Low prices, the drought of 2006, high energy costs, a world war on U.S. subsidies and a farm bill that may not be as farmer friendly as those in years past seem to point to another round of farm liquidations over the next few years.
Liquidation of course is another way of saying that farmers are “going broke.”
Part of the American farmer’s problem is that the average, non-farming American doesn’t understand that subsidies help invigorate the rural economy.
Nor do they understand that free trade talks do not give much weight to the considerable rules and regulations that add costs to U.S. production. Many of these rules and regulations are aimed at keeping the U.S. food/fiber supply and the environment safe for all Americans.
The average American does understand the personal face of an issue, however. Like the media-painted faces of destitute cotton farmers in West Africa who the media say are mired in poverty because U.S. subsidies depress world prices.
But where does the American public get to see the faces of farmers living right here in our own country? It would seem to me that their predicament is worth an occasional news flash.
I recently received a note from Nancy Trotter of Hale Center, Texas, about an article I had written. I quoted someone who said that without subsidies cotton production would have to move to more cost-efficient areas.
“Can you tell me which farms in which states you plan to cut out of growing cotton so some can take advantage of cost-efficiency,” she asked. “What do you have in mind for the thousands of producers and the land you’ll have eliminated? What becomes of the small towns that are dependent on agriculture if we just walk away and leave the land to blow away? Are we to move to large cities that already have many problems? I wish someone would just once talk to a real working farmer...”
I wrote back to Nancy explaining that I was merely a reporter, and that the opinions of my sources don’t necessarily reflect mine. But I did feel that readers needed to hear opinions from various sources, not all of which were agreeable.
She wrote back, still frustrated, but thankful someone had her attention. “Thank you very much for answering my note. I just get so upset that most of the farm magazines and farm shows on television seem to want to eliminate cotton from the High Plains of Texas. They keep saying we should diversify, but we can’t do that.
“This summer is a good example what no rain can do. Everyone would like to be cost-efficient and my sons certainly try, but there are things we have no control over. Of course, I understand there are no easy answers.”
Somehow, U.S. agriculture has to get Nancy’s message to Congress, USDA leaders and the current administration that behind every farm liquidation, there is another set of strong, calloused hands idled, another farm family lost to the city and another generation of children destined to be unaware of the rural lifestyle.