Sunday, March 6, 2011

Another Lesson from Harry Truman

“In the long view, no nation is healthier than its children, or more prosperous than its farmers,” President Harry Truman, (Laws, 2011).  I had to do a presentation in fourth grade on a historical figure, naturally I picked a president—I loved presidential facts and history.  So here I am 11-12 years later quoting Harry Truman once again.

There is a lot of truth in those words you see, “[…] no nation is healthier than its children, or more prosperous than its farmers.”  I found this quote in a recent article, Different farm bill for 'different times'.  As the discussion starts over the creation of the 2012 Farm Bill, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, addressed USDA's Agricultural Outlook Conference on the importance and dedication required to the task at hand.  The senator compared the economic circumstances for farmers today to that of the Great Depression.  But in contrast, the next farm bill, the Senator pleaded, needs to build on principles rather than farm programs; and she, “[…] indicated she will work for smarter, simpler and streamlined farm programs.” (Laws, 2011)     
The national and state budget situations, as bad as they are, will positively influence this goal.  Recently, everyone is up in arms over budget cuts.  Last November, the American tax payers voted for less spending, but once THEIR organizations/affiliates are targets of budget cuts, they turn into hypocrites.  

I believe some of our most effective legislation can be enacted at this time.  The general public and mainstream media portrays agricultural subsidies as wasteful, and now the time has come for effective change.  Many farmers recognize the programs that don’t benefit them or the long term productivity of agriculture—more times than not they benefit land owners that enroll now non-producing farm land in conservation programs—robbing tax payers of funds that could be used in ‘smarter, simpler and more streamlined farm programs.’ 

The strength of the American and Global economy is very much influenced by the strength, and more so the stability of the American agricultural economy.  Comparatively, the devastating dairy situation in 2009 matched that of the American economy, did it not?  And how did we try to fix both, lots of stimulus money!  Did it work?  The real question, why did it happen and what policies and farm programs are truly needed?  Interestingly, the USDA has changed its direction on dairy program subsidies, focusing more on risk management, notably through Dairy Livestock Gross Margin Insurance, rather than the MILC (Milk Income Loss Contracts) that pay direct payments for lost milk sales income.  I believe this encompasses the ‘smarter, simpler, streamlined’ approach to farm programs, and agree with it. 

We have already realized our children are not as healthy as they could be, and have thus started working towards reducing childhood obesity.  It is now time, in the midst of national and state budgets crises and the formation of the 2012 Farm Bill, to apply the same philosophy to farm programs—funding for prevention measures and correction—and live up to Harry Truman’s truth.    
Laws, F. (2011, March 4). Different farm bill for 'different times'. Retrieved March 6,       2011, from   Western Farm Press: different-times



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