The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

Miss America takes up farm, food issues


American farmers are always complaining that urban America ignores them and does not appreciate them, so it was a bit of a surprise when Miss America, Teresa Scanlan, showed up on Fox News and wrote an article for its website extolling the virtues of America’s farmers and mentioning the threats to them.

How did Miss America become a spokeswoman for American agriculture and promise to make it a mission during her reign?

Jess Peterson, the Washington lobbyist for the U.S. Cattlemen's Association, told The Hagstrom Report he met Scanlan last fall when he went to Scottsbluff, Neb. to speak to a group called Leadership Scottsbluff. Scanlan, then the reigning Miss Nebraska, grew up in Gering, Neb. She told Peterson she was interested in what the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association was doing, and asked to receive USCA’s _Capital Updates._

After winning the national contest, Scanlan told Miss America officials that she wanted to promote production agriculture and healthy eating. She asked them to contact Peterson, who then asked North Bridge Communications, a public relations firm that publishes a newsletter _The Hand that Feeds Us,_ to help broaden her message.

In her Fox News article last week, Scanlan subtly came out for a strong safety net for American agriculture. “Can we feed a growing world population, fuel our economy, and still offer wholesome food choices to Americans?,” she wrote. “Sure, just as long as we avoid weakening the very infrastructure that makes it all possible.”

Scanlan noted that 210,000 farms now produce most of the food, fuel and fiber in the country. She quoted retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, who said farmers are a “thin green line standing between prosperity and disaster,” and said that the line "must be held and not weakened any further if America stands a chance to combat the challenges ahead of us." Clark co-chairs Growth Energy, the pro-ethanol lobby group.

“Modern-day agriculture has to do its part in reaching out and teaching us about what they do and how they do it," Scanlan said, adding that "Educational groups like The Hand That Feeds Us and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association are a good start, but it's not enough. The rest of us must reconnect with our rural roots and understand that we all have a stake in the success of farmers and ranchers. Urban and rural America need to come together, and I plan to spend my time as Miss America to make that happen. After all, I was Miss Nebraska first. And if a small town girl from the Midwest can make it all the way to Miss America, maybe she can help bring America back to the Midwest."

Peterson praised Scanlan’s appearance on Fox News and the article she wrote for

"For nearly a century rural America has battled the disconnect between rural and urban America ... in just a few minutes of national television, along with a well-read opinion article, Ms. America began to bridge this critical gap,” Peterson said. “There is a buzz in rural America about this partnership, and with additional activities being planned, the excitement should continue."

And indeed more is planned. When Scanlan came to Washington on April 4, she met with Peterson, National Farmers Union officials, and, through North Bridge, the American Sugar Alliance, the USA Rice Federation, the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Texas cotton growers and former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest, R-Texas, who is now a partner in Combest-Sell, based in Lubbock, Texas and Washington.

“We all brainstormed some different activities for this upcoming year and got plugged in on Miss America’s schedule," said Phillip Hayes, a principal in North Bridge. Scanlan is expected to come to Washington for another briefing this summer and to speak the National Association of Farm Broadcasters this fall, he added.

Hayes noted that the Miss America organization is non-profit and that _The Hand That Feeds Us_ "will offset their costs associated with the events."

"We're very proud that she chose agriculture to be one of the issues she is going to champion this year," Hayes said. "It is giving us a chance to get in front of an audience that normally we'd otherwise never have an opportunity to reach — their social media channels reach nearly 3 million around pageant time."

Miss America Teresa Scanlan