When a North Carolina man, armed with an assault rifle, shot up a popular pizza joint in our nation’s capital, people started to take note of the recent rise in “fake news.”
Unfortunately, agriculture has been subjected to fake news for years – albeit far less violent examples. Our political opponents have long recycled out-of-date information and intentionally mislead readers in hopes of ripping holes in the farm safety net and furthering their own political agendas.
For example, the often-repeated “news” of NBA players and billionaires pocketing millions in farm subsidies. It sounds terrible, but it’s not occurring. Any loophole that would’ve allowed for such abuse was closed long, long ago.
Then there’s the one about the Saudi Prince exploiting America’s crop insurance system and taking unsuspecting taxpayers to the cleaners. Again, it sounds really bad. And again, it would be if it weren’t 100% false. Laws are on the books to prevent anything like that from happening.
We, in sugar, are particularly familiar with constantly beating back fake accusations of huge subsidy checks flowing to sugar farmers; sky-high U.S. prices that are 2, 3, 4, 5 times more expensive than the global average; and the steady economic decline of the candy industry. It’s all false, just like the NBA farmers and the Saudi Prince who thinks crop insurance is more lucrative than his own country’s oil fields.
Sadly, attacks like these are intensifying even though sugar prices in America are currently lower than in most foreign markets; sugar policy’s share of the federal budget remains steady at $0; and confectioners are proudly announcing big U.S. expansion plans and adding jobs.
When we encounter “Fake Farm News,” we try to set the record straight. But it can be a full-time job, which is why the American Sugar Alliance is urging anyone who sees something to say something – on social media.
Since these sensationalized stories are built to be circulated on Facebook and Twitter, why not use Facebook and Twitter to hold the author and the publication accountable for shoddy work. And why not use the hashtag #FakeFarmNews to keep track of all the examples – that way everyone can see just how prevalent such false attacks on agriculture have become.
We just sent out our first social media posts with the hashtag to an author and a publication that printed a #FakeFarmNews piece. And we hope anyone who cares about a strong rural economy and a strong farm safety net will join the fight.