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The business of being a professional protester
In his classic rock song, Billy Joel described the professional protestor this way, “There’s a place in the world for the angry young man with his working class ties and his radical plans. He refuses to bend, he refuses to crawl, and he’s always at home with his back to the wall.”

Since the days of the 1970s, the angry young man has become big business and very well organized and well funded.

While today’s protestors and activist groups maintain the persona of grassroots organizations, they are in reality big business producing huge profits for their pundits.

Cheryl Byrne, senior vice president of V-Fluence Interactive Public Relations, painted a chilling picture of these groups at the Grow America Summit held recently in Indianapolis.

“Grassroots don’t grow without some nurturing,” Byrne said. Many of the organizations that are the most outspoken critics of modern agriculture are highly sophisticated organizations with marketing plans and public relations agencies. Byrne said these groups use science to fit their agendas.

“Most true scientists do not make absolute statements like ‘this always happens,’” she said.

These groups have tremendous financial resources and can buy about any scientific evidence they want, she observed.

The image many of these groups put forth is of independent organizations dedicated to a single cause. In reality, these groups are interconnected, share funding sources, and their leaders serve on each other’s boards. Their goal is not to solve a problem or right a wrong but rather to perpetuate crises to prolong their existence.

In addition to faulty statistics and phony science, these groups love to publish sensational books. Not only do these perpetuate their propaganda, but also make money for their leaders. Visit any modern bookstore and you can find a variety of these books claiming a cornucopia of wrongs, injustices and calamities waiting to happen.

The conclusion of the Grow America Summit was that a new strategy is needed to counter these groups and to narrow the knowledge gap between agriculture and consumers. Byrne said consumers are currently getting too much of their information about agriculture from these professional protestors. Speakers at the summit called for more unity among food and fiber interests.

Companies must partner with competitors and producer organizations to provide a unified and interconnected response. The response must be a blend of science, education, and marketing. It is also a battle in which individual farmers must be a part. If producers want to keep the tools of modern production agriculture, they must be involved in this effort. They must be willing to engage in dialogue with consumers about how their food and fiber are produced.

The Grow America Project is a good idea and looks to be off to a good start. Yet, like any effort, it needs support. I hope the industry and producers will line up behind the new organization and support it with funding and enthusiasm. For more information on the project, visit

This farm news was published in the Nov. 8, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.