I’m waiting until the very last minute of my deadline to write and submit this column. I think I am subconsciously trying to talk myself out of writing about something that is probably going to make some readers and some of my peers for whom I have great respect a little mad at me. But, alas, it will not be the first nor last time.
I have always wondered how farmers really feel about the private crop tours that stop every 15 to 20 miles along a route and without permission go into fields where they pull three ears of corn or three soybean plants. The gathering of these ears and plants is all very disciplined and organized to provide accurate growing season information.
In one of the most recent and well-publicized tours, participants — called scouts — travel in vehicles and wear apparel with a logo to identify they are part of the tour. They are given very specific instructions about which fields they may access, specifically none that are fenced or posted.
The survey stop is not to be near a home, machine shed, grain bins or livestock buildings. The scout is instructed to get in and out of the field as quickly as possible, causing minimal damage.
Perhaps it’s due to the tough year for all of us with skin in the game in agriculture, or maybe it’s because social media has allowed a platform for many who would otherwise keep thoughts and observations to themselves, to speak their mind.
Whatever the reason, I heard and saw more discussion and complaints about “trespassing to take information” than I have heard in previous years.
One farmer tweeted: “Those three ears represent your information and not theirs. In no other industry is it OK to walk onto private property to take samples of a product to determine the yield potential of said product. In no other industry is that information then spread to the public influence the prices of that product. Just because it’s been done for years doesn’t mean it’s right.”
Another farmer posted a picture of an older model pickup truck with a white poster board sign duct-taped to the door that read “It’s OK. I’m with the Crop Tour so I can trespass in my neighbor’s fields.”
USDA pulled employees from the tour after threats were made against them by a disgruntled farmer. The safety of the scouts was and should have been a priority for the tour organizer. An announcement was made that there would be a police presence at the remaining stops along the tour.
Although any sort of threat against another person is not something to sneeze at, I did share the same sentiment as other farmers on social media who begged the question, “Can a farmer get the police escort to arrest the crop tour scouts for trespassing? And are the police allowed to trespass on private property to protect trespassers?”
It’s a conundrum. What do you think?