Posted By Cathryn October 9, 2012
Rural America, in large part, votes. With a keen awareness of how government policies and regulations directly impact their operations, farmers head to the polls. While most farmers actively support candidates who value agriculture, understand the impact of over-regulation and who see the importance of supporting rural America, the political influence of rural America has waned in the past few decades.
Issues such as the farm bill, renewable fuels policy, estate taxes and proposed regulations could, if mishandled, sock U.S. farmers in the collective gut. In America’s heartland, the men and women who grow food and fuel for the nation look toward the election with a drought on their minds and a steely resolve in their eyes.
What does this picture lack?
This weekend, reports from New Orleans detailed a festive atmosphere on Bourbon Street. Unlike Mardi Gras revelers intent upon imbibing, the 10,000 plus Venezuelans celebrating in the streets had traveled to Louisiana not to party but to vote.
Registered voters, these men and women brought their families made the journey from Florida because, after Chavez had closed their embassy in Miami, New Orleans offered the closest polling station. News outlets across the United States took notice. The scene was, in its rarity, newsworthy.
Take a moment and imagine what an incredible effort these men and women exerted in order to exercise their vote. The trip entailed travel expenses, preparation and time away from work for many. Yet, grandparents proudly displayed flags and caps for photos with children and grandchildren, proudly smiling and sharing in an important moment for their community.
Now, imagine the political influence rural America could assert yet again. The number of men and women who farm has dwindled with improved technology allowing for increased productivity. The numbers alone will not restore political prominence.
What rural America needs is enthusiasm. Yes, many people meet a candidate or even host a tea. But the country, rural, urban and suburban, has lost its patriotic excitement for exercising this fundamental right. If farmers, ranchers and their allies bring energy and unabashed excitement for voting back into American politics, they will make our candidates and our country stand up and take notice of rural issues.
Posted By Cindy October 2, 2012
A farmer, friend and colleague of the agriculture industry is in critical condition at a Springfield, Missouri hospital and a fund has now been set up to help his family with related expenses.
Kansas Corn and Sorghum Growers executive director Jere White was involved in a motorcycle accident on September 28 in northwest Arkansas. Jere is an avid motorcyclist and is pictured here at the 2011 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally with his son Robert, who is Director of Market Development for the Renewable Fuels Association.
Jere was wearing a helmet in the crash but still suffered a head injury and his family has been with him constantly in Springfield since the accident. They have set up a Facebook page for Jere where updates can be found and get well wishes and comments of encouragement can be posted. The link is http://www.facebook.com/GetWellJere.
Jere’s colleagues with the Kansas grains groups are helping out with expenses for the family by setting up a fund for donations.
Donations to the fund can be sent to:
Jere White Fund
c/o Bank of Greeley
PO Box 80
Greeley, KS 66033
Cards for Jere and his family will be collected at the association office and may be mailed to:
PO Box 446
Garnett, KS 66032
Jere is a wonderful, witty and fun-loving person who is a joy to know. We are all praying for his complete recovery and the strength of his family for support.
Posted By Cathryn September 13, 2012
With so many questions surrounding how the drought might affect food prices, CommonGround Nebraska volunteer Diane Becker took to the airwaves at Husker Harvest Days to help consumers understand how food pricing works.
Citing information available at www.usda.gov, she noted that only 14 cents of every dollar spent on groceries actually goes to pay for the commodities that these foods include. Basically, even if the prices on corn and soybeans double, the increase on stores shelves only goes up by pennies.
Offering more insight on food and her unique perspective as a farmer and a mother, Becker talks to the concerns all moms share about how to feed their families a healthy, nutritious diet without breaking the bank.
Catch the clip and see how CommonGround volunteers across the country are stepping up to help start a conversation between the moms who buy food and those who grow it.
Posted By Cathryn September 12, 2012
Have you ever wondered why the House has failed to bring a farm bill to the floor? Today, House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson gave a simple, direct answer during the Farm Bill Now rally held on Capitol Hill this week.
Noting that the House still has time to pass this key legislation he stated, “we just need the pressure on.”
Peterson explained that, unlike in previous years, members of the House have not seen the groundswell of support for a farm bill that drives action. Describing the rally as a “good starting point,” he called upon farmers to call their representatives in the House and vigorously urge immediate action.
Peterson concluded by declaring that spurring the House to action would require around 100 to 200 calls from people in every district with an interest in agriculture. Given that the sector provides 1 out of every 12 American jobs, support for a farm bill should be strong. Now, it must be active.
In his speech, the House member issued an ominous warning about farmer inaction saying, “if you don’t do that, we’re not going to get a farm bill.”
With only a few precious days remaining before Congress heads home and the 2008 Farm Bill expires, farmers, ranchers, those who work in agriculture and anyone interested in our nation’s food security must act now. The National Corn Growers Association and the Farm Bill Now! coalition offer online tools to make taking the crucial step of contacting your House representation simple and fast.
To use the valuable tools offered by NCGA, click here. To sign the Farm Bill Now! online petition and contact your House member through social media, click here.
Our entire system of representative government depends upon an active electorate who makes sure that the men and women they send to Washington act on their behalf. We elect them. We pay their salaries. Now, we must make sure that they represent us by passing the farm bill legislation that our nation needs in 2012.
Posted By Cathryn August 28, 2012
In the California GMO Labeling debate, it seems everyone involved can agree upon one basic premise – consumers have a right to know. The debate occurs around exactly what that right entails.
Arguing to redefine terms such as “natural”, even to the exclusion of foods such as olive oil, proponents of the bill seem to believe consumers have a right to know exactly what their agenda-driven groups says that they do.
On the other hand, farmers believe that consumers have a right to know too. In a recent blog post, farmer Mike Haley carefully explained a side of the story that labeling loonies would prefer to push to the backburner. Walking readers through the specific actions that this law would require of him, Haley shows the hidden costs of supporting the propositions hidden agenda.
Take a minute to see the true costs of this measure. If it passes, everyone will pay.
Consumers have a right to know what they eat. They also have a right to know the consequences of their vote.
Posted By Cathryn August 23, 2012
Sometimes, it is easy to lump people into a broad category. Elitist or plebian. Enviro-hippie or pollution-spewing Hummer nut. Midwestern bumpkin or coastal snob. While these labels make for a quick, easy way to write off people to whom we would prefer not listen, they do not account for our incredible ability as human beings to become deeper, more complex individuals. .
Two starkly different articles published this week on the role of farmers in modern America illustrated the importance of transformatory voices and the shared stories of people who have taken on unexpected roles can add nuance and insight to the national dialogue. A dialogue which, particularly in this election year, has grown shallow, partisan and generally uninformed.
Mark Bittman, a New York Times writer known more for his exquisite palate than economic aptitude, took on the state of U.S. farming from the viewpoint of a frequent diner at Manhattan’s upscale eateries. Lamenting the inability of the general public to find the boutique produce his beloved celebre-chefs spend days chasing down, he boldly proposes overhauling all of agriculture to more closely resemble his Utopian vision. In Bittman’s America, everyone not only has seasonal access to the products he enjoys, which notably must not include a good steak, but also has the time and skill to lovingly coax them into gourmet dishes. The farmers whom he deems “real” likewise coax the finest heirloom tomatoes and leafy kale from one or two acres of land. He argues that that this will employ more Americans, who he presumes wish to be farmers, and will provide healthier food for all, with food stamp programs to help us all afford his posh produce.
A knee-jerk response would be to trash all intellectuals, painting them wish a broad brush as cluelessly out-of-touch with the vast majority of Americans who refuse to pay thirty bucks for a cup of soup, let alone spend countless hours in attempts to emulate it at home. Although tempting, this adds nothing to the dialogue.
Victor Davis Hanson does. In his Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Hanson writes the prose equivalent of an ode to the farmers who persevere in this year’s drought. Speaking of the character of the people who stand tall while the drought beats down upon them, Hanson champions crop insurance and agricultural productivity. A writer from California’s abundant heartland who grew up on a farm, he knows that of which he speaks.
“The mystery isn’t that we have devastating droughts like this summer’s, but that so few Americans manage to produce so much food against such daunting odds,” he explains, noting this view comes from personal experiences with his family’s raisin farm.
Eloquently weaving in references to ancient Greek philosophy, Hanson provides a look at the farmer that many would rarely see. Having more experience on the farms of California than Kansas, Hanson’s view of the farmer and modern productivity could grow with further study into the importance of ethanol, but why throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater?
Hanson says something that, particularly in this hot, volatile climate, ALL farmers need to hear. You are appreciated. Facing a natural disaster of historic proportions, he voices the support that most Americans feel for the men and women who feed them.
Conversely, Bittman also offers a valuable lesson, particularly when contrasted with Hanson. It is vital that American farmers create an open dialogue about what they do. Farmers already have an amazing story. They live it every day. In sharing it, they foster a cooperative, positive environment, something that should be valued in these divisive times.
One thing is for certain. If Manhattan’s elite chefs take charge of this conversation, a seriously skewed version of reality may gain a foothold. It would be a shame. We should celebrate reality; we should work to show the strong, resilient spirit behind modern ag innovation.
At NCGA, we have been doing this for many years. For those with most interest in learning about the abundance and, yes, diversity, of American agriculture, we offer links to:
Posted By Cathryn August 15, 2012
While reading convoluted media accounts of the droughts impact on any number of issues and hearing forceful statements about farming that have little, if any, basis in reality, one very simple piece of advice comes to mind. The smartest thing that someone can do is to admit what they don’t actually know.
Third-hand accounts and rampant rumors spread through poorly edited media accounts or completely unedited social media rants often form the basis for many people’s perceptions of food and farming. The overwhelming majority of the U.S. population finds itself unable to personally interact with an industry that, although vital to life, it has been removed from for generations.
Treading metaphorical water in an attempt to keep up with daily challenges, well-intentioned, intelligent men and women may forget the source of their viewpoint yet ardently support the behaviors stemming from it.
Farmers have come out and opened their gates wide in an effort to share a slice of their lives and a glimpse into how the food on our nation’s table actually came to be. Be it through a campaign such as the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, the Corn Farmers Coalition or CommonGround, farmers have mobilized in an unprecedented manner to start a national conversation about the food that they grow and the profession they love.
Where does the conversation start? It starts by finding a common understanding between the people who grow food and those who buy it on what each group honestly does not know about the other.
To help lay groundwork for this dialogue, CommonGround spoke with moms across the country about feeding their families. The results show that even active, concerned parents may still have questions.
These questions can create a lot of guilt. From the nutritional value of organic foods to who actually grows food at all, real decisions are being made out of guilt that, upon closer examination, has no basis in the reality of modern agriculture. The choices can cost real dollars and cause real stress.
The solution is real conversation.
Take a moment to see if myths and misinformation cause unnecessary stress for your family or someone you know. Then, take a deep breath and relax.
Farm moms worry about what they feed their families too. They know how stressful trying to provide the best for your children can be. They want to do the same thing.
Then, take another moment to check out how these farmers want to help families across the country eat fearlessly. Literally walking consumers through what they do, the volunteers of CommonGround share what they do on their farms and explain why they do it.
An open, honest conversation about food is underway. The smartest thing that everyone can do is admit that both sides can learn so much from one another. Together, we can all become smarter about food and grow a healthier tomorrow.
Posted By Cathryn August 7, 2012
It may sound corny, but lately it seems that a lot of people talk about the omnipresence of corn. While this fact is inarguable, the negative tone of many articles on the corn-centric nature of our lives seems befuddling. This week, the Kansas City Star took a more insightful approach to exploring how people interact with the crop in their daily lives. As it turns out, a world without corn doesn’t seems like such a great place to live.
The author carefully walks through what a day without corn might look like. Unable to brush his teeth, scramble a decent egg and with his clothes falling to rags, he finds that corn actually makes small improvements to an incredible number of the items that make our lives more pleasant, healthy or comfortable.
The properties inherent to corn make it our nation’s most abundant crop for a reason. Lending useful applications to products as varied as pharmaceuticals and fireworks, corn may really be the glue the binds us together in many ways.
Another kernel of wisdom, it helps to make that glue too.
Corn is king not because it rules over us. Corn it king because IT RULES! Take a minute to check out how many great, interesting, useful ways that corn is used.
Farmers across the country work hard year in and year out to make sure there is a supply of corn so that consumers can enjoy everything from cosmetics to cola. Let’s support the great efforts of our nation’s hardworking family farmers, even if it may sound corny to some ears.
Posted By Ken August 1, 2012
As someone who has worked for both a large global corporation and a large governmental agency, I know how impossible it is to monitor everything said or posted by such a large number of employees. And “impossible” is the right word – especially if you are a federal agency with more than 100,000 employees around the world.
We have been loath to publish anything about USDA’s minor “Meatless Monday” mention on an internal publication that was posted online, but now that the debate has made its way to the New York Times, it’s time to be clear.
1. All you have to do is look at a USDA menu to see it is not anti-meat, as some in the livestock sector thought; or anti-vegetable, as those on the other side of the fence now argue.
2. When the newsletter was pointed out to the USDA, the agency did the right thing, and did it quickly.
3. When Mark Bittman of The New York Times picked a new fight after the brouhaha, by asking USDA a when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife kind of question (“Is it more important to support meat producers than those who produce other crops?”), USDA did the right thing yet again … and gave the right response.
Now, it’s time for everyone to stop talking about it. And we will do the same, unless the attacks and idiocies continue.
Posted By Cathryn July 30, 2012
Can you imagine the feeling of waking up in the morning and realizing that it would be 13 months before you got another paycheck? The drought has farm families across the Midwest pondering just that as relentlessly hot, dry conditions turn the nation’s heartland from a breadbasket into an oven.
In a recent story from Voice of America, DuBois, Ill. farmer Alan Bowers Jr. explained what many family farmers in the central and southern Corn Belt feel as they watch the crop that they invested time, sweat and money in this spring wilt. Blowing away, the corn becomes part of the dust that normally yields the most abundant crop in the world.
Using a simple, yet eloquent analogy, DuBois compared his corn and soybean crop to a paycheck. Drawing on this common idea, he places in stark perspective how dire the situation facing many farm families may seem.
This candid look at farming stands in contrast to the multitude of mainstream news stories promoting the fallacious idea that farmers do not care about the crop. The emotional toll of seeing hard work wither due to circumstances well beyond human control aside, crop insurance ensures that family farmers like DuBois can make ends meet until the next season. It ensures that natural disasters do not cause our nation’s agricultural sector to disintegrate.
Crop insurance places exists because Americans value their abundant, affordable, safe supply of food and the farm families who produce it. Americans understand the integral role these hard working individualists play in the fabric of our national character and in our economy. Maintaining their ability to farm next year when confronted with such enormous, unstoppable obstacles makes sense. Understanding their frustration in watching the crop slip away does too.
As drought conditions persist, remember that the people who grow food, the people who raise it and those who eat it all must endure these trying conditions together. Looking toward one another with understanding and compassion can ease the stress placed on one another, even if it cannot ease the stress placed on the crops.