It is increasingly obvious that much in our world moving forward will not be imposed by government regulation, but rather by the philosophies put forward by big business.
An example of the power business holds came clearly into focus recently after so much attention was focused on the symbolism of the Confederate flag in the United States in the wake of the massacre in Charleston, which left nine African- Americans dead in their church.
The shooter, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, has confessed to the murders, and has been quoted as wanting to start a race war.
A widely circulated photo of the shooter holding a gun and a Confederate fl ag brought the debate of the fl ag’s racist roots to the forefront, quickly becoming a political football.
Some politicians have called for the flag’s removal, at least from public buildings, others are defending the flag just as adamantly.
Meanwhile big business has taken action on the issue. Walmart, Amazon, eBay and Sears all announced bans on the sale of Confederate flag merchandise.
“The announcements are the latest indication that the flag, a symbol of the slave-holding South, has become toxic in the aftermath of a shooting last week at a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina. Gov. Nikki Haley announced in a Monday afternoon news conference that she supports removing the Confederate fl ag from the state capitol grounds,” reported www.cnn.com.
The business decision in this case is a powerful one of social awareness in regards to what the flag means for a large
Farmers must be ready to be part of the discussion portion of their customers.
Not all decisions are popular of course, even those which fall on the correct side of contentious debates.
In January 2012, Starbucks joined Microsoft and Nike in announcing support of a Washington state bill to legalize same-sex marriage, which ultimately passed.
There was a backlash from anti-gay groups against Starbucks, but the company has remained steadfast.
“If you feel respectfully that you can get a higher return [than] the 38 per cent you got last year, it’s a free country,” said Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, during the annual shareholders meeting on March 21. “You could sell your shares at Starbucks and buy shares in other companies,” detailed www.money.cnn.com.
So how does this relate to farming?
Well as business flexes its muscles in terms of determining which direction the broader society will go, some of its decisions will impact how we farm in the future.
It’s already happening actually.
The Western Producer website (www.producer.com) recently published a story on a company pushing dairy producers in a particular direction.
“Saputo, a Montreal based dairy processor, says it will refuse milk from farms that fail to treat cows humanely,” began the story.
“The new policy is expected to be implemented across Saputo’s operations in Canada, the United States, Australia and Argentina.
“In a June 1 news release, the company announced it would not accept milk from farms that dock tails or that fail to administer pain control for dehorning and disbudding of calves.”
That may seem like a reasonable decision, although the farm practices they want adjusted have been long-standing ones, and while pain control may be reasonable it does add costs to the farm, costs that neither the company, nor are consumers likely to rush to cover.
The concern for farmers is how far business may go in mandating farm practices. The possibilities can be positive in terms of influence, and could just as easily be detrimental.
Consider a large food chain not accepting any foods which were not certified to have not been sprayed with glyphosate in the wake of the recent report from the International Agency
for Research on Cancer, (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization that the product is a potential carcinogen.
While farmers may have a limited voice with big business decisions, they should at least be poised to be part of debates which are sure to come.