Farming: old vs. new

You may know that I grew up on a farm and I’ve been involved in agriculture ever since.  My grandparents farmed with a team of horses. They milked cows by hand (and so did I). Hens ran free during the day but were housed securely at night to protect them from raccoons and foxes.  Cattle and sheep grazed on hillside pastures about 7 months a year and the other 5 months we fed ‘em hay twice a day.

Were my grandparents organic farmers? Pretty much. They grew hybrid corn to fatten the hogs.  Fertilizer for the corn and garden crops was mainly supplied by the cows and chickens, if you know what I mean.  The main weed killer was a boy with a hoe. Having DDT to spray flies at milking time on a hot summer evening was welcome, but there would be just as many annoying flies the next day.

Why am I telling you this? Yesterday I saw a video put out by an organic group that slams modern farmers.  The video features innocent children singing enthusiastically to the tune of “Old MacDonald’s Farm.” But the words were changed to condemn agricultural practices developed over the last half century. Then the scene changes and a new verse sings the praises of a New MacDonald’s Farm with only organic foods.

Now, anyone who desires organic, and can afford to pay double or triple for their family’s food, is encouraged to buy organic. Those farmers deserve all the money they can get. But do not misrepresent the other 95 to 98 percent of American farmers who produce the safest food supply in history. And before you insist that ONLY organic food should be available to feed the world, think about this question:  who will decide which 2 to 3 Billion people will die of starvation. Think about that before blasting herbicides, insecticides, GMO crops, climate-controlled buildings for animals, and modern farm machinery.

If you want farmers to go back to 1950, then maybe you should consider giving up your cell phone, computers, color TV, and air conditioning.

Historic quotes by Will Rogers:

            “I’m just an old country boy in a big town trying to get along. I have been eating pretty regular, and the reason I have been is because I have stayed an old country boy.” WA #90, Aug. 31, 1924

“You got to do more than just live in the country to be a farmer.” WA #196, Sept. 26, 1926

No government subsidies for this group

The economy is not coming back the way everyone wants.  We still have close to 50 million receiving food stamps and almost half the population don’t make enough to pay income taxes.  Wages for the middle class are stagnant.

But let me tell you about a big cross section of Americans that receives no financial aid from the government for food, no assistance for housing, and none for medical costs.  This may be hard to believe, but almost $60 Billion in expenses last year and not a speck of federal tax subsidies required. As near as I can tell, the entire amount is privately financed.  Amazingly, no one is lobbying Congress or conducting social media campaigns to get subsidies or to force price controls.

You want specifics? Food costs totaled $22 billion. And that included some high priced fancy foods such as gluten-free and gourmet meals. Medical care totaled $15 billion, including the latest life saving techniques and even plastic surgery.  Furnishings and other expenses for shelter and comfort totaled $14 billion. Another sizable expenditure was on day care, education, and various personal care services totaling $5 billion.

You may be thinking, these folks must be the Top One Percent that we all hear about and envy.

Not really.  The recipients of the $60 Billion in private dollar expenditures are 400 million pets. Yes, pets.  Dogs, cats, goldfish, parakeets, rabbits, lizards and other assorted creatures.

Now, I doubt the $60 Billion includes horses. Anyone who owns horses, or used to own horses, knows $60 billion would not touch their upkeep, even without gourmet food and plastic surgery.

Historic quotes by Will Rogers:

“Personally, I have always felt that the best doctor in the world is the Veterinarian. He can’t ask his patients what is the matter. He’s got to just know.”  Ether and Me (page 10), 1927

“I love a dog. He does nothing for political reasons.”  DT #2288, Dec. 3, 1933

Who are you gonna believe?

A pair of runaway llamas got more attention on some TV networks this week than ISIS or healthcare or illegal immigrants. The only thing that equaled it in coverage was a dress that couldn’t decide if it was black and blue or gold and white.

The llama roundup reminded me of a similar story years ago. In 1905, Zak Mulhall was putting on a big Wild West show in Madison Square Garden in New York.  Will Rogers was a prominent part of the show.  In the arena an 800-pound steer got loose, jumped a fence and charged up the steps into the crowd, all the way to the balcony.  According to a front page story in the New York Herald, Will Rogers ran after the steer and lassoed it in a corridor. Eye-witness reports were unclear whether Will dragged the steer back down the stairs into the arena, or vice-versa.  Although there were no TV cameras to record the chase, the publicity helped Will land contracts to perform his spectacular rope tricks on the top Vaudeville stages in New York City, catapulting his career.

Drivers are saving on lower gas prices, but economists are puzzled on what they are doing with all that extra dough. I’ll tell you where the money is going: paying heating bills. If you haven’t noticed it’s been a long cold winter. Electric rates have jumped, mostly because Washington decided wind and solar energy are preferred over coal. Pipeline construction has not kept up with all the oil and gas wells that are being drilled. Maybe in a couple of years the lower priced gasoline will pay off for our economy, but for now we’re happy to break even.

President Obama says “the economy is growing under my administration.”  But not everybody agrees with him. A Gallop poll found that the real unemployment rate is closer to 10% than 5%. More than half of Americans feel pessimistic. Too many are unprepared for a financial emergency. Even if they have a job they are not confident it will be there long term.

The president vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline. He’s been saying for six years he was against it, so at least he’s consistent. Remember in 2008 he said he wanted to “fundamentally change America.” And he has. For decades America was the respected leader of the free world. Friends trusted us; enemies feared us. Now instead of leading, we are content to sit in the back row and whittle. The president seems to trust Iran more than Israel.

The Secretary of State says we are safer than ever; the director of the CIA says we’re not.  Who are you gonna believe? Well, the CIA is supposed to keep an eye on our enemies and tell us the truth. On the other hand the Secretary of State is our top diplomat.  In 1928 “I” wrote that “a diplomat is a man that tells you what he don’t believe himself, and the man he is telling it to don’t believe it any more than he does.”