Last week I wrote about how agriculture needs to draw a line in the sand and stand up against certain forces bent on its destruction. I got a few e-mails in support of that position, most thanking me for standing up for agriculture. But folks, I am not the one who needs to stand up – you are.
In my opinion, the response of many large farm organizations to the attacks from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and others has been a bit on the timid side. We have relied on facts, science and engaging in “dialogues” on food and agriculture issues. Meanwhile, those on the other side have resorted to lawsuits, intimidation, voter referendums, misleading television commercials, and even lobbying and legislation. There has emerged, however, an organization that is taking a much more aggressive and effective strategy when dealing with anti-agriculture activist groups.
Protect The Harvest was created to fight back and defend American families, farmers, hunters and animal owners from the growing threat posed by the radical animal rights movement. They have three objectives: inform, protect, and respond. Protect The Harvest is a group of concerned citizens that is seeking to aggressively educate and communicate with the general public wherever those elements, including extremist animal rights groups, pose a threat to farmers, ranchers or hunters.
According to the group’s website, “Protect The Harvest exists to defend our way of life, preserve our food freedom and stand up for America’s farmers, hunters and animal owners.”
Protect the Harvest was born out of the battle with HSUS that took place in Missouri and North Dakota. When farmers in these states found themselves on the losing end of voter referendums that would have devastated their animal agriculture industry, they got mad and got organized.
With the help of Protect the Harvest and other grassroots farm organizations, they beat back HSUS in North Dakota and reversed the ballot box gains in Missouri.
What is even more amazing than the founding of Protect the Harvest is the man who singlehandedly funded and gave birth to this incredibly effective movement.
Forrest Lucas is best known for the oil company that carries his name and for his involvement in racing and for securing the naming rights on the stadium in which the Indianapolis Colts play football. For me, the real accomplishment of Forrest Lucas is what he has done for agriculture.
Growing up in rural Southern Indiana, Lucas learned how to work hard. He began his road to success driving long-haul trucks. When maintenance costs cut into his bottom line, he did what many farmers do – he innovated.
He invented a lubricant that reduced his trucking costs and Lucas Oil products was on its way. In addition to oil and racing, Lucas is a cattleman. He is one of the largest breeders in the nation and is passionate about agriculture.
The kind of no nonsense, get-it-done approach Lucas has taken in his oil company was put into the Protect the Harvest organization. They are not afraid to take on groups like HSUS head on. And it is not just ads and fancy PR, they do what it takes to defend agriculture.
Protect the Harvest is not above retaining a team of lawyers to file legal challenges, hire lobbyists to fight for or against state or federal legislation, or fund a grass roots movement to mobilize public opinion in favor of U.S. farmers. Unlike many farm groups who tend to be reactionary, Protect the Harvest goes on the offensive before activists mount a slander campaign against agriculture.
Protect the Harvest has a solid base of support in states such as Missouri, Iowa and the Dakotas where farmers have been on the front lines of the animal welfare movement. Now, however, they are growing in other Midwest farm states including Indiana. Lucas recently invited more than 400 Indiana farm leaders to his mansion in Carmel for a pep talk on Protect the Harvest.
Everyone in the room was impressed with his vision, his focus and his commitment to supporting agriculture. The room erupted into applause when he said, “I want my legacy to be that I was the guy who beat HSUS.” While Lucas is very rich and very powerful, he cannot and should not go it alone. Farmers and others who support agriculture and our rural way of life need to support this organization.
One of my personal heroes, Gen. George Patton once said, “A good solution applied with vigor now is better than a perfect solution applied 10 minutes later.”
This is the approach of Protect the Harvest. While academics discuss the right balance with consumers on the animal welfare question and industry groups post questions on social media channels, Protect the Harvest is exposing these activists for what they are frauds.
Protect the Harvest deserves your support or as the good General would say, “Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.”
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers with questions or comments for Gary Truitt may write to him in care of this publication.