# 394, January 14, 2006
ST. LOUIS: Flew over part of the Midwest to meet here with 700 no-till farmers. There’s a lot of this farmland that needs snow or rain. Of course most of it is not as dry as Oklahoma where even snow wasn’t enough to stop the grass fires.
I was kinda the opening act at the banquet Friday night, for the “Worlds Worst Farmer”. He claims to be from here in Missouri, in Cocklebur County. He didn’t say exactly what part of Missouri it’s in, but if you intend to be ranked at the bottom in farming, somewhere in this state is probably as good as any to get started. (Those of you who farm in other states are welcome to make your own case.) Most of the farmers have been here since Wednesday, but this fellow, Lewis Baumgartner, didn’t arrive till just before he went on. See, if he had been here listening and learning all week, he could no longer honestly claim to be the worlds worst. But he is one of the funniest.
If you are not in agriculture, you may have kind of a skewed view of how American farmers operate today. We still have two million folks who call themselves farmers, and they are proud, hard working people. But three-fourths of all our food is produced by only 150,000 of them. Those are big farms, but the vast majority of them are family operations.
I can’t explain it as good as our farm journals, but farmers started hollering for government relief back in the 1920’s, and as many years as it took to get some relief programs in place, you just can’t hardly find a farmer today that wants to be weaned off of ’em. These government payments are helping to keep food prices low and the farmers in business. Farmers know they are likely to be cut because the country has more pressing needs, at least according to Congress.
Farmers came to this convention to learn to be more efficient, to raise more with less. These farmers that subscribe to the no-tillage philosophy would say to Congress, We don’t want to be paid for not growing something; instead pay us a little for using no-till to keep the streams clean and dust out of the air, and provide habitat for pheasants, birds and other wildlife. That way you still get plenty of food (more than necessary for a lot of us), and there’s money left over to build your bridge to Alaska.
You’ve heard of dairy farmers going on strike and dumping their milk in the street. Well, some of these corn farmers are burning their corn, but not because they’re on strike. No, it’s because corn won’t sell for more than $1.50 to $2.00 a bushel. So they burn it to heat their homes instead of gas or fuel oil. It may seem odd to you this fine food product that pigs and chickens thrive on, and Mr. Kellogg makes his flakes out of, would be shoveled into a stove the same as coal or wood. But why go to the trouble to cut firewood when you’ve got a bin full of corn.
Historic quotes from Will Rogers:
[during the Depression] “Flying all day over Oklahoma and the poor red clay hills of Missouri and then Indiana, looking down on those dejected, desolate, anemic-looking rented farm houses. Nowhere to work and no crops for six months.
Yet you don’t wonder how they eat. You wonder how they keep warm. If the government thinks it’s unsound to feed ’em, maybe they could compromise with their conscience by giving ’em some coal.” DT #1397, Jan. 14, 1931.
“I was there on the historic day when Congress actually passed the farm bill. It gives relief to the farmer in so many complicated ways that even if he received no relief at all, why, just trying to study it out will keep him so busy that he will forget he ever wanted relief.” WA #542, May 14, 1933