The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is not using snail mail to offer farmers money to destroy their crops, although recent TikTok videos have suggested otherwise. 

In a “highlight reel” compiling contributions to the TikTok trend, several creators are shown with lawn mowers, heavy machinery, USDA letters and manuals, preparing to destroy acres of their own crops. The videos allege that the U.S. government is part of a far-fetched plan to create a global food shortage as a way of further controlling the masses. 

Many of the creators of these videos have since stressed that they were intended as a joke. Additionally, they assert that the real joke is that people would believe them in the first place.

Even so, with massive internet platforms like TikTok it’s easy for things to be taken out of context and used to spread disinformation. This is especially the case with ongoing phenomena, like the pandemic and conservation policies, which offer ample space for erroneous theories stemming from government distrust to go viral. 

Bottom line: the USDA isn’t paying farmers to destroy their crops and even if one did wish to destroy acres of crop land, a lawn mower wouldn’t get the job done. 

Creating alarmist narratives online is generally a bad idea, joke or not. That has been particularly apparent during a pandemic defined by rapidly changing information and high stakes for public health. For those consuming content online, the sudden prevalence of these “crop destroying” videos only serves to reinforce the importance of using common sense and applying a healthy dose of skepticism. 

Whether or not you find the joke funny, take care not to feed the trolls, and thanks for trusting us to set the record straight in your search for the truth.