I accompanied my daughter to our local Department of Transportation office last weekend so she could get her drivers’ license. Frankly, I wasn’t looking forward to the trip. A visit to the DOT driver’s license office, I figured, could only mean three things: waiting in long lines, struggling through confusing instructions and dealing with cranky workers who would not care a wit about one of the biggest days in the life of a 16-year-old.

I have to admit, I was wrong on all three counts. The lines at the driver’s license office moved efficiently and the instructions were all pretty clear. But my biggest surprise was the attitude of the staff. They were friendly, conscientious and very helpful. The workers seemed very ready and willing to serve their customers, which included an extremely wide range of folks of every age and ethnicity who arrived that Saturday morning with an extremely wide range of needs.

The folks working at the driver’s license office, I think, have a lot in common with today’s farmers. American farmers, like the DOT workers, are being asked to serve an extremely wide range of consumers both in the United States and around the globe. And those consumers are demanding an ever-expanding variety of foods.

Are farmers responding to the changing consumer demands? You bet they are. Traveling around Iowa I’ve visited with several farmers who have started raising meat goats to serve a growing market. Others are planting specialty soybeans which produce healthier oils. And many farmers I’ve talked with are returning to some old ways, like raising hogs outdoors, because there is a segment of consumers who want pork raised that way.

When it comes to safe and affordable food, Americans have never had as many choices as they enjoy today in the supermarket, the farmers’ market or at restaurants. But there are some activists who seem to want to change that. They are pushing for rules and referendums that they claim will help farm animals. But their long-term goal seems to be placing burdensome and expensive regulations on the way farmers care for their livestock that don’t always results in better care. That would raise costs, reduce production and, in the end, limit customer choice. It really seems like a recipe to advance the goal of many of these activists—forcing more people to adopt a vegan diet and lifestyle and swearing off meat, milk and eggs, not to mention leather belts and wool sweaters.

If these people want to be vegan, that’s their right and farmers will serve their needs. But farmers want the chance to serve everyone else too, with a wide variety of safe and affordable food.

To read more about the value of consumer food choice go to www.consumerfreedom.com

Written by Dirck Steimel
Dirck is the News Services Manager for Iowa Farm Bureau.