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Mike Rowe: Ag ranchers must be their own advocates

American Farm Bureau Published on 12 January 2011

rowe_regFarmers became a big part of “Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe” when Rowe took offense at the saying, “work smarter, not harder.”

“What a silly way to separate knowledge from skill,” Rowe told attendees at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 92nd annual meeting Monday. Rowe decided to celebrate people who work both smart and hard and knew farmers and ranchers do both.

“It seems like every time I go to a farm, there’s some type of issue,” he said, recounting what happened after three farm episodes aired.

On his series “Dirty Jobs,” that airs on the Discovery Channel, Rowe helped a hog farmer with an operation near Las Vegas gather leftover food from casinos, which the farmer cooked in his Rube Goldberg invention and then fed to the hogs. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wrote to him, concerned that the warm food was harming the animals. The Environmental Protection Agency feared gas escaping from a hose under a truck hood might be toxic when in fact it was steam.

Rowe visited a laying hen operation in Buckeye, Ariz., which he said enabled him to give an honest, fair look at caged egg production. Because “we deal with feces from every species,” Rowe used a bobcat to clean up chicken manure that accumulated below the cages. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said his skill with the bobcat – or lack thereof – had come perilously close to endangering the health of the workers at the farm.

Before a visit to a Craig, Colo., sheep ranch to assist with castrating lambs, Rowe asked the humane society about the preferred method for the procedure and was told how to use a rubber band to accomplish the task. However, he learned that the lambs recovered quickly after the ranchers’ method of clipping and extracting the genitals but would be in pain for up to two days if rubber bands were used. “I saw with my own eyes that it was a kinder, gentler way to do it for the lamb,” he said of the rancher’s procedure.

That got Rowe to thinking: if these experts and agencies were wrong about what they saw on “Dirty Jobs,” what else were they wrong about?

American farmers are surrounded by angry activist groups, each with its own agenda, he said. “Our country is asking you to do more with less every single year and I see a lot of other agendas pushing at you. The rest of the country needs to understand what you guys do on a day-to-day basis. We are not sufficiently astounded that you guys feed [the world] every day.”

Rather than a spokesman, agriculture needs lots of advocates, Rowe said. These advocates can each use their talents to tell their story. He cited Troy Hadrick, a Farm Bureau member in South Dakota whose YouTube video attracted the interest of a furniture company owner who now sponsors a Nascar entry that promotes agriculture during races.

Rowe himself has produced two “brown before green” specials that showcase farmers’ work to care for the earth. “You find a farmer and scrape off the dirt and you’ll find one of the greenest people on the planet,” he said. Saying he was flattered at having been asked to be a spokesman for agriculture, he told Farm Bureau members, “I do believe in my heart of hearts that you are your own best spokesmen.” end_mark

PHOTO: Mike Rowe of Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs" 

Photo courtesy Discovery Communications