As drought and late summer storms have caused considerable damage across the country USDA released its outlook for agricultural trade this week.
Government officials peg exports of U.S. commodities at nearly $135 billion and imports at a record $107.5 billion. The prediction of a new record is being driven by imports of everything from vegetable oils to veal.
The forecast leaves the U.S. with a trade surplus of nearly $30 billion – more than $10 billion short of last year’s record.
USDA officials also released their predictions for net farm income. According to their calculations, the figures on the bottom line will increase nearly 4 percent to over $122 billion. When adjusted for inflation, U.S. farm income will hit its highest level since 1973.
But despite the promising news Consumer Confidence fell back this month to its lowest level in nearly a year.
The 2012 Farm Bill remains stalled in the U.S. House as both sides remain divided on what to do with the $500 billion measure. A recently formed coalition of farm groups called “Farm Bill Now” is urging both sides of the aisle to come together and pass the law. The members – made up of a who’s who in agriculture- are concerned farm, trade and social programs will be adversely affected if nothing is done.
The Farm Bill has become an increasingly complex piece of legislation serving both rural and urban interests. Many are shocked to discover that nearly 80 percent of the measure is geared towards social programs like the supplemental nutrition assistance program or SNAP.
An even greater divide may be found to exist in where urban consumers think their food comes from. But a trio of brothers has managed to educate millions on the virtues of agriculture by showing “how they grow it” in Kansas. Paul Yeager explains.
The Kansas prairie is well known for its fields of wheat, soybeans and irrigation rigs.
Tucked into the central part of the sunflower state near Assaria, is a farmstead known around the world.
Well, the world-wide web, that is.
What began as a tribute to the beauty of the Kansas landscape, quickly escalates into a rap parody as performed by the Peterson Brothers; college senior Greg, college freshman Nathan and high school junior Kendal.
Greg Peterson, Assaria, KS: “I was at Sonic and I was with my friends and a song comes on the radio and I’m like all right, it is that stupid song again. And I am going to change the words and my friends thought it was funny and I was like maybe I will make a music video out of that.”
That springtime idea inspired by LMFAO’s “Sexy And I Know It,” became a summer sensation “I’m Farming and I Grow It.”
Greg Peterson: “I love being out here in the open. I think there is no better place to live than out here in the country. I love it.”
Greg started scripting and scouting locations for his music video. Realizing he was going to need some help, he enlisted the assistance of his two brothers to co-star in the project, albeit reluctantly at first…
Nathan Peterson: “It took a little more motivation to actually film it and stuff because we would film after work when were done and you know we would be tired. And so me and Kendall we would have to do a little more convincing but you know once we got going it was a lot of fun.”
Crew calls for the aspiring filmmakers sometimes came before sunrise, to maximize ‘good light opportunities, and work-day commitments.
The boys’ sister, Laura, also played a vital role, running the camera on some of the more memorable shots.
Greg Peterson: “I would tell Laura, ok, you make sure we are in the shot or you know ok, I want you to pan from left to right or you know zoom. She was kind of my, so I could be in two places at once and then we just acted out and we would take two or three shots to make sure we had a good one and yeah, it took three weeks.”
Greg Peterson says the goal was to educate others about what he and his family do on their farm.
Greg: “We were hoping we would make it good enough for our Facebook friends would want to watch it. You know we have friends from the city that don’t know anything about farming.”
The video was posted on Facebook and Twitter, and seemingly overnight it went viral. By late the summer, the video had been watched nearly 7 times.
Kendal Peterson: “It has been pretty crazy.”
Nathan Peterson: “It is just kind of weird that they know us because we feel like normal people still and we try to act like normal people still.”
Nathan: ”The way everyone is connected and I think it is important for ag to be part of that because we’re really a main part of of social life and just life everywhere. And people need to know about it.”
Local news outlets helped spread the story. That led to an appearance on Fox News, which flew the entire family to New York City.
“New York City”
Like Dorothy, the boys realized they weren’t in Kansas anymore when they visited Times Square:
Kendal Peterson: “I mean it is not like we’re just in the middle of Kansas anymore doing, doing our daily stuff. It is almost a little bit bigger and different.”
Nathan Peterson: “When we were in New York for the interview, we had one guy while we were out touring and he said, hey, aren’t you guys the ones who were on Fox News this morning? And that was when we were really just kind of blown away. That was the only time in New York that someone recognized which was ok with us.”
“The Farming and I Grow It” video was not the boys first attempt at educating others about agriculture. Previous videos showcased the family in various farming activity, but it was the use of social media that took these rural landscapes and exposed them to viewers all over the world.
Steve Baccus, President, Kansas Farm Bureau: “There is this huge misconception among the American consumer about what goes on in agriculture. People don’t understand where their food comes from, they don’t understand how their food produced, and videos like what the Peterson brothers have done, does an excellent job of informing the American public just a glimpse, a small look into the life of a farmer, in this case a Kansas grain farmer, and livestock producer and they’ve done a wonderful job of exposing themselves to the world and their operation to the world.”
Greg, a student at Kansas State University, is majoring in agricultural communications. He’s not sure what he was going to do with that degree, but he may help others learn how to make a viral video.
Greg Peterson: “I think we are as normal as anybody else is and we are just doing our best like everyone else is.”
Greg is interested in music. He’s already created own YouTube channel with his creations.
Greg: “I worked on that for years, trying to build an audience. I want to keep doing stuff on the farming channel. I think, I have ideas. I got a whole list of ideas. That never runs out. It is just you have to take time to, to do them.”
And for a point this summer, handling media requests was getting in the way of the basics, like farming. But the Peterson parents are understanding and at the same time, taking note of all the attention given to their family.
Nathan Peterson: “We need to keep bringing out good stories rather than people seeing the, you know the negative parts of agriculture. We need to keep promoting all the good and just how hard farmers work to feed the world and all of the good we are doing.“
As they grow it and we eat it, the world learns more about rural America.
For Market to Market, I’m Paul Yeager.
**If you want to watch the entire YouTube video, click here.