In an email exchange this month with Jay Ferrell, University of Florida Extension weed specialist, he gave me a “head’s up” about a story coming out in the local paper concerning herbicide-resistant Palmer amaranth where Andy and Scott Robinson farm in Williston, Fla.
Immediately a cold shiver went down my spine. Knowing the Gainesville Sun doesn’t have any ag writers, I was greatly concerned, not at what Andy, Scott or Jay had said, but at what would be written in the article.
Just a couple months ago, I saw a news piece about strawberry producers that made me mad, as they say, “as a wet settin’ hen.” The really cold weather that reached far down into South Florida this winter had done a number on strawberry production, and all of the crop came in at once. Of course, this put a glut on the market and prices plummeted. Producers picked some, but when the price received dipped below what it cost them to harvest, the producers stopped picking. Big, beautiful berries lay in the fields rotting away in the Florida sun.
You and I know the producer had little choice. But the media thought otherwise. In the news story, the reporter went to a soup kitchen in Miami and asked people there, “What do you think about these farmers letting their strawberries go to waste in the field instead of picking them?” What were these people going to say? A group of people with no jobs, no means of supporting themselves, getting a free meal on the farmers’ and all taxpayer’s dime in the first place, of course their comments were harsh on the “greedy” farmers.
I was fit-to-be-tied after seeing this so-called “news,” with no amount of objectivity. Buried in this three-minute hack job of the strawberry producers, was about a 10-second sound bite from a producer that really caught my attention, wherein he said, “I would open up my field and let folks come in and pick all they want, but I cannot afford the liability that someone may trip and fall and want to sue me.” That’s the real shame. The producers hands are tied in every direction, and even if they wanted to do something viewed as “good” to the general public, the risk was simply too great.
With this obviously still fresh in my mind, I was expecting the worst with the article on resistant weeds in peanut production. However, to his credit, the author did a fair job and the article turned out better than expected. As Jay said, “The reporter wasn’t familiar at all with agriculture, and I was really nervous as to what he was going to say in the article. A couple of his statements weren’t exactly on the mark, but, all-in-all, it wasn’t too bad.”
That’s probably the best we can hope for these days.