by Anna-Lisa Laca
Tensions are high in farm country. Extreme weather, trade uncertainty and low commodity prices are adding to farmers’ stress. This was more evident than ever during this week’s Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour, Farm Journal’s annual assessment of expected crop yields. A USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service employee, slated to speak at one of the tour’s events, received a threat by phone. In response, USDA pulled their staff from the remaining days of the tour.
“A USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service employee received a threat while on the Pro Farmer Crop Tour from someone not involved with the tour. As a precaution, we immediately pulled all our staff out of the event,” said Hubert Hamer, National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) Administrator, in a statement. “Federal Protective Services were contacted and are investigating the incident. The safety of our employees is our top priority."
The threat, which was not directed at NASS Crops Branch Chief Lance Honig as some have speculated, came from a person in Iowa who was not affiliated with the event. The threat was unrelated to Crop Tour and was not associated with scouts or other meeting attendees.
“For 27 years the Pro Farmer Crop Tour has been a public service for the benefit of agriculture, in good times and bad. And it’s clearly a stressful time right now,” said Andy Weber Farm Journal CEO, in a statement. “From minute one we took this threat very seriously and have taken all steps possible to ensure the safety of everyone involved in the tour.”
Joel Jaeger, Pro Farmer CEO, said more than 3,000 people are participating in the tour. “The safety of the scouts and meeting is our top priority,” said Jaeger. As a result, Pro Farmer and its parent company, Farm Journal, has increased security at all events for the remainder of the week.
“Any threat must be taken seriously, so we have involved law enforcement to determine the threat’s viability. As a precaution, we are taking steps to secure the remaining location venues, adding security personnel at the live events as well as asking staff and crop tour scouts to remain aware and report any concerns immediately,” Jaeger said.