Myths Dispelled about Arizona Agriculture; Agriculture in General

By Joe Sigg with source contributions by Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau: Most of us should plead guilty to confirmation bias – we process information according to our presets. It’s not unusual to place at the center one’s individual thinking, even when it is less justified by the facts. Often we believe we understand subjects we do not.

Here are some facts about Arizona agriculture:

Genetically modified foods:

There is no GMO food in our supply system that would cause allergies, nutrition deficiencies or food safety issues. If you choose no GMO’s, then choose organic labels. But understand that is a matter of personal choice, and not science. It is based on belief and not evidence.  In over 20 years of research, there is nothing to support that GMO’s in our food system are harmful to you. And, on the contrary, GMO’s are hugely beneficial.

For Source Information:

  1. Arizona Farm Bureau’s Biotech in Agriculture page provides a variety of additional information
  2. GMO Answers gets your questions answered by experts.
  3. You can discover where science trumps ideology at Genetic Literacy Project.

Crop subsidies:

Direct subsidy programs are a thing of the past. Federal support programs in Arizona apply mostly to cotton (under 100,000 acres in 2015). The programs are insurance based, which producers pay for at supported rates. All federal dollars for agriculture in Arizona, to include conservation programs, are less than 1% of cash receipts and rapidly declining. So the notion that “Arizona crops are subsidized” is a characterization wide of the mark.

For Source Information:

  1. Farm Policy Facts is designed to help us understand the importance of agriculture in America

Water subsidies:

There has been a lot of water stored and put to beneficial and productive use since the Reclamation Act of 1902; all of it designed to help populate and grow the west and southwest. Part of it was to encourage and incentivize agriculture. There have been a myriad of promises, arrangements and contracts to facilitate this, and to insure that Arizona took its full contact right from the Colorado River.

Fast forward to today, there are no federal supports for groundwater pumping in most parts of the state. There are Tribal and non-tribal projects for the delivery of water to agriculture, and there is no one specific answer as to federal supports. For example, if a project is paid for as in southwestern Arizona, about the only advantage is for an organized district to receive power at cost and access to some federal financing for infrastructures. In central Arizona, agriculture is only a short term placeholder for municipal and industrial interests until 2030, and there are certain understandings in place to secure that.

Yes, the federal government is involved in support of infrastructures that provide water to all of the southwest, but for the most part, taken in totality across the state, irrigation water to farmers is no more subsidized than water to your tap or to your gas at the pump.

For Source Information:

  1. The Arizona Department of Water Resources likes to identify itself as protecting Arizona’s water supplies for its next century. And certainly with the help of stakeholder groups our desert state has done an amazing job of conserving and managing this precious resource.
  2. Arizona Farm Bureau’s ongoing discussions on water can be found on azfb.org.

Pesticides:

Modern pesticides used in today’s commercial agriculture are targeted to very narrow bands of control, can be handled safely, break down quickly after use and do not impact food safety or the environment, if used according to label. They are applied with both precision and prescription (third party). Both technology and economics are driving farmers to reduce usage.

For Source Information:

  1. This website, Find Our Common Ground, hosted by farmers and ranchers all across the country answers a variety of questions about farming including pesticide use. The website features itself as having conversations about food and farming.
  2. Best Food Facts is another great website regarding these issues.

Raw milk:

Unpasteurized dairy products have increased health risks for the young, the aged and those with compromised immune systems. The FDA’s evidence indicates any advantage claimed from drinking unpasteurized milk is negated by the health risk.

For Source Information:

  1. This website, Find Our Common Ground, hosted by farmers and ranchers all across the country answers a variety of questions about farming including pesticide use. The website features itself as having conversations about food and farming.
  2. Best Food Facts is another great website regarding these issues.

Industrial agriculture:

Why it is that agriculture is the only industry where we think we can “socially” deny that it should operate in economies of scale. Efficient agriculture is not, by definition or operation, abusive of animals, the environment or people. Larger operations also have the ability to employ more resources to meet expanding regulatory demands. Size depends on your business model, your enterprises, your resources and your inclinations, not on some previously conditioned presets. Agriculture comes in all sizes.

For Source Information:

  1. This website, Find Our Common Ground, hosted by farmers and ranchers all across the country answers a variety of questions about farming including pesticide use. The website features itself as having conversations about food and farming.
  2. Best Food Facts is another great website regarding these issues.

Grazing:

Grazing of public lands maintains water for wildlife, access for the public and multiple use, income to help offset the costs of administration and contributes to the efforts of keeping our forests thinned. Ranchers grazing public lands are not just users – they are stewards.

For Source Information:

  1. For all sorts of information about beef and the industry in general, the American Beef Council is your source.

Labor:

Arizona agriculture does not knowingly employ those not documented to work in this country and have advocated for a decade and a half for the federal government to revise outdated, unworkable and downright broken immigration laws. Only Congress can fix this mess and they have failed in their duty.

For Source Information:

  1. Arizona Farm Bureau has regularly posted articles about this issue on azfb.org
  2. Another valuable resource is Immigration Works. They provide the business case for immigration reform.

Animal Welfare:

You might not choose it, but the consumption of animal protein, graphed worldwide, shows a straight and upwards 45 degree angle. And one of the hard realities is before we consume any of this protein it must be killed. Livestock are different from utilitarian and companion animals. Rations are measured, monitored and tailored. Veterinary care is quite disciplines. Efficiencies are not by definition abusive. The way we care for our livestock, much as we care for our natural resources, determines whether we can continue on in this important responsibility. High standards of care should be part of the culture of livestock operations and revised based upon new arising conditions, science and technology.

For Source Information:

  1. This website, Find Our Common Ground, hosted by farmers and ranchers all across the country answers a variety of questions about farming including pesticide use. The website features itself as having conversations about food and farming.
  2. Best Food Facts is another great website regarding these issues.
  3. A great source for understanding the animal agriculture industry overall is Animal Ag Alliance.
  4. HumaneWatch.org is a great source for understanding the deception some animal rights organizations employ.

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