. If more people had to keep chickens to eat eggs they might have a greater appreciation for poultry housing and antibiotics.
Relevance is all about being able to relate, and the majority of people have a tough time relating to farmers and ranchers. We’ve also never experienced any type of food shortage in most of our lifetimes, so it’s really hard for most Americans to relate to going hungry because the crop didn’t come in. There’s enough food to feed a neighborhood in the average convenience store – or enough to feed a whole starving village in sub-Saharan Africa where they don’t have convenience stores.
Food is what makes agriculture relevant. Agriculture literally equals food – not to mention feed (for more food), fiber for clothing, and fuel for energy. But mainly food. Without the farmers, there is no food.
As long as food is relevant, agriculture must be relevant to society and to its representatives in government.