Conflict in Ukraine and California

The people of Ukraine rose up and disposed of a Communist-leaning president. Several dozen have been killed and the battle is not over yet.

I heard a news commentator speculate that Ukraine might split in half, with the eastern part joining with Russia. Not a chance. That will never happen. Ukrainians remember what it’s like to be under the thumb of Russia. Millions were starved to death in 1932-33 when Stalin stole their crops and livestock.

Last June I spent a week in eastern Ukraine, at a big farm operation called Agro-Soyuz near the city of Dnepropetrovsk. Ukraine is blessed, especially the eastern part, with rich soil. If you consider only the absolute best farmland in the world, like what we have in Iowa and Illinois, Ukraine has almost 20% of it. We have a little over 20%, and Russia has 20%. The rest is scattered around the world.

Here’s the real reason Putin wants to get his hands on Ukraine: farm land. Old folks will remember learning in school that “The Ukraine is the Breadbasket of the USSR.” Now it’s the “Breadbasket of Europe” and Europe wants to keep it that way.

Can you imagine Putin with 40% of the world’s best farmland? He already provides Europe most of their natural gas, which he could cut off on a whim. By controlling a vast amount of food production, he could blackmail Europe by threatening to starve million of ‘em like Stalin.

In eastern Ukraine they only get about 20 inches of rain but they have learned how to grow good crops with limited water.

California will have to learn how to farm with less water. The state is drought-stricken. President Obama was in Fresno two weeks ago looking over the dry farmland. He promised to send some money, but did not promise any rain. (After the President left Fresno’s parched farmland he went golfing. The greens on that golf course are still green. Check back in August to see if any California golf courses have dried up like the tomato fields.)

Yesterday a federal agency announced it is backing the President’s promise: farmers will get no water from federal dams. Zero. Farmers that depend on the San Joaquin watershed for irrigation will have to scrounge water from wherever they can find it. And pray for rain.

People who live in the cities will have to get by on half as much water as usual. They may shower and flush less often, but that hardly compares to having no crop at all.

You may say, “this is California’s problem, not ours.”  Yes, except for one small detail: almost one-third of all our fruits and vegetables are grown in California.

 Historic quotes by Will Rogers:

    “They have been hunting water in the West much longer than they have gold and buffalos. If a wonderful spring come out of a mountain side, men left gold, silver and copper mines to come and grab that spring. Water ain’t gold in the West, water is diamonds and platinum.”  WA #562, Oct. 1, 1933

A Farm Bill that feeds fifty million

The big story after the Super Bowl was not Russell Wilson or Richard Sherman. It was Joe Namath’s coat. It’s a fancy, full-length contraption made of coyote fur. Naturally, PETA was outraged.  But those coats are flying off the rack, creating a huge demand for coyote hides. Except for the store owner, nobody is happier than our nation’s sheep herders.

Finally, we have a Farm Bill. Almost three years in the making, a thousand pages, and an expected cost of $100,000,000,000 a year. That sounds like a lot of money to divide among our farmers, but you folks know the truth: almost 80% is for food stamps.

You have heard complaints that the amount for food assistance has been “cut.” Well, “cut” is a peculiar word. In Washington it means “the enormous increase in federal spending is a little less than what we wanted.” Actually, the money for food stamps next year, $80 Billion, is double what it was five years ago. Anywhere west of the Potomac, that is not a cut.

President Obama said last week, “We have not massively expanded the Welfare state.” If adding 20 million on food stamps is not enough to mean ‘massively expanded,’ then what is.

I’m in favor of feeding the poor and hungry. But the President and Congress should focus on letting people find jobs, go to work, so they don’t need food stamps.

While we need to get more people working, a new report from Washington says a lot of people will be working less as the Affordable Care Act kicks in. One spokesman said, “Instead of working 40 to 60 hours a week, they can cut back to 30 to 35 hours because they don’t have to worry about paying for their healthcare.”

Now that’s a head scratcher. If working less is such a great idea, why don’t we all do it. Why should you work sixty hours a week if others are going to spend more time on the couch, relaxing and writing poetry, because their health insurance is being paid for with your taxes. What happens if the whole country decides to cut back to 30 hours?

Do you remember what Nancy Pelosi suggested while she was Speaker of the House?  “People will be free to work less, quit their job, become an artist or a musician, whatever they love to do.” Fortunately, you can count on farmers not quitting after they put in their 30 hours, except maybe a few backyard chicken raisers in San Francisco. As Paul Harvey said in 1978, “during planting time and harvest season, [a farmer] will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then painin’ from ‘tractor back,’ put in another seventy-two hours. So God made a farmer.”

Farmers are going to keep at it until the work is done, regardless of Obamacare or a “Free Food” bill with a few table scraps in it for farmers.

Historic quotes by Will Rogers:

“Congress will be in session again helping the farmer, so if you have a farm don’t sell it, for there is no telling what a farm will be worth when we find the amount of relief they are to get.” WA #330, Apr. 21, 1929

“Never in the history of the world was such a gigantic piece of legislation ever passed. It gives relief to the farmer in so many complicated ways… Just trying to study it out will keep him so busy he will forget he ever wanted relief.” WA #542, May 14, 1933

 “There’s not really but one problem before the whole country at this time… At least 7,000,000 people are out of work.” Radio, Oct 18, 1931

Year of the Horse

In China, this is the Year of the Horse. In America, this is definitely not the Night of the Bronco. Denver’s problem is they play at mile high and this game was at sea level. Too much oxygen. The Seattle Seahawks won their first Super Bowl championship in a blow out, 43 to 8.

We’ve been talking about a new Farm Bill for three years and one was finally passed by the House. It calls for spending almost $500 Billion over the next five years and a lot of people are complaining that it provides too much for farmers and not enough for food stamps.

It might surprise you to learn that more than half of the Farm Bill is for food stamps. More than half? Yes, actually more than 80 percent. We’ll spend more on food stamps in the next five years than the total amount, 100%, of the previous 5-year farm bill. Certainly, when we have so many people without a job and they’re hungry, we want to feed ‘em. But it might be a good time for Congress and the President to figure out how to put these folks to work instead.

President Obama is focused on income inequality, calling it the “defining challenge of our time.” In particular, he wants employers to pay women the same as men. Somebody pointed out that of the people the President himself hired for his White House staff, women make about 85% as much as men. Maybe that deficiency will be taken care of when we elect a woman President.

Historic quotes by Will Rogers:

    “A man that don’t love a horse, there is something the matter with him. If he has no sympathy for the man that does love horses then there is something worse the matter with him.” WA #88, Aug. 17, 1924

 “Mr. Hoover delivered his prescription to Congress on the ‘condition of the country.’ It was 12,000 words; that’s how bad shape we are in. And he hinted to Congress that they was the one that got us that way, but that if they would get busy and do something at this session, he hoped to cut our ‘conditions’ down to maybe 6,000 words.”  (after the October 1929 stock market crash)

  “These people that you are asked to aid, why they are not asking for charity, they are naturally asking for a job. But if you can’t give them a job why the next best thing you can do is see that they have food and the necessities of life.” Radio, Oct. 18, 1931