Tag Archives: Politics

Get Involved!

All across the country, state Farm Bureaus are gearing up for or have just finished their annual meetings. In just a month, agriculturalists from every part of the United States will gather together in San Antonio for the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention. Why is this important? Why should it affect you?

For too long we have been content to care for our herds and drive our tractors with little thought to local, state, and national policy and advocacy. To sound cliché, the squeaky wheel gets oiled and we have not been squeaky enough!

Young farmers from New York meet with their members of Congress.

People, speak! Be loud! Get involved! Be active!

I know you could really use those last few hours of daylight to get things done on the farm. I know that it’s really hard to take two days away to attend yet another meeting. Who’s going to take care of the herd? Make sure no one has come up to the house and stolen the four-wheeler? This is where you need to go out on the edge and leap. Ask your neighbors for a hand. Lock the tools up in the shed. Get involved!

Go to your local Farm Bureau meetings, to your annual state policy meetings. Book a flight and head to San Antonio and see what policy looks like on the national level. Farm Bureau is a grassroots organization. This means that you, the local family farmer, drive the policy and direction for the group as a whole!

Since my involvement in Farm Bureau, I have developed a strong belief that EVERYONE should make an effort to speak PERSONALLY with our elected officials. Yes, that is a lot of capital letters but I want to emphasize this. Personal contact and relationships with those who are in charge of writing and forming the policies that affect our industry are important. Putting a face to those who are affected by things like the Clean Water Act is invaluable. However, we still have jobs to do. We have food, fuel, and fiber to produce.

Thankfully the American Farm Bureau Federation and our state Farm Bureau organizations are there for us.

State delegates discuss policy changes during the AFBF Annual Convention.

“But wait!” you say.

“How will they know what we want? What we need?” you ask.

The answer to this: you get involved. You come in from the field a couple hours early for that meeting. You become an active participant in the policy formation in your state. You become a squeaky wheel, and say listen up! You let Farm Bureau know what is needed so that they can be a defender of our industry in Washington, D.C. and our state capitols.

Mother Nature Didn’t Shut Down

According to my calendar, we’re entering another week of government shutdowns…and it doesn’t appear as if there is an end in sight. After this weekend’s early blizzard in the upper Midwest, I have a few things that are on my mind.

Apparently Mother Nature didn’t get the memo that there was a government shutdown. In fact, Mother Nature decided to show many just who is in charge…and it was a hard lesson learned. They estimate that as many as 100,000 cattle have died from the results of the massive blizzard that took many by surprise.

Mother Nature Didn't Shut Down

Many cattle caught out in the sudden storm perished along rural highways. Photo credit: Rapid City Journal

Yes, snow in October is expected. But this was more than snow.

And where is the assistance? The websites of information that could be used to help? Oh, sorry, didn’t you hear about the furlough?

But don’t worry, while the government is shutdown, hosting its own two-year-old tantrum, claiming that no one wants to play fair, workers that aren’t guaranteed pay are pitching in to help, organizations are offering services to connect those that have lost cattle and those that have found cattle, setting up sites for information and tips on how to make sure your losses are reported.

At a time when assistance from elected officials could be felt the most, there is no one there to answer the phone.

#DearCongress: Mother Nature is not on furlough. Farmers and ranchers are not on furlough. Emergency workers are not on furlough. It’s time to do what you were elected to do…grow up and represent our country, lead us to a better future, not down a path of destruction.

On the plus side, perhaps this shutdown will lead many to decide that it is time to step out of the shadows and start becoming actively involved in our government. Remember, this is our government…not just the government.

Run for office, whether it be township, county commission, school board, state or local offices. Let your voice be heard. Write letters. Make phone calls. It is well past the time to start charting our course back on track.

We cannot go back and change the actions of the past, but we certainly can make sure that our future is a different story.

A government shutdown will not have an impact on Mother Nature. But it can unite us in a drive to finally do what we should have been doing all along…be involved.

National Security and the Farm Bill…Wake Up D.C.

We are looking right down the barrel of an important junction in the history of our nation. I am sure that we all are disgusted with the bi-partisan arguing and inaction in Washington, D.C. I don’t care which side of the aisle you align yourself with, no one can be proud of what is going on, or more accurately, not going on in our nation’s capital. This summer the inaction seems to have gotten to a fever pitch, and I fear it will affect the very bedrock of our nation. That bedrock is agriculture and that means a farm bill needs to get done and needs to get done right now.

A strong agricultural system has always been the key to the success of the United States. Not only can we feed ourselves, but we can also provide food and fiber to a good portion of the world. I would challenge you to go through history and find an example of an enduring world power without a strong agricultural foundation. Food security is the first thing that must be established to ensure that a society will grow and flourish.

The United States has been a prime example of this. For many years we have known that our success lies with the success of our farmers and ranchers and their ability to not only survive but to also increase their productivity as our need for food and fiber increased. This dependence on a strong agricultural system is what led to the development of the farm bill and what has sustained the farm bill no matter which party was in control or what else was going on politically. It has long been understood that a farm bill needs to be a priority. A strong food and fiber production system was undeniably a matter of national security.

I think my friend Ben Boyd, a farmer from Georgia, summed it up best. Ben said, “If you like being dependent on foreign oil, you are going to love being dependent on foreign food.” Just think about how the price of crude oil fluctuates based on the whims of other nations who do not have our best interests in mind. Now think about how it would be if that was your food we were talking about. Maintaining and protecting our farmers and ranchers is of utmost importance.

Want an example of how important the farm bill is? Probably the most important piece in the farm bill is the support of crop insurance. Without subsidized crop insurance most farmers could not afford it. Without crop insurance many of my friends in western Kansas would now be out of business because of the sustained drought. Did they get rich because of this coverage? Absolutely not, but it did allow them to pay their bills and stay in business.

Yes, it allowed them to pay their bills, which also allowed Main Street in many small western Kansas towns to survive. We often worry about the outward migration from rural America; I promise you this would have been even worse in the past few years without crop insurance sustaining many of the farmers and the communities they live in. Crop insurance has become our food safety net.

Crop insurance has also become absolutely critical when we go to secure loans with which to operate. In a time of increased oversight and regulation on our lending partners, crop insurance allows bankers to feel more secure loaning the large amounts of capital it takes to operate a farm or ranch. Without crop insurance, many younger or newer farmers would not be able to obtain the loans they depend on. The next generation of ag producer needs to be encouraged, not discouraged, from picking up the torch and running with it.

Right now Congress is out on recess (seems kind of ironic because in school if we didn’t get our work done, we didn’t get recess), and it is a great time to contact your congressional delegation. Folks, we are all in this together, because if you aren’t producing the food, you are certainly eating it. We all need to reach out to our elected officials and let them know that a farm bill is something that needs to be done now and not later.

Maybe this stalemate is a sign of the times because most people have never had to worry about food or thought about the farmers and ranchers who produce it. It might be that it is a product of the “my way or no way” attitude that permeates our government. Whatever the reason, a farm bill must be crafted and passed. I would ask that you contact your congressional delegation and let them know that passing a farm bill is not a Republican agenda item or a Democratic agenda item; it is a matter of national security for each of us.