By Paul Stout
As 2004 comes upon us, I am reminded of those famous words that we in agriculture so often say, “maybe next year.” This statement gets repeated over and over again by many generations during a 30- to 50-year career span. In all those years, on average, one out of six are bountiful. Once in a rare while you might get two in six.
The unfortunate reality is that next year is not going to be profitable for a growing number in production agriculture. Low prices and persistent drought in much of the nation are largely to blame. Almost equally as bad is public apathy and media misrepresentation of agriculture.
The most recent case of misinformation was a December 8 news report, “Obesity in America: How to Get Fat Without Really Trying.” Peter Jennings addressed national obesity by linking the problem to an oversupply of food, both healthy and not. In turn, he blamed federal farm programs, more specifically subsidies to producers. He directed most of his remarks toward corn and soybeans because of the extracted oils and sweeteners used in various processed food items.
Here is the untold part of the story. Direct subsidies to farmers cost Americans 3.3 cents a day, versus $5.39 per day for Social Security and $4.46 per day for Medicaid/Medicare. The USDA budget is half of 1 percent of the total federal budget, and of that only 25.5 percent is directly paid to producers. This allows consumers to pay as little as 10 cents on the dollar for food, the lowest cost anywhere in the world.
Mr. Jennings arguments have no logical basis in fact. He is trying to convince us that farm policy is essentially holding a gun to our heads and forcing us to shovel candy, soda pop and potato chips into our mouths. He seems to have forgotten that old time honored phrase: Personal Responsibility.
My challenge to you, as tiresome and hard as it gets at times, is to keep telling the truth and refuting the falsehoods about American Agriculture. Don’t let these outrageous media reports go unchallenged. While these stories give the networks a boost in the Nielsen ratings, they are often at your expense.
I wish you all a happy and successful 2004! Hopefully this will be that bountiful “next year” that we all need.