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January 2009 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.

A Winning Idea?

Jan 26, 2009
 
I have read about victory gardens during WWII being planted to help with the food shortages produced because of the war. So many food pantries are taxed right now, so many are not getting anything. I would like to know if there's a generous soul out there in the farm industry that would donate a gift of vegetable seeds from tomatoes to cucumbers and fruits. I think alot of the people I know would learn how to do this with the '09 growing season and more. Eating healthier would ease their food budgets and medical bills.
 
Respectfully,
 
Holly Andreani
Alliance, Ohio

Health Care Debate - Part 2

Jan 19, 2009

John,

   Your comments on health care on this morning's show (January 17-18, 2008) were a little off.  The problem we have with health care in this country is the method of insurance. You are correct that we expect $100 of health care for $10 premium but what we get, as a society, is $50 or health care for $100 of premium. The other $50 goes to administrative overhead in the insurance industry. The dirty, hidden little fact is that our insurance premiums don't just pay for health care but also support the insurance industry.
  This occurs because we have been trained to believe that health insurance means that no health care costs must be borne by the individual. If we ran automobile insurance the same way, we would insist that fuel, tires, new windshield wipers would all be paid by insurance. Imagine how much it would cost to gas up if we first needed to see an automotive generalist who would refer us to a fueling specialist who would diagnose the type and amount of fuel we should get, this specialist would then give us a prescription which we would have to shop around to determine which gas stations participated in our insurance plan and what our co pay was . . . you can see the lunacy.
   In our current system the insurance industry has replaced an overbearing socialized medicine government bureaucracy in everything from setting rates to determining what health care will be provided and otherwise deciding for us what our needs are. A far better solution would be the health savings account plan where insurance is basically to cover major medical and there is a very high deductible. My wife and I have had one of these for years. Our current status is that we have a $7000 deductible and a monthly premium of just under $150, part of which goes into our savings account. Most young people have little or no medical expense and could use those years to build a substantial savings account. Even as one gets older, the fact that you are spending your money for the first several thousand makes you a much better consumer.
   As an example, I needed minor outpatient surgery a couple years ago. I told the surgeon that I would be paying cash and why. He offered a discount for cash and switched the procedure to a different nearby hospital which would also offer cash discounts. He mentioned to me that not having to go through the hoopla and delay of billing an insurance company, arguing about what amount would be covered, etc. saved his practice hundreds of dollars in administrative overhead and delays in payment (he needs to pay his staff and overhead today but insurance may not reimburse him for up to 6 months) and he was happy to share. That, of course, made me a better consumer. My wife and I now shop medical procedures for value. If everyone were doing that,competition alone would drop most medical costs.
   Starting with the diagnostic phase, I regularly refuse tests based on what I determine the necessity of that test to be and the probability that it will add value to my situation. Our current family medical practice was selected based on that practice's willingness to work with us. In truth, they love working with us and with others who have the same insurance. When I go in for a problem, the doctor and I discuss what it could be and what tests would be most likely to determine the actual problem, if indeed tests are necessary. By participating in that discussion the doctor and I can avoid unnecessary tests and expense. The doctor has also mentioned to me that, in the event I am dissatisfied with the outcome, having elected not to have a particular test will weaken any malpractice suit I may wish to bring. Golly, I am responsible for my health care. I accept. I know that this still leaves the problem of indigent health care and elderly health care when costs rise. But I believe, and health care professionals I've talked to about this agree with me, that the overall savings from such a plan would mean that health care providers would be able to do more pro bono work and costs would be more affordable to more people anyway.
   For seniors and truly catastrophic, the government could act as an payer of last resort.  The insurance system for automobiles is messed up enough as it is in a lot of states but with owners paying for maintenance and insurance covering catastrophes the system works. Some drive Yugos, some drive Cadillacs, some take the bus and some have to bum rides but there is no transportation shortage and the majority of our populace is pretty mobile.
   I enjoy your show. Sorry for the length of this note.Darrell Vande Hoef

Editor's Note:  Below is John's response to Darrell's comments...

Darrell:

   I agree with virtually all you say - and my own health care approach is similar to yours (high deductible, etc.) But the unpleasant reality I have had to face is my (our) approach is far in the minority after decades of separating health care costs from health care consumers. There is virtually no chance of moving toward a more transparent, consumer-vendor mechanism to health care after this recession and with Boomers hitting Medicare.
  That said, means-testing such entitlements could perhaps allow the emergence of s secondary system for those who choose to pay. While I am persuaded access to care (especially primary care) is an important goal, the system need not be unbounded by cost constraints. Complaints about the Canadian system center on long waits and refused procedures - which is what cost containment looks like in practice. But the fact that anyone can see a doctor without cost for primary care does wonders for their overall health outcomes. It also makes a marked difference in the labor mobility.
   I think we are heading for double digit unemployment, and hence millions more without health insurance of any kind. The pressure to make radical changes in our system will be irresistible. Like you, I am not optimistic we will get a well-run program in the end, but it is fair to say our current system is doing little to reform itself.
   All across our economy we are about to make some regrettable choices - from finance, to health care, to energy policy. And the blame can be laid in large part at the feet of shortsighted capitalists (among whom I count myself) who chose immediate gains over commitment to the future. This is why I weary of those shouting "Socialist". They appear to me to be trying to distract us from who was driving the bus when it went off the cliff. We had our chance, and did not produce good results. 
   Thank you for watching and for your thoughtful reply. Your willingness to discuss these complex issues makes me more hopeful for our future.
 
John

Health Care Debate

Jan 15, 2009
I caught John Phipp’s commentary last weekend about how Tom Daschle could be more important to agriculture than the Secretary of Agriculture.  As a small business person serving the ag industry, I could not believe the commentator was actually favorable about socialized health care.  Too bad.  I think we all are in favor of having access to group plans.  But we don’t need universal health care to get that…only legislative action.
 
Sincerely,
John Mattingly
AgMetrics Research & Consulting

*Editor's Note:  Below is the transcript of last weekend's "John's World" commentary.  In addition, John will be responding to this email directly this coming weekend (January 17-18) on U.S. Farm Report:

LIKE THE REST OF AMERICA, FARMERS ARE TRYING TO GUESS HOW THE NEW ADMINSTRATION WILL TACKLE ISSUES. THE RESUMES OF THE VARIOUS CABINET OFFICERS ARE BEING SCRUTINZED BY CONSTITUENTS FOR CLUES AS TO POLICY DIRECTIONS. WHILE MANY IN AGRICULTURE ARE KEEPING AN EYE ON USDA SECRETARY NOMINEE TOM VILSACK, I THINK WE MAY BE MORE AFFECTED BY ANOTHER FAMILIAR FACE IN THE NEW CABINET - FORMER SENATOR TOM DASCHLE.
 
THERE SEEMS LITTLE DOUBT THE NEW ADMINISTRATION PLACES A HIGH PRIORITY ON HEALTHCARE REFORM, AND MR. DASCHLE WILL BE IN OVERALL CHARGE OF THAT EFFORT. HE HAS EXTENSIVE BACKGROUND IN SIMILAR LEGISLATIVE EFFORTS AND AS HEAD OF THE HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES DEPARTMENT WILL HAVE THE RESOURCES TO EFFECT CHANGE.
 
THE BEST NEWS FOR FARMERS IS HIS FAMILIARITY WITH AG ISSUES AND PROBLEMS. HEALTHCARE IN RURAL AMERICA PRESENTS UNIQUE CHALLENGES OFTEN OVERLOOKED BY HEALTH CARE REFORMERS. BECAUSE SO MANY ARE SELF-EMPLOYED OR WORK AT VERY SMALL BUSINESSES WITH FEW BENEFITS, HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE IS OFTEN TOTALLY INADEQUATE. MANY FARMERS OR SPOUSES ARE FORCED TO WORK OFF-FARM JOBS SIMPLY TO OBTAIN COVERAGE UNAVAILABLE OTHERWISE.
 
BREAKING THE LINK BETWEEN ACCESS TO GROUP HEALTH INSURANCE AND EMPLOYMENT COULD DO MORE TO AID SMALL AND MEDIUM SIZED FARMS THAN FARM SUBSIDIES, I BELIEVE. IN ADDITION, IT COULD FREE UP FARM WOMEN ESPECIALLY TO PURSUE A CAREER IN FARMING. WHILE MAKING HEALTH INSURANCE PORTABLE AND UNIVERSAL, ALL AMERICA WOULD BENEFIT, BUT RURAL AMERICA WOULD SEE THE MOST POSITIVE RESULTS.
 
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE USDA IS UNDOUBTEDLY IMPORTANT, BUT FOR MY MONEY, I WILL BE WATCHING TO SEE IF AN OLD FRIEND OF AGRICULTURE CAN HELP US OUT AGAIN.
 

Post Frame or Pole Barn?

Jan 14, 2009
John,
   I live in Virginia and watch your programs many Saturday or Sunday mornings.  I am a contractor for over 37 years that has built many farm buildings. We specialize in Equine facilities. You can see many of our buildings on our website pjwco.com.
   On a recent program, during your comments, you mentioned something about pole barns. I was surprised that you would not refer to them by the more modern title of Post Frame buildings.  There is an Association of us called the National Frame Building Association. I have been a member of the NFBA for 33 years. I/we the association would like you to refer to the buildings, barns, or what have you as Post Frame buildings.
   This past Saturday you had a story on Tom Farms. The buildings shown in that piece are Post Frame. I'm sure they, the Tom's, would not like their buildings called pole barns.  Just a thought, constructive, I hope. That is the way it is intended.  I plan to continue to enjoy your show.

Peter J. Williams, PJ Williams Company, Inc. 
Madison, Virginia

More Tractor Tales

Jan 12, 2009
My husband and I are faithful viewers.  You inform us, educate us, and entertain us with the church and tractor feature.  We do have a request.  Since you highlight more than one church maybe you could highlight more than one tractor restoration?  We are tractor lovers and our son is currently restoring a John Deere given to him by his grandfather.  His first tractor purchase was about a 1945 (we think) Gibson.  He brought it home when he was 15 and was so proud of it.  As I was admiring it, the tire blew.  I thought I had been shot.  It has since been fixed up and is part of the family. 
Thanks for providing a great show.

Larry and Lori Robbins
Grand Junction, Colorado

Viewer on Veggies

Jan 06, 2009
   I cant believe you spoke correctly when you said after tasting fresh picked veggies you are more inclined to pay more for premium. Fresh picked is the top of the premium list.  One or two tomato plant (you got to be kidding).  I hate to see October roll around as then I've got 8 months without a fresh tomato. That is why I make 75-100 quarts of tomato juice. That way we have a whole year of tomatoes You never tasted a peach or sweet cherry until you pick it directly from the tree.  
   We are fortunate to have soil and weather in northern Kentucky to allow growing of most veggies . Look at my garden (about 1/3 acre) and you will see corn, beans, onions, squash, egg plant, oyster plant(salsify), lima beans, cantaloupe, cucumbers, cabbage, broccoli & brussels sprouts . That is why we have good neighbors in the summer and a full freezer in winter.
   Here is my favorite photo (below) taken from the table beside the garden all raised by the two old farmers living the good life on the family farm.  Our farm has been in the family for 75 years and we moved here when I was 6 weeks old, have lived through the good time and bad but only remember the good. We watch the autos go by carrying neighbors to their jobs in town at 6 AM and realize they think I am nuts.  I've been down that road and want no part of it now (was a computer tech until dad passed away then bought the farm).  We also raise cattle and watch U.S. Farm Report on broadband as it has been taken off the local stations here in northern Kentucky.

Calvin Thomas
A proud Kentucky farmer

Tax Question

Jan 02, 2009
Hello,
   While watching your show last week Dec, 20-21.  In your news part they were talking about a new tax bill for farmers.  It said you could claim up to $250,000 in full without depreciating it over so many years. I remember hearing about farm buildings were included. If possible I would like more information or an addresss were I could find it.

Thanks, Darin Brown

Editor's Note:  Below are a couple links with more information...

-Tax Changes That Affect You

-2008 is the Year to Depreciate



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