Editor’s Note: Harvey Joe Sanner is a corn, soybean and wheat farmer from Des Arc, Ark. He is a former president of the American Agriculture Movement and a frequent commentator on the political landscape in rural America. His comments in a recent letter to the ArkansasDemocrat/Gazette could sum up what many are feeling about the attempts to provide disaster assistance for farmers in Arkansas and other Mid-South states.
The Democrat/Gazette has seen fit to assault U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln three times in less than a week on their editorial page. This level of repetition surpasses a mere pattern and might be deemed an obsession. Obsessive folks can be dangerous because they tend to ignore facts that don’t concur with their fixations. Newspaper editors who probably would not recognize a plow if it opened a furrow on their writing desks simply lack credentials on this topic. Yet, they hold forth to be experts on farm policy and the programs designed to accomplish that policy.
Contrary to ignorance-based opinions, farm programs were not designed to make farmers wealthy. They exist to ensure that the nation has an adequate supply of food and fiber products. They do provide a safety net to producers of the major commodities that are the base of the world’s food supply but that net certainly does not guarantee a profit. Obsessing over farm program outlays is also misplaced in my opinion. Farm program payments represent no more than two-tenths of one percent of the U.S. Budget. The vast majority of the United States Department of Agriculture expenditures are dedicated to nutrition programs. U.S. Forest Service needs are funded in the ag budget along with massive soil and water conservation programs designed to protect and preserve these resources for future generations. This is yet another program intended to fulfill the policy goal of providing a sustainable supply of affordable food and fiber.
I would defy any editor or other farm program critic to name another national food and farm policy initiative that has delivered the benefits to a society like our U.S. farm policy does. Senator Lincoln understands this. Many editors do not.
Criticizing Senator Lincoln for standing up for a segment of her constituents that suffered severe crop damage from weather disasters in 2009 is not only unfair, it’s suspicious because critic have relied on editors at the Washington Post and the New York Times to advocate against Arkansas producers. Why? Why would a native give credibility to a big city editor far removed from the farm in an effort to harm their home state industry of agriculture? Seeking an answer to that question is liable to cause me to fall into the paranoia pit and it’s already crowded with tea baggers.
Huge segment of economy
Relying on sources ignorant of farm policy is dubious. Production agriculture is a huge segment of the Arkansas economy. It deserves a fair hearing from our statewide newspaper, not echoed biases and false information. Ye Olde Editors have also relied on openly hostile groups such as the Environmental Working Group. This is the most flagrant of the phony critics. The EWG more accurately is identified as the “Enemy of Working Growers.” They are not environmentalists, they are mercenaries and their goal is to weaken or eliminate farm programs.
During your criticism of Senator Lincoln’s ability to get funding approved by seeking an administrative solution, you missed the real story. The legislative process is currently broken due to a politically-driven partisan agenda. Senator Lincoln faced one filibuster attempt after another by the Republican minority that blocked her legislation. In a very noble and legitimate effort to help a region of the country that suffered a disaster she did as any honorable elected official would do, she worked harder to accomplish what should never have been defeated by a partisan-driven political ploy.
The bottom line is that disaster funds are needed in the Arkansas heartland, and you chose to take the side of Washington D.C. and New York City editors, a total phony EWG and a Republican minority in the Senate over the well being of Arkansas rural communities dependent on agriculture for their livelihood.
From the farm community, I say bless you Miss Blanche and please don’t let the naysayers wear you down. You did us proud by being a Senator doing what a Senator should!