From a reader in response to today’s column :
Read your essay on ag subsidies this morning before I started my ” town job” and felt the urge
I am the 51 year old son and grandson of farmers, may they rest in peace, and I still own 60
acres of our original farm. Half of the ground I have enrolled in the Conservation Reserve
Program, which is part of the “welfare program” and pays me the princely sum of $3000 or so a
year to keep the ground planted to native prairie grass. Every October, I thank my fellow
engineers at my town job for paying their taxes and allowing me to be a “farmer”, which also
allows me to take advantage of some splendid tax deductions.
I found your essay rather painful, primarily because it is all true. What is also true is that
most farmers know what you say is a valid indictment. I don’t mean “play farmers” like myself,
or well-meaning but hopelessly romanticized welfare state advocates who wouldn’t know bullshit
if they stepped in it. I mean those that actually make their livelihood off the land. Having
grown up with many of them in this area, just like our fathers grew up together, they know full
well that the system is immoral, and at some level are ashamed to be a part of it, but are
faced with a stark choice;play the system or sell the ground. If you catch them after a beer or
three, most will express a wistful desire for the “way it used to be” , before subsidized
industrialized agriculture,back when their grandfathers made decent livings off a few hundred
Another bit of fallout from the agriculture subsidy scam, which totally underwrites the current
trend in mega-farms, is the almost complete destruction of the small town in the farm belt.
When entire counties are farmed by a few families, there is little need for small communities.
If you have your shorts in a bunch about ag subsidies now, just wait until the ethanol lobby
gets up a full head of steam!
In the interest of full disclosure, I have usually voted Democrat, mostly out of habit and
being raised by several generations of Roosevelt/LBJ type Democrats. I am now politically
adrift, finding both parties equally reprehensible and financially irresponsible.
Enjoy your essays, even when they hurt a bit.