Bias against agricultural practices evident at OSU
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013 23:02
Considering we are an agricultural college, one would think the classes at Oregon State would not speak ill of agriculture. However, in my experience, I have found this to be more commonplace than perceived. Indeed, even in an animal sciences class I have found bias against agriculture, and a deplorable, unfair representation of agriculture and its practices.
For instance, I took a philosophy class, and while the teacher was very knowledgeable, and very intelligent, he made it seem agriculturalists and farmers do not care for the land upon which they depend upon. To me, this is a misconception. Why would the farmer not care for his land, when the land is what pays his bills and feeds his family? Granted, there are farmers who may not care for the land as well as they should, but overall farmers are the best caretakers of the Earth.
I came across this bias again in a soils class. The argument was that due to agricultural practices, the soil could form a hard shelf, making it impermeable to water under the tilling zone due to the pressures of the tiller itself. No mention was made of the farming practices which farmers implement to prevent such effects, nor any mention of the fact that farmers would not want such a shelf because it may affect water retention for their crops, as well as other issues.
However, the worst case of bias against agriculture and its misrepresentation that I have experienced is in the aforementioned animal sciences class. While the class is meant to cover controversial issues in agriculture, it does not fairly represent the players within that controversy. To explain this extreme misrepresentation, let me elaborate: We watched “Food Inc.” — to those unfamiliar, the movie elaborates upon the food companies that own many of the products at our local food store. But it is not that simple. The movie also shows animals being abused and being held in unsanitary conditions.
The gross misrepresentations of agriculture in these classes and in “Food Inc.” are offensive to me. It would not have angered me as much if they had fairly represented agriculture, but that was not the case. There were no mentions of the measures farmers implement to prevent another Dust Bowl. There were no mentions of the animal agriculturalists who treat their animals humanely. Instead, we saw a one-sided argument, which due to its bias loses its integrity.
These classes represent agriculturalists as those who do not care for their product, only profit. This is not true. Yes, you must make money if you are to stay in business and feed your family; that is only sensible. To say that farmers do not care for their land, or that ranchers do not care for their cattle is incorrect. If the land is what makes the farmers money and feeds their families and pays their bills, why would they abuse it? Likewise for ranchers or any of those in animal agriculture — why would they abuse the product that makes them money? In fact, cattle excrete a hormone under duress that, if they are harvested while under duress, affects the meat quality. Why would they implement any system that puts the cattle under duress? The same is true for any type of animal agriculture.
While the classes that misrepresent agriculture may be abundant, that does not mean there are not opportunities for students to become educated. Practices such as crop rotations, varying tilling styles, weed management techniques and fertilizer techniques are to prevent issues like the Dust Bowl. Animal agriculturalists do believe in the humane treatment of animals. There are many safeguards in place to prevent injury to both the animal and the handler. For instance, at the Clark Meat Center, if an animal is under duress when harvested, the whole operation is shut down, the issue is found and is resolved before any more work can be done.
I must stress I do not disagree there are agriculturalists who mistreat their animals or land. However, it is not industry-wide custom to abuse the land or animals farmers or ranchers work with.
Considering the misrepresentations practiced at this university, as well as in the media and by various organizations, I must advocate that students take courses via the college of agriculture if they are curious about the practices and motivations behind the industry. Once you are fully informed, then you may understand the reasons behind the practices of the agricultural field. You may even discover a new passion. Please, become informed before you make rash judgments about those in agriculture. There is a lot more than meets the eye.
Tyler Pike is a junior in agricultural sciences. The opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Barometer staff. Pike can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.