Sep 20, 2014
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April 2014 Archive for U.S. Farm Report Mailbag

RSS By: U.S. Farm Report, US Farm Report

Comments, questions, opinions...this is your chance to speak out regarding anything and everything reported on U.S. Farm Report. Viewer feedback updated regularly.

Viewers React to John's Comments on the Cliven Bundy Case

Apr 29, 2014

 ***Editor’s Note:  John’s comments on Cliven Bundy’s ongoing dispute with the Bureau of Land Management drew quite a bit of viewer feedback.  Below are his thoughts, followed by viewer comments…

John’s World Transcript:  I have been following the dispute in Nevada between Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management.  While that situation has taken all kinds of political and cultural overtones and sparked considerable debate, I want to focus on one particular aspect that touches most farmers and ranchers.  Mr. Bundy, while unable to show any evidence of ownership of the land in question, remarked that his family had been grazing those acres for generations.  However true, that statement reveals a psychological bias common to farmers…the concept of "virtual ownership".  After farming a given track for years or perhaps generations, almost all of us feel a powerful attachment.  We refer to it as part of our farm and should we lose control of it for any reason, change of ownership or renting to another, the sense of loss is profound and feels unfair.  Our logic seems that all those years of care and attention have earned us some kind of consideration.  After all, we were the ones who managed and worked the land.  Not some absent owner.  But the rights of ownership are absolute under our laws.  Tenants are chosen at the discretion of the owner and even decades of renting give us no additional rights.  While our brains realize this, our hearts frequently do not.  Mr. Bundy, like most farmers, perhaps is struggling with this statement misapprehension.  It is ironic to me that so many landowners worry about whether the tenant will care for the land, when in my experience it’s more likely to be too much so.

Viewer Comment #1:  We have property that once was owned by the BLM but it is ours because we bought it.  Grandfather lost his life because he wasn't repaired for a whole day of surveying when they bought the land.  It is in Southern Utah.  That was the piece of land that was my Dad's inheritance. I think people who rent have to pay their rent if they want to keep their place.  If they don't think the land lord is keeping the place up the way they like it they can move on.  You just can't stop paying the rent and expect to keep living there.  Marlene Little - Salt Lake City and Garfield County, UT

Viewer Comment #2:     In reference to your "Bundy" report.  Although your point PERHAPS acceptable and reasonable in your "Ag" mind, it is not acceptable to "NOT" report the true issue.   GREED, DECEPTION and CORRUPTION!  It is not acceptable for our country's leaders to line their pocketbooks through programs and insider trading by taking land that was proposed to grazing.  If the "Japanese" or whatever countries "GREEN" program is funded by the American people is an important issue.  Who is going to benefit from this program?  The rich politicians who pulled the red tape and got it in there? Of course.  This project is proposed on land that was deemed useless and placed in BLM control. Bundy states this land had been grazed by his family and other farm families for years before the Bureau of Land Management took over control.  Now, that it has potential to make someone billions of dollars, they want to run the ranchers out! So far, all ranchers have been run out according to the reports I've heard.  If you want to discuss some philosophical mystery to the thinking of a "farmer's" land ownership, don't simplify the true reason Mr. Bundy and the other ranchers are being forced off this land!  Steven Luke

Viewer Comment #3:   John - As usual, your "reality check" reporting has sifted through a highly emotional event and shined light on another aspect of the Bundy story.  Your description of the attachment that farmers/ranchers develop for lands they manage is most accurate and something I have witnessed in the field for many years.  It is quite natural for custodians of the soil to assume "parental responsibility" for such lands and their on-going land use; regardless of technical ownership.  On the positive side, this devotion probably leads to a higher standard of long-term stewardship as the Ag manager treats this land as if it were his own.  However, most of the farmers & ranchers I have discussed this issue with are not upset with Bundy's claims on BLM pastures; they are alarmed at the military (SWAT Team) tactics used to force this rancher and his cattle off that land.  You do not use soldiers with aircraft and automatic weapons to settle a dispute with a cowboy.  This explosive confrontation could have been diffused at the onset by mediation via local enforcement and constructive reasoning.  Instead, "the government" chose to show aggressive force with the same vengeance used against terrorist activities...totally inappropriate and absolutely unnecessary.  This is why I (along with thousands) found myself rooting for the armed cowboys who came to his defense!  Although hanging by a thread, this is still a democracy where citizens are innocent until proven guilty through exhaustive judicial process.  Police/military (is there a difference now?) lynch mobs have no place attacking America's heartland and the families that care for it.  Sincerely, Dan Van Schaik - Gordonville, TX

Tax Reform...Not So Fast!

Apr 15, 2014

 ***Editor’s Note:  Below is a viewer comment received in response to last weekend’s Mailbag segment followed by a transcript of John’s comments…

Viewer Comment: 

Dear Mr. Phipps, I usually enjoy your comments for their fair and level-headed approach, even when I do not always agree with everything.  But today you outdid yourself. Your comments about the thwarted attempt to bring a bill for changing the tax code were excellent. You hit the nail right on the head and unmasked the hypocrisy of people who want to deal with the country's debt problem , but hold on to their own loopholes and exemptions while attacking the aid for less fortunate members of our society. Unfortunately too many farmers belong to the ranks of hypocrites, obviously not aware of the fact   that agricultural goods like others need consumers with money in their pockets and therefore depend on wealth being widespread instead of being concentrated , something that can only be accomplished with taxes  unless we give our economic system an extreme make-over. 

Sincerely, Klaus Karbaumer

Mailbag Transcript:

Time now for our weekly look inside the Farm Report Mailbag…our email today has a simple answer, so let’s get to it:  "I agree that the tax code is too complicated.  However, when the Congressman proposed that fertilizer no longer be deductible, I sat up straight and said ‘What???’." That’s from Pat Bird in Marcus, Iowa.  It refers to my comments about the tax reform bill proposed by House Ways and Means Committee chair, Dave Camp. 

Pat, the quick answer is never mind – that bill died a quick and brutal death at the hands of fellow Republicans who were aghast at ending tax breaks for special interests and taxing big banks. Like Pat, virtually everyone found something to hate in the proposal, so it was hastily buried before it could become even just a baseline for future reform.  My admiration for the bill was that it was specific and finally began the work of pruning out wasteful favoritism in our tax code.  And it named names, so to speak.

But it turns out Americans love their bit of wasteful favoritism, so now we’re back to talking about getting our financial house in order by ranting over vague generalities like "entitlements" or "pork".  Regardless, Representative Camp deserves high marks for his honest effort to make our tax code more effective and fair.  And his numbers added up.  The lesson to be learned is that during this election season, any time a candidate talks about balancing the budget, the correct response is "show me the math".

Viewers Speak: Input Prices, EPA & Storage

Apr 02, 2014

 ***Editor’s Note:  The following comments were received in response to the March 29-30, 2014 edition of U.S. Farm Report…


#1:  Dear Mr. Phipps, A year or so ago I made the comment to U.S. Farm Report that the farmer was nothing but a pawn between large conglomerates that supply farm products and large conglomerates that purchase farm commodities. You disagreed with my comments and told your audience that all I had to do was look at your tax return and see your profits to disprove my comments. I am in shock today (March 30, 2014) because it sounded like you said in your USFR commentary that the farmer was a pawn to large conglomerates that supply farm products. I realize this large farm conglomerates fund your USFR program so I don’t expect you to agree with me. Mark Lenertz

#2:  I am now "retired", but in the past worked for USDA SCS, Fortune 500 companies, co-ops and family owned business involving agriculture.  The greatest and most disappointing challenge came in 1980 when I could not convince several of the co-op customers to sell grain and liquidate debt before incurring more debt for land acquisition.  One of my biggest obstacles was overcoming lenders advice that "the land will always stand good for the debt".  Well, it didn't and in the farm crisis of the 1980"s, cash flow and debt serviceability became king.  If one does not know overall cost of operations and how to account for the same, then it is next to impossible to define cost of production for any one segment of the operation.  There are fixed and variable costs.  Variable costs where one item is a function of something else is the most difficult and all this has to take place in an environment where the producer has little control over prices received.  Capital, or fixed costs, must take place where long range returns are unknown, but costs are defined. Throw into that policy shifts by the government and marketing gets really complex.  How a farmer or rancher sells their product, outright cash, futures, options or contract will also determine rate of return.  While a lot of technology has helped lower input costs of fuel, seed, fertilizer and chemicals, it seems administrative costs like crop, weather and yield insurance has increased as the size of the risk increased.  The bottom line is you have to have an "understanding", not a complete algorithmic analysis, of your costs, a rate of return that is acceptable to you and a marketing plan you are comfortable with.  Otherwise, the discomfort will lead to bad decisions based on hope or greed. Victor R. Grunden

#3:  While driving my grandchildren to school this morning I was listening to a guest on 890 AM radio who talked about the 30 % less income that farmers will be making in 2014.  He seemed to have a solution to the problem.  He claimed that farmers spend too much on input costs and could pay less for such things as fertilizer, seed, etc.  It appears that person has no knowledge of how the ag industry works.  We are one of the only businesses that have to buy at retail and sell at wholesale.  While we have some control over our crop or livestock sales income, or loss, we cannot tell our ag input suppliers what we will pay for our inputs.  We pay whatever they price them at or we do not get them.  Pure and simple!  Anyone with any ag background at all knows that in low profit years we try to keep our input costs as low as possible without affecting our yields adversely.  And with Mother Nature always doing things her way, it can be a tough call to know how good or poor of a crop to expect.  Try going to J. C. Penney’s, Macy’s, Target, WalMart, Sears, or any other retail store and asking them at the check-out counter if they will lower the price for you.  GOOD LUCK!! It isn't going to happen.  Well it works the same in the ag sector except we can't open the Sunday paper and clip coupons for savings toward fertilizer, seed, chemicals, and livestock.  Hopefully things will change before the majority of us are forced to quit farming or just throw in the towel and apply for your jobs.  It gets very frustrating when we get a few good years mixed in with so many poor ones.  Our input costs go up dramatically in good years and never go back down to where they should be during the lean years.  Sooo, whoever that was on 890 Radio at 8:00 am today Mar. 28, get it right or please don't give the public the wrong impression.   Most of us have a pretty damned good idea where our money is going and would love to change input costs to our advantage.  Just Sayin' – Keith Stumbo

#4:  I shall be grouping John's theoretical correlation of the expansion of storage space with the expansion of the universe with my own long held theory that the chief force holding back the universe falling into a state of entropy is the presence of a certain type of woman to clean out and re-organize all closets in the household on a semi-annual basis.  I am now working on a high brow sounding name for our now conjoined theories- something to entertain the mind when reading the newspaper. Cindy Wilsey

#5:  Shortly after viewing the US Farm Report broadcast on Saturday, March 29, 2014, I watched FOX News discuss the new EPA Water Regulations.  The US Farm Report appeared to mix two issues into one.  First, Dr. Norman E. Borlaug's work to produce a new strain of wheat had enabled millions to be fed, who otherwise would likely have died.  Second, the celebration of Dr. Borlaug's accomplishment and the EPA's new water regulations appeared to me to be celebrated together.  Maybe I'm a little slow, but these two issues appeared to both be presented in a positive light.  Dr. Borlaug should be, but not EPA new regulations.  On Fox News (Forbes on Fox) the EPA's new rules received a different approach: "EPA plan to protect wetlands may give government power to grab homeowners land."  Senator David Viter (R-LA) Environment & Public Works Committee Member said, "The waters of the US' rule may be one of the most significant private property grab in US history."  Shouldn't the US Farm Report be presenting the EPA's growing control over private property owners be an important issue?  Land owners need to know that the EPA intent is really all about control. While I'm writing, I believe the US Farm Report should examine the reason Earth Day was originally established.  I'm assuming it will be mentioned in a future broadcast.  Earth Day began on what would have been Vladimir Lenin's 100th birthday, so instead of Earth Day, it's really a Vladimir Lenin's birthday celebrationUnder Lenin's leadership millions died due to the total control policies the US' EPA is now working to enact. Richard Champion 




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