They say that you shouldn't watch sausage or legislation being made if you have a weak stomach. Arkansas farmer Harvey Joe Sanner says you can add TV news segments to that list.

Sanner and Jim Dupree, a Weldon, Ark., farmer and a presidential appointee to the 21st Century Commission on Agriculture, were invited to participate in the taping of an ABC News feature on the new farm bill recently.

Sanner, former president of the American Agriculture Movement and a grower from Des Arc, said they were apprehensive about participating in the segment, but they were assured that ABC was interested in presenting a balanced and true picture of farm programs.

“What they put on the air makes it easy to understand why the media is bashed sometimes,” said Sanner. “When you witness tabloid journalism up close and personal as in the reporting of this story, it can cause you to lose faith in the industry.”

Sanner and Dupree spent well over an hour with the ABC crew, reviewing the findings revealed by the report issued by the 21st Century Commission early this year.

“ABC's broadcast never mentioned one word about the research proving that farm programs have and continue to be in the best interest of the nation,” Sanner says. “They never mentioned the great bargain consumers get for the piddling amount of tax dollars invested in farm programs.

“They never mentioned the gigantic efforts being made by the farm community that are conserving soil and water so that future generations can enjoy the bounty of America's fields,” he noted.

The program failed to mention that the farmer's share of the food dollar continues to shrink while the profit margins of those who process and market those products climbs higher, he said. Nor did they mention that food and fiber can't continue to be produced for market prices that are the same as or lower than they were 50 years ago.

“They didn't mention that without farm programs thousands more people would be in the cities and thousands more rural towns will die,” he said. “They never mentioned that the tens of thousands of jobs in the service and supply industries that depend on farm income to support them would be lost without the programs.

“They never mentioned why farm prices are at levels below the great Depression. They never mentioned why they chose to believe someone from a so-called environmental organization who doesn't know more than a blind possum about farm policy instead of real people who live, work and die in farm communities.”

Sanner says he finds it difficult to understand why the segment was so one-sided. “I have a hard time convincing myself that (the reporters) are evil men. They aren't stupid, either. Maybe they are just honestly ignorant and don't want to take the trouble to learn the truth.”

At press time, the Environmental Working Group announced it is posting a list of all the farmers who have received farm payments on its Web site to show how “big farmers are benefiting at from farm programs taxpayers' expense.”

So, brace yourself for another round of misleading, misguided and unwarranted attacks.


e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com.