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Food Security More Important Than Ever

By Dave Carter

The Lufthansa advertisement in the Newsweek magazine delivered to my house on September 11 was very simple.

The photograph in the ad placed the viewer on the streets of a major city, looking upward through a maze of high-rise buildings to a jet plane soaring overhead. It was designed to convey a message of fleeing the hassles of the urban rat race by climbing on a jet plane. By the time I saw the ad, the high-rise buildings and jet plane carried a vastly different meaning.

How quick our attitudes can change.

The aftermath of September 11 has been much more than clearing out rubble and looking for survivors. Across the nation, citizens are wrestling with the implications of the uncertainty created by the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.

They are dealing with the uncertainty by seeking something tangible, and meaningful. In the days following the attacks, people have gone on picnics with their families, have puttered in their gardens, have backpacked to familiar camping sites . . . all activities designed to reassure us of the stability and certainty of life. In his book, “Megatrends,” author John Nesbitt noted that people often react to increasing uncertainty by building more certainty into other aspects of their lives. People reaching out for stability may translate this into some changes in our food system.

Over the past couple of decades, our food system, and our national economy, seems to have been built on the principle of “more stuff at less cost.” The headlong rush into the global marketplace was predicated on the idea of large-scale, low cost production. It didn’t matter where or how it was produced, or even what was in it…just get it into the store at the cheapest cost.

In recent months, a growing chorus of consumers was already starting to question the wisdom of that system. The outbreaks of Mad Cow disease, Foot-and-Mouth disease, and other problems, began to heighten consumer awareness about the integrity of our food system.

For years, we in agriculture have watched with frustration as the public seemed to be losing its connection with farmers, ranchers and rural communities. The fascination with “more stuff at less cost” seemed destined to eliminate American farmers in favor of low-cost imported products. That just changed.

Now, more than ever, consumers want to know where their food is coming from, and how it was produced. That desire is driven by more than wanting to assure food safety. In the midst of the national uncertainty, people are re-establishing and reaffirming relationships.

Independent agricultural producers in the Rocky Mountain region have long been willing to stand behind the integrity of our products. Now, it’s time to step out from behind our products and stand side-by-side with our customers.

Our customers are looking for certainty. We can provide it. Let’s start developing the relationships necessary to build a truly strong, secure, and lasting food system.