USFR Customer Support
See the latest reader comments and hear John explain some of agriculture’s complex topics.
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