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Defined by critics, big ag restarts conversation

December 30, 2013 • Business


This photo taken Oct. 16, 2013 shows Larry Hasheider walking along one of his corn fields on his farm in Okawville, Ill. Hasheider grows soybeans, wheat and alfalfa on the farm, nestled in the heart of Illinois corn country where he also has 130 dairy cows, 500 beef cattle and 30,000 hogs and even gives tours, something he says he never would have done 20 years ago. Add one more item to the list of chores that Larry Hasheider has to do on his 1,700-acre farm: defending his business to the American public. There’s a lot of conversation about traditional agriculture recently, and much of it is critical. Among the issues people are concerned about: genetically modified crops, overuse of hormones and antibiotics, inhumane treatment of animals and whether the government subsidizes unhealthy foods. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

OKAWVILLE, Ill. (AP) — Add one more item to the list of chores that Larry Hasheider has to do on his 1,700-acre farm: defending his business to the American public.

There’s a lot of conversation about traditional agriculture recently, and much of it is critical. Think genetically modified crops, overuse of hormones and antibiotics, inhumane treatment of animals and over-processed foods.

This explosion of talk about food — some based on fact, some based on fiction — has already transformed the marketplace. Slow to respond and often defensive, farmers and others in agribusiness have for several years let critics define the public debate and influence consumers. Now, the industry is trying to push farmers and businesses to fight back, connecting with those consumers through social media and outreach that many in agriculture have traditionally shunned.

“We as farmers now have another role in addition to being farmers,” Hasheider says as he takes a break from harvesting his corn crop. “It’s something you have to evolve into.”

In addition to corn, Hasheider grows soybeans, wheat and alfalfa on the farm nestled in the heart of Illinois corn country. He cares for 130 dairy cows, 500 beef cattle and 30,000 hogs. And now, he’s giving tours of his farm, something he says he never would have done 20 years ago.

“We didn’t think anyone would be interested in what we were doing,” he says.

Like a lot of other farmers, Hasheider was wrong.

Take the issue of genetically modified foods. There has been little scientific evidence to prove that foods grown from Login to read more

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