Mike Haley is a fifth generation farmer, raising corn and livestock on his Ohio family farm. Follow him on Twitter @FarmerHaley.
Editor's note: So-called "ag gag" bills proposed in states across the country would either require anyone who videotapes, photographs or records incidents of animal cruelty to turn over the evidence to authorities within 24-48 hours or prohibit the making of undercover videos, photographs and sound recordings on farms, depending on local legislation. Proponents say that these laws protect agriculture business. Opponents say they hinder free speech, food safety and animal and worker rights. One such law, HF 589, has already been signed into law in Iowa and makes it illegal for investigative journalists and activists to take jobs at animal facilities for the purpose of recording undercover footage.
Growing up on a farm, one of my biggest responsibilities was tending to the animals in our family’s care. At times livestock can be unpredictable in ways that are both amusing and frustrating, but much like a parent cares for their child, I cannot think of a moment that my top priority was not in the best interest of our animals and our land.
That is not saying that our livestock always respond in a positive manner to our practices. They are not capable of understanding how regular occurrences on the farm like vaccinations are for their benefit. I often wonder how others would respond if videos and pictures were shared out of context while I was caring for our animals.
After a very wet spring in 2011 that delayed planting, the 2012 crop season looked promising as planting conditions were optimal. The outlook was refreshing as it meant few setbacks on the crop. However, the good conditions during planting quickly turned as our family waited and waited for moisture. Unfortunately, when the rains did arrive, they were few and far between.
This has turned into the worst drought our family has seen in generations. And more importantly, the drought this year is not isolated to my local community - our nation has not faced a drought this severe since the 1930s when the Dust Bowl completely devastated American agriculture. July temperatures reportedly broke records set during the Dust Bowl. During the 2012 crop year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) designated roughly half of all U.S. counties - 1,496 in 33 states - as disaster areas because of the drought.
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