Monday, June 12, 2006

When the farm bill comes due

Have you heard that work has begun on the new farm bill? Our esteemed public servants have begun the process of setting out place cards at the public trough.

Meetings are taking place between the captains of corporate agribusiness and public sector types that oversee things like food stamps and school lunches.

Of course this has almost nothing to do with farming and everything to do with politics, but before its over those of us who do raise crops and/or livestock will likely have a whole new set of things to worry about and defend ourselves against.

This unholy alliance between the corporate hustlers and the poverty pimps will probably not be content to simply plunder the public treasury and let it go at that, at least they have not done so in the past.

I can’t guess what new problems these folks will send our way.

When I was a kid people commonly made jokes about how the government paid farmers not to grow crops. They paid by the acre you see, so if you didn’t grow 1000 acres of corn you got more money than if you didn’t grow only 100 acres of corn.

The latest batch of foolishness makes that look reasonable. Now I’m supposed to install radio id chips in my livestock and notify the Feds when my horse goes out for a trail ride. All at my own expense of course. We call this NAIS.

And then there’s the bird flu. The chickens on my farm are not locked up in some warehouse like the ones that belong to Tyson’s. At the first sign of trouble you can bet the Ag department folks will drive right past any number of giant poultry gulags on their way to destroy my birds and any other backyard flocks in the area.

I guess they think my chickens may pop off to visit relatives in China and come home with a social disease.

I was reading the other day that most customers for direct-marketed alternative agricultural products are women who are involved with home schooling. I hadn’t noticed that before, but it agrees with my experience. From all points of the political compass mind you, but all home school folks.

It used to be that keeping your kids out of public school was a major legal problem. People did jail time for it. It was considered a form of child abuse and still is in several states. Just like selling raw milk and on farm butchering of livestock.

I would rather have a seat on the old picket fence than deal with what seems like the endless stream of petty tyrannies being launched at the small farmer.

Some advocate the formation of some sort of political special interest group to defend our selves, a sort of anti-establishment establishment I guess. Still, this lifestyle is as much about individualism as anything. I’ve never been much of a joiner.

So we must out smart them, fortunately that’s not too hard.

I would never sell poultry that was not processed in a licensed and approved facility, you know, with 4000 sq ft of heated and air conditioned floor space and ADA compliant bath rooms, men and ladies. But if you would like to contract with me to raise a live bird for you, I can clean it for you for free when the time comes.

I would never sell un-pasteurized milk, but if you want to buy a part interest in this cow, what you do with your milk is your business.

At no point in my life have I learned so much so fast as I have here on the farm. Talk about home schooling.


Brad K. said...

I recall 40 years ago, when the labor unions looked to farmers as a source of ready revenue, I mean, 'downtrodden workers abused by big business'. I still don't understand how staking steel fence posts in your neighbor's corn field to damage his combine helps farmers.

I did a 'google' on 'national farm organization' (NFO was one of the big name organizers back then, in my neck of the woods). I quickly got a half dozen organizations defending the farmer from Washington, from the ever-active Farm Bureau to the NFO and the 'National Farm-City Council'. Wow. Talk about lining up to pick your pocket.

Here in Northern Oklahoma, a lot of people are using the older Ford tractors from 1940's and 1950's for utility work. Tractor works great. There are also several John Deere 4020's nearby, made from 1968 to 1972. There don't seem to be as many tractors from the 1980's still running, though. Funny about that.

NAIS looks to be a real disaster. Created for Mad Cow Disease, some bean counter decided the USDA/FBI needed records on any farm animal that might get sick, or get another animal sick. Like tracking mud from one farm to another on shoes, boots, or dog and cat feet won't do the trick.

Always something to look forward to...

Joe Greene said...

Great post, Jim. Spot on, as our British friends say.

Not only are the homeschoolers buying local alternative food, we're producing it.