It’s the dog days of summer and none of us seems all that motivated to do much of anything besides vacation. So we’re going to turn the ranting duties over to someone else with a classic rant by blogger Kung Fu Monkey, titled Farm Fetish.
Well not completely. 🙂
I like this one because the topic—the enduring pull of farming—struck me. I grew up in a rural area. Nowadays almost nobody there farms as the land has been bought up by rich guys who are collecting subsidy checks from the USDA to do nothing. It’s anecdata, but from my high school class last I checked only one person was farming out of probably fifteen farm kids (in a class of thirty). By any measure he was the guy who would have been voted “Most likely to succeed” if such a thing had appeared in the yearbook. I don’t think he is a farmer anymore, but we’ve lost touch.
But when I was a kid, the family farm of mom, dad, 2.3 kids, a dog, some cows and a tractor was still alive… barely. The mental pull of farming was substantial, even on us non-farmers. Much to my shame at the time in kid-to-kid comparisons, my dad didn’t have cool things like a combine or tons of silage. Instead he worked as the maintenance manager of a factory. We were probably a lot better off for it, though we still got wiped out by the early 80s recession. The romanticization of farming, though, is well and alive, and no more evident than in an election year when all the would-be contenders make the rounds of farm states. I remember the first time it really, truly hit me quite vividly. I was at my parents’ house. It hadn’t rained there in over a month and my step-mom said something, almost ritually, like “It’s just terrible for the farmers.” I said “Who the hell cares? They have crop insurance, and half of them aren’t even growing anything, just collecting a USDA check.”
Now don’t get me wrong. Just as Kung Fu Monkey notes, farming is important for all the obvious reasons, but the USA just isn’t the nation of small farmers envisioned by Jefferson, and hasn’t been for years.
More people play World of Warcraft than farm.
Now that it’s gone agribusiness, it’s not even a “family” thing—not more than any other family business anyhow—and needs to get in line to be fed from the public trough like anyone else. Reasonable arguments can be made for some kind of farm subsidy given the high startup costs, relatively low margins and an uncertain environment from year to year (remember that month long drought?), but as far as I am concerned agribusiness giants such as corn ethanol can get in line with all the other industries important to the national interest for protection from foreign competition. Here’s a nice discussion on an economics blog for you to read.
(I fully expect a response from AM, running dog of agribusiness that he is.)