Monday, January 24, 2011

Communicating My Message Through Traditional Media

Often the best way to learn something is by doing it.  This was the approach to our media training.  We recorded several mock interviews and played them back to analyze how we did.  We learned:
  1. to be careful in what we said so our comments could not be edited and used against us. 
  2. Speak in clear concise "sound bite" messages.
  3. Stay on topic by using talking points.  
While all this may sound scary and difficult it is not that hard.  We just need to think about what we are saying and who we are saying it to.

Farmers and ranchers have not traditionally been good at telling our story to the public, but with the constantly increasing attacks against American agriculture we can no longer neglect to speak out, our way of life is at stake.  There is plenty of miss-information being spread about farmers today, if we don’t tell them the truth, we can’t expect them to stand up for us, either in the voting booth, or at the grocery store.   We need these people as our allies, and the only way that will happen is if we learn to effectively communicate our message to them.

Throughout the program our platform issue was Cap and Trade, the following is the statement I developed and used for the training.

I’m Garrick Hall, my wife and I and our five children own and operate a small dairy in northern Utah.  We take pride in caring for our animals and producing high quality milk.  Supporting a family on a small farm is not easy but we manage.  I want to take a minute to tell you how proposed new legislation would affect my family’s dairy farm and others like us. 

The Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill, currently under consideration in the US Senate, is simply a tax on energy.  It takes a lot of energy to run our dairy farm.  It takes a lot of electricity to run the motors used to milk the cows and cool the milk. We use a lot of diesel to run the tractors used to feed and care for the animals.  It gets very cold in the winter where we live so we use natural gas to heat the barn and keep things from freezing up.  We have to pay freight costs to bring feed into the dairy and to haul milk out of the dairy.  All these costs would increase significantly if cap and trade is implemented. 

Using numbers from the Heritage Foundation, if Cap and Trade had been fully implemented in 2008, it would have cost my family over $23,000 in increased energy costs.   Roughly the cost of a brand new car for my family.  

My fear is that I will be left to pay these increased expenses, with little if any increased revenue.  Because these expenses will only be charged to US producers, they will not have a significant effect on Climate Change; however they will put American farmers and ranchers at a disadvantage in a global market.  If we increase cost to Farmers here in America without requiring the same from farmers in other countries, farm production will be driven out of the United States and food will be imported into the US.   If we are truly concerned about our “carbon footprint” this should be very concerning.  Farmers in many of the countries that will most likely replace the American farmer do not have to comply with the strict environmental regulations we impose here in the US.  Simply put US farmers can produce more pounds of food per pound of carbon emission than farmers in most foreign countries.  Forcing food production out of the US would in the end have a negative effect on carbon emissions, or increase the “carbon footprint” of the food we eat.

The bottom line is that Cap and Trade would most likely force my family along with many other livestock farmers out of business.  Much of rural America is dependent on these livestock farms.  From the purchasing of feed, supplies, labor, equipment, and much more, along with processing, hauling, and marketing of the products we produce.  There are a tremendous number of jobs and people depending on the livestock industry.  The result of Cap and Trade would be to run livestock farmers (such as myself) out of business and devastate the rural communities we support, while failing to significantly affect Climate Change. 

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