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Propagandist for Agri-business speaker at Calvin January Series

January 17, 2013

Earlier today I attended the lecture at Calvin College, which was part of the 2013 January Series.

The featured speaker today was Dr. W. Dwight Armstrong, who was speaking on behalf of the National FFA Organization. The title of his lecture was Feeding the World and the Future of Farming.200px-FFA_logo

Dr. Armstrong began by saying he grew up on a family farm in Kentucky. He spoke with a southern draw and came across as a very charming man.

He talked about FFA and its mission to recruit youth into the agribusiness sector. Armstrong said the FFA reaches about 1 million students in the US every year, mostly middle school students and that the organization focuses on science, since agriculture is now based on technology.

The major mission of FFA, according to Armstrong, was to build a human capital pipeline for agriculture…..and this is exactly what Armstrong was doing with the audience.

The spokesperson for the FFA was essentially a propagandist for agri-business. Armstrong spoke about the need to use science and technology to improve food production and that meat, eggs and dairy were essential to the world.

He used a series of superficial slides with text that presented a very bi-polar world, with headings like Growth vs Sustainability. Armstrong would present such ideas, but not substantiate anything. Instead, he used the platform to defend agri-business or to maligned anything that challenged the current food system.

Why is it when we use the word corporate with farming everyone thinks it is negative. 90% of farmers are family, most of which are big. People would like us to go back to the 50s and 60s style agriculture. It is not a sustainable solution.” This is just one example of how he framed the issues, with absurd statements that made any criticism of agri-business seem ridiculous.

Armstrong defended GMOs, Monsanto, the factory farm industry and made the claim that no meat in the US has hormones in it that has any negative impact on human health.corporate_farming

It was no surprise that the speaker spoke highly of Monsanto, since Monsanto is one of the main corporate sponsors of the National FFA Organization, along with Pfizer, Cargill, DuPont, Ford, John Deer, Archer Daniels Midland and Syngenta.

Armstrong kept referring to people who criticized agri-business as the “Food Morality Movement.” He lumped into this category, which he never defined, vegetarians, those who want organic food, sustainable farms, CSAs and those who opposed animal cruelty.

It was an amazing display of propaganda that was someone challenged during the Q & A. However, since the audience didn’t get to ask the questions directly, it was hard to know who the questions were coming from and what their intent was. Armstrong never did directly respond to questions. Instead, he danced around them or just deflected the question to reiterate his main talking points.

People asked him about farm subsidies, global warming and food production, a vegetarian diet, CSAs and global hunger. At one point Armstrong even said, “Don’t criticize those who don’t agree with you.”

Unfortunately, this spokesperson for corporate agriculture was given the last word, which was to say that the world could not feed itself if it wasn’t for the technological and scientific advances by the agribusiness system.

Calvin College should be widely challenged for inviting someone who not only didn’t substantiate his claims, but dismissed those who criticized his paymasters. People should contact the Director of the January Series and let her know that this speaker was completely unacceptable and intellectually insulting.

Contact Kristi Potter kpotter@calvin.edu.

 

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