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  • So what do people usually say when you're about to give a public talk?

  • It's to imagine that your audience is naked.

  • (Laughter)

  • Well, I'm doing a different trick tonight,

  • and I'm going to imagine all of us without farmers,

  • and well, it's not so much different.

  • [Without farmers you'd be hungry, naked and sober]

  • (Laughter)

  • And our farmers do so much more for us

  • than simply feed and clothe and provide us excellent things to drink.

  • Our farmers are an important part of all of our communities,

  • particularly our rural communities.

  • And more than that,

  • they're a strong driver of resilient economics.

  • Think about it this way:

  • When a brewer buys hops from me, grown here in Minnesota,

  • 90 percent of that dollar stays in our state,

  • compared to just 10 percent when they buy it from somewhere else.

  • What that means is a lot.

  • That 90 percent means local jobs.

  • It means tax revenue for better schools and roads.

  • It means support for the co-ops, the mechanics,

  • all the support staff that are needed for a farm to thrive.

  • And they're our best stewards of the land.

  • This quote, I think, exemplifies what our family farmers do for us

  • in stewarding our shared natural resources.

  • "That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology,

  • but that land is to be loved and respected as an extension of ethics."

  • Now, they sure do a lot of good stuff for us.

  • And our family farmers are great, we'd all agree.

  • However,

  • the trends in agriculture today are dire.

  • The average age of a farmer in America,

  • according to the latest agricultural census --

  • 58.3.

  • Of all the farmers,

  • 33 percent are 65 plus.

  • That's a little caricature of my grandpa.

  • (Laughter)

  • He's still farming,

  • and he's much older than 65.

  • But to put that in perspective,

  • another important public service job, teaching,

  • average age of teachers is 42.

  • Our farmers are pretty old in this country.

  • And unfortunately,

  • when they retire, if they retire,

  • we're not really replacing them.

  • Of all the farmers that we added in this country

  • between 2008 and 2012,

  • across the entire United States --

  • see if you can catch this difference --

  • we added 2,000 under the age of 30.

  • I'm one of those.

  • I'll be around to autograph some photos later, if you'd like.

  • (Laughter)

  • But, you know, our farmers are getting older

  • and we're not replacing them --

  • what's going on here?

  • What are we going to do?

  • And I think there's a reason folks aren't coming into it,

  • and that's prices.

  • We're going to go through a couple of slides like this.

  • Milk: This is the average retail price of a gallon of milk in the United States.

  • Four dollars forty-nine cents.

  • How much do you think the farmer gets?

  • Dollar thirty-two.

  • We'll try again with bread.

  • Average retail price of bread in America, three forty-nine.

  • Farmer gets ...

  • Twelve cents.

  • Audience: Oh!

  • And so how are we supposed to have strong local farms

  • in this scenario?

  • What are we supposed to do if there aren't any local farmers left?

  • And this isn't just a farmer problem,

  • it's not just something for the few of us farmers to sort out.

  • This is an all-of-us problem.

  • This is rural and it's urban and it's statewide and it's nationwide.

  • So what do we do about it?

  • I'll tell you that.

  • But first, a story.

  • The green movement, we're all kind of familiar,

  • started in the '60s, planting trees.

  • And now we've come such a long way.

  • Green is part of our day-to-day lives.

  • It's part of the day-to-day lives of Fortune 500 businesses.

  • It's the subject of international treaties,

  • the subject of presidential debates.

  • You and I, we switch our light bulbs,

  • we use reusable bags.

  • We participate in the green movement each and every day.

  • Yet ...

  • and this is how we get to the idea --

  • the food movement,

  • relatively younger, but also somewhat familiar, I imagine.

  • You go to the grocery store,

  • you see a sign that says "Buy local,"

  • you go to the farmers market, you go to the co-op,

  • you read books by prominent authors.

  • The food movement to date

  • could be summarized as voting with your fork.

  • The idea is: you pull a dollar out of your wallet --

  • how you spend that dollar affects the food system.

  • It supports farmers close to home.

  • And that's all well and good, but where are we going?

  • How do we get to our renewable-energy moment

  • like the green movement did?

  • And this, I think, is what we need to do.

  • Just voting with our fork is not solving the issues

  • that our farmers are facing.

  • And so we need to do more than that.

  • I believe we must move on from just voting with our fork

  • to voting with our vote.

  • We need to take our dollars

  • and continue to spend them locally.

  • We also need to show up at the ballot box for our farmers.

  • This is bigger than just buying local strawberries

  • once a year at a pick-your-own.

  • This is a year-round effort that we must make together

  • to make the change we need.

  • Changes like fair pricing for farmers.

  • That's quotas, supply management,

  • guaranteed prices.

  • Changes like fair and open trade.

  • That means ending trade wars.

  • And yeah, of course it means voting.

  • Now we all knew that one already, though.

  • For example, it's working.

  • Hey, who's that?

  • (Laughter)

  • Just this year in Minnesota,

  • we've passed a historic, first-in-the-country tax credit.

  • The Beginning Farmer Tax Credit.

  • It incentivizes our transition of land

  • from the existing generation to the next generation.

  • That was done by a handful of us young farmers --

  • we certainly don't have money, you saw that earlier.

  • We don't have political experience.

  • But we showed up, and we made our voices heard.

  • And thanks to the support of farmers and non-farmers alike,

  • we got something incredible done here in this state.

  • If we can do it, anybody can do it.

  • Now, that was all light and fuzzy and feels pretty happy.

  • Skeptics in the audience, you're here.

  • That would be me, if I were here.

  • Skeptics are thinking,

  • "Wow, what do we need to change about our food system?"

  • Farmers are great.

  • We have unlimited food, and it's real cheap, too,

  • isn't that great?

  • Well, unfortunately,

  • in the '80s and the '90s in this country, we went down a path of policy

  • that could be described as "get big or get out."

  • And what "get big or get out" means is you maximize production

  • while minimizing costs.

  • On its face value, that sounds pretty simple.

  • However, that shift turned our farmers from a venerated class

  • and a valued class in our society

  • into a cost to be minimized.

  • That shift made it so that my great-grandfather,

  • who supported the family with six cows,

  • that same dairy,

  • trying to support their family, has to be 600 cows today.

  • Six-thousand-cow dairies are not unheard of.

  • What happens when there's this one dairy farm

  • in an entire county,

  • where there used to be hundreds?

  • The same could be said with corn or beans or field crops.

  • What happens when it takes 10,000 acres for one person to support themselves?

  • When it used to only take 40.

  • We know what happens, we read about it in the news.

  • Broadly determined, rural decline,

  • but schools close, schools consolidate,

  • post offices close, grocery stores close.

  • People leave,

  • the community suffers and goes away.

  • I believe all of us in this audience with ties to rural Minnesota

  • know this story well.

  • This is not a problem that we can solve with farmers markets and good intentions.

  • We have to do more for our farmers.

  • Policy got us into this mess,

  • and policy can get us out.

  • American farmers are only getting older, fewer and poorer,

  • yet they are crucial to our state.

  • They're the vibrancy in our rural communities.

  • They're the drivers of economic growth and stability,

  • and they are our best protectors of our shared resources

  • of land, water and air.

  • So we have to do better for them.

  • So join me, would you?

  • Let's fight for our farmers.

  • You can see it,

  • we're already doing it in Minnesota, having great success.

  • And together, we can do even more.

  • And we must.

  • So we were voting with our fork before,

  • and we want to keep doing that.

  • But if I could have one idea for you to go home with today,

  • it's vote with your vote.

  • And so to that end,

  • on the count of three, I'd like all of us to say it together.

  • Are you ready?

  • OK, one,

  • two,

  • three.

  • Audience: Vote with your vote.

  • Very nice, thank you.

  • I think you got it.

  • (Applause)

So what do people usually say when you're about to give a public talk?

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B1 TED voting rural farmer minnesota fork

Without farmers, you'd be hungry, naked and sober | Eric Sannerud

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/04/23
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