Don't criticize farmers with your mouth full

Friday, February 1, 2008

When was the last time you were really hungry? I mean hungry from starvation and not from the fact you missed lunch because you were just too busy to stop and eat.?I thought so. Not too many, if any, starving people are reading this article.

And do you know why you are not starving? The simple reason is because somewhere in this country farmers got up this morning and went to the fields and barn lots to make sure we all had enough to eat.

The majority went to those fields and barn lots because each one had a very important purpose for doing so. They, just like each of us, have to make an honest living, educate their children, pay their taxes, as well as feed and clothe their family.

Their days are controlled by the weather, cantankerous equipment, government regulations, supply salesmen, and not enough hours or daylight.

Farmers throughout the country have started making plans for this year's crops. But those plans have been somewhat on the back burner due to having to wait for Congress to give them a new farm bill.

Why wait you may ask. It's simple. They would like to know the rules and regulations under which they must operate for the coming season. You see, without a new farm bill, many farmers are completely uncertain as to what the future may hold for them in the coming months.

A lot of times, what the big print gives in legislation, the fine print can take away.

Regardless of a farmer's best efforts to manage natural and financial risks, they often see their bottom lines destroyed by weather disasters, the crash-and-recover uncertainty of international economics, unfair foreign competition and the confusion of government regulations. Each can take a painful bite off the top of an already slim profit margin.

But, a reasonable farm bill helps ease the unknowns and also gives our farmers hope, which hasn't been all that plentiful lately.

It is important to remember that our federal farm program is based on production. It is a fair program for all parties involved. It is true that those farm families who produce more receive larger payments, but they also take larger financial risks and have significantly higher investments in their farms.

When crop prices are depressed, no farm is immune to difficulty. Money directed to producers through farm programs represents a public investment in the nation's food, environment, and economic security. The farm bill is a solid investment in family farms and the rural communities where they reside.

All consumers reap many benefits from the new farm bill, including a high quality, stable and economical food supply that takes less of the consumer's dollar than any place else in the world. Only 10 percent of our disposable income goes to paying our food bills annually in this country.

Funding better environmental practices benefits all of society through improved soil, water and air quality.

The farm bills approved by both houses of Congress provide the kind of programs farmers want, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said during his address at the group's 89th annual convention in New Orleans recently.

"Our members have made it clear they support a continuation of the three-legged safety net of direct support, counter-cyclical payments and marketing loans," said Stallman. "This is what we heard -- loud and abundantly clear -- and this is what our policy supports."

Now is the time for action on the legislation, which also includes increased funding for conservation programs and new money for research, trade, nutrition, and marketing for fruits and vegetables, Stallman explained.

"Let's get this farm bill done," he said.

Sure, the new legislation may not be perfect. However, what legislation really is? But, it is important not to criticize a farm bill with your mouth full and your belt too snug due to over indulgence.

Let's keep those farmers in the fields and our country, with a strong agriculture, from being dependent on anyone else.

Pettus L. Read is editor of the Tennessee Farm Bureau News and Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau.