Lots of Feedback
May 11, 2010
***Editor's Note: The following viewer feedback was received in response to the May 8-9, 2010, edition of the "U.S. Farm Report" program, specifically John Phipps' commentary on ag subsidies. We'll begin with the transcript fo that commentary:
WATCHING THE TURMOIL IN GREECE AND THE HISTORIC ELECTION IN BRITAIN HAVE BEEN FASCINATING THIS WEEK. EXCEPT IF YOU ARE INVESTED IN THE STOCK MARKET, OF COURSE. BUT BEYOND THE USUAL OBSERVATION OF HOW CONNECTED ECONOMIES AND POLITICS ARE AROUND THE WORLD IS ANOTHER MORE PRESSING ISSUE. MUCH OF THE IMPETUS FOR THESE WILD EVENTS IS DISSATISFACTION WITH ENORMOUS DEBTS NOW WEIGHING ON NATIONAL ECONOMIES. NOTHING CAN INCITE AN ANGRY CROWD BOTH HERE AND ABROAD FASTER THAN RAILING AGAINST THE SIZE AND DANGER OF PUBLIC DEBT. I THINK WE ALL GET IT. PEOPLE EVERYWHERE ARE FED UP WITH THINGS AS THEY ARE. BUT ODDLY, THERE ARE VERY FEW SOLUTIONS BEING PROPOSED. LET'S CONSIDER U.S. AGRICULTURE FOR AN EXAMPLE. MANY FARMERS ARE ALSO RIGHTEOUSLY INCENSED AT FEDERAL SPENDING AND WANT SOME SERIOUS CHANGES. HOWEVER, AS WE ARE DISCOVERING AT FARM BILL HEARINGS AROUND THE COUNTRY, THE ONLY CHANGES WE WANT FOR OUR SLICE OF THE FEDERAL BUDGET SEEM TO BE TO MAKE IT LARGER. I HAVE HEARD NO TESTIMONY AT THESE GATHERINGS SUPPORTING THE IDEA OF SIGNIFICANT REDUCTIONS FOR AG SPENDING. IN OTHER WORDS, WE ALL WANT TO REDUCE THE SIZE OF GOVERNMENT EXCEPT FOR OUR PART. WHILE OFTEN JUSTIFIED AS A GOOD NEGOTIATION POSITION, I THINK IS IS AN INDICATOR OF HOW UNSERIOUS WE REALLY ARE ABOUT SPENDING REDUCTION. BEING ANGRY IS EASIER AND MORE FUN THAN FIXING THE PROBLEM.
I watch you at 5-6am on KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids, IA on Saturday mornings. In regards to your comments on budget cuts, you are correct that people want them for society in general but not if it specifically affects them. Our government debt situation reminds me of a heroin addict that knows they need to quit but keep buying (to feed an unstainable lifestyle) on credit (federal deficits and trade deficits)........and the lttle voice of common sense in the background is saying the "Day of the Overdose" is coming.
Good Morning John,
The conundrum that is our belligerence toward federal spending/expansive government vs. our parochial selfish interests as farmers is obvious (though virtually every special interest group is as guilty). No one wants to be the lone sacrificial cow to balance the budget. I had considerable experience with this while active in the Farm Bureau at local, state, and national levels. In the late '90s the Wisconsin Farm Bureau adopted a policy of elimination of the federal dairy program, both the marketing orders and the price support program (the price support program, in particular, had always been sacred in Wisconsin). The parochial logic to this position was that these programs helped our competition more than they helped us. But I also think there was the natural appeal to our simple dignity of making it on our own, without a handout. I continue to believe that such an appeal is compelling.
So I like to believe that progress can be made if the seriousness of the situation is articulated with logic, that is, the integrity of our national economy is far more important to our selfish concerns as farmers than any benefit we may gain from our piece of pork. But what also resonates is our self-respect as farmers that comes with standing on our own (no more jokes about going to the mailbox to collect our government checks) and our self-respect as Americans who are fiscally responsible (most Americans don't want to be seen in the world media outlets rioting in the streets because our handouts are being taken away, i.e., Greece).
P.S. You and I differ on our approach to dealing with the federal deficit. I despise the idea of conceding to additional taxes and believe the budget can be brought back into balance with spending cuts alone. (Pollyannaish? I think not!) But that's an issue for another debate, another day.
Consider the following...the obesity and diabetes rates are rising at an alarming rate in the U.S. and much of this is tied to fast foods and sugary soft drinks. The cost of purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables is higher than buying a meal at a fast food restaurant. The USDA subsidizes the production of corn, which keeps its price lower, is often grown in excess, and which is used to produce high-fructose corn syrup. This product is then added to many of our foods and drinks, and has been scientifically linked to the obesity and diabetes problems.
Why can't we ever think out of the box and actually do what is right for the entire population instead of just what is right for the bottom line of the big corporations and special interests? I am a small farmer and rancher, but am increasingly discouraged by what I see going on between government entities, Congress, and the big companies. What we should do in the next farm bill is drastically reduce or eliminate subsidies for corn and put that money toward subsidizing the growing of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and low-fat proteins. All this would help small producers stay sustainable, would divert money from the largest farm operations that don't need it to survive, should allow low-income families to buy more healthy food, and help improve the overall health of us all. Is there anyone out there with courage enough to do what is right?
These days, trying to find a farmer from the old days is about as hard as trying to find a Native American Indian. Traveling down a country road in the '60s and '70s, it was a common sight to see an old Case tractor slowing traffic down a two-lane gravel road. Or stopping along a country road to help an old Baptist farmer swearing in the heat of battle with his broken-down International pickup truck (Gears of War). It was not the invention of the lever action rifle that put the Native American farmer out of business of his land, but the modernization of the idea that bigger is only better business in farming (Sign of the Times )...
You hit nail on the head again with U.S. federal budget and "piece of the pie" thoughts. It hit me because my recently deceased aunt, Vivian Dedrick, Lansing, N.Y., gave me her usual "piece of mind" four decades ago and it matches with your words. I would modify those thoughts with the addition of the Northeast's former Regional Cooperative Marketing Agency.
Both thoughts mirror yours and adding nearly 40 years to it. Viv used a political idea where people in the '60s and '70s voted in politicians to give them something "free." She added that under one type of fed government, farmers had less support, but the country as a whole did FAR better at first and in the end FARMERS improved as support wasn't "thrown at" dying farms where it would do no good.
RCMA was the perfect example as milk processors actually gave "premium" bribes to farmers to keep them FROM joining RCMA. So many bought the lines that when all washed out the farmers were crying as contracts had fine print and the next year milk companies financially BUTCHERED the farmers and few had recourse, outside of some form of cooperative groups.
Recently, a story recirculated: Farmer was pushed into adding a $2 MILLION digester. He laughed as workers feverishly built his digester and later admitted, "For a million I would have sold out and saved them a million" and didn't need digester anyway because he was going to retire soon.
Anyway, just a few fleeting thoughts to add. I caught you as I clicked to RFD-TV to hunt down "Cowboy Church" and see if RFD had added streaming links. Found one :o)
Apalachin, New 'Yuck'