I am back…

Farming Long?As many of you know I have been gone the last several days and prior to that I had not done much in regards to blogging for a bit, both in getting ready for heading out, being busy in general and a good deal of lazy thrown in as well. But I am back and have a few hundred blogs to catch up on and post.

As I am coming back I want to shout a big THANK YOU to everyone that visited the blog the last few weeks. It is nice when the numbers, while not as high as when I post daily, only fall off to a certain level and generally maintain. An especial thanks to the folks that visited Thursday and Saturday – as without new posts those days got up there in posts and were not far off from record highs. Continue reading “I am back…”

Libertarian vs Agrarian

As I have identified myself with both, I felt it important to explain my thoughts, how I see both of them as being ideas that can co-exist, and maybe a little bit of how I arrived where I am. There are probably a lot of people who see those two things and think that they can not be the ideas of the same person. However, I will hold up Thomas Jefferson (a later blog posting coming – look for it) as an example that it can. Though he did not use the terminology, there is no question he was extremely libertarian. Perhaps one of the most libertarian idealists of our founding fathers – which in a general sense was a huge driving force for our American War of Independence from Britain when you get down to it. Further, Jefferson felt strongly that our country should largely be made up of yeomen farmers, who worked the land, in passionate ways.

Now some of you are probably already jumping to the idea that a large part of the agrarian movement has involved both agriculture and deep Christian religion believe and thinking that is not Jeffersonian in nature. I don’t necessarily hold that agrarianism has to have christian believes as some do. Further, a large number of folks who label themselves as agrarians do not believe that is required either. I tend to define agrarianism as being a good steward of the land, and through sustainable and natural practices, leaving land that is in better shape to the next steward of that land when your time is over. I do believe that there is a tendency, with that deeper connection with growing things, both animals and plants, as well as seeing the miracle of life happen all the time, for agrarians to move toward a deeper spirituality – but I don’t necessarily think that such spirituality necessarily has to be Christian in nature. That would hold well with Jeffersonian ideas of true freedom of religion incidentally.

The libertarian holds the view that individual freedoms and rights should basically trump those of everything and everyone else, until those individual freedoms and rights begin to interfere on someone’s ability to enjoy the same. In other words, in its most basic simplistic form, I can do whatever I want to do so long as I don’t keep you from doing what you want to do in the process. Now obviously, for the function of society and to keep it from being total chaos, there has to be some simple rules and agreements, or limits to define when my rights exercised begin to interfere with your ability to exercise yours. Hence the obvious ones – stealing and murder are bad. A few more are going to be required, but generally they should be limited in both scope and function to as simplistic an application as can conceivable be gotten away with. This of course leads to the idea of very small government being required, which is a good thing as well.

Now put the two together. Agrarians are by some definition farmers. Farmers have generally almost always been a go your own path and support yourself – take care of your own and live and let live basically. That fits in nicely with the idea of liberty above. Problem is that most farmers are so independently minded, and even more so the agrarians in my opinion, that we can’t ever agree on any one way of doing things. And if we ever did, there would be someone who would up and do it their own way anyway. Of course, having said that, I use that term farmer lightly given the nature of corporate scale farming that exist in a lot of places today – that are readily looking for the next support payment from the government in order to survive.

Working the other way, the individual freedoms that you can have on a farm that is truly your own is probably the one place in America you can still have such and extent to freedoms on how you want to do things. And if you just think in terms of not only those around today, but those that will be here on the morrow after you are gone, it is easy to see how the agrarian thoughts of sustainable (and hence likely) natural practices will be readily adopted.

Farm Bill

For those that do not know there is currently a farm bill very slowly making its way through congress and eventually likely heading to the Presidents desk to be signed into law. The farm bill does create some new laws and regulations to farming, but mostly it is concerned with appropriations, who gets how much money for what. The current one has expired, but to give more time to congress the current levels of funding were extended back a few months ago. And the one that is under consideration will set funding levels for the next five years.

Biggest things being funded in the farm are of course the subsidy programs for grains. And of course one thing that has happened with this cycle is various congressional members have looked at the huge amount of money being paid out to grain farmers and said we need that for our ______ farmers back home too. You can fill that blank in with anything from apple, race horse breeders, vegetable, heck it can probably even include rock and cedar tree ranches that are famous where my grandparents once farmed.

To be honest I can see why everyone wants to get in on these, but fundamentally I am opposed to such things. It just is not good business for farmers to be dependent on those kinds of pay outs. I can sort of understand a payment kicking in during a crop or whether related disaster event – though really I am not even so sure of that. But I don’t think grains, apples, vegetables nor especially race horse breeders need subsidy payments just as a general rule. If you can’t operate the farm efficiently then maybe you need to scale back, get your expenses under control and then proceed.

All my life everything I have read about agriculture from the government and progressive farming techniques is to “get big, or get out.” As hard as it is to swallow the thing I am seeing here is getting big wouldn’t work. The efficiencies supposedly gained wouldn’t require millions of dollars of subsidies if they were tangible. The bottom line is the big corporate farms will cry you a river if you cut off this flow of money as they would all be going south really quick. My sentiment to all of them is “you have gotten big, now time to get off the teat.”

It gets worse though. A huge amount of the payments that included are so-called ‘direct’ payments to producers of grain. Those payments are not tied to the performance of grain prices, crop performance or hardly anything else at all. In these recent months and going on years, of near record high grain crop prices it is absurd. Granted, there is an increase in input largely in fuel for the operation – but the only limit on these kind of payments is 750,000 of income on the farm, of 1.5 million on a couple, filing jointly on the farm. Now what kind of operation that is pulling up to 750,000 in then can justifiably need an additional huge check from the tax-payers?

Quickly, an aside note – I mentioned maybe about weather related crop failures or just markets going in the crapper would be justifiable. I don’t even really believe this either. Everyone who is a farmer knows these kind of things are going to happen and you just have to be prudent in your growth and not be such a huge debt to begin with that you can survive a lean year or two. Further, I will point out that I had pigs, goats, and horses last summer – that I had to sell a huge portion of due to the worse haying (drought) and additional high feed cost during the winter to keep the few that I have. Not one of the government offered programs qualified me for any assistance at a time when hay was over 3x the amount it had traditionally been, it was having to be hauled in from out-of-state largely, with the huge fuel expenses, and we all know where the price of corn and soy beans has been – through the roof.

Bottom line is this – farmers as a group are generally independent minded. They are going to have to get over this need to have the cash influx from the government. Generally I have not agreed with a lot of what President Bush has done during his eight years running this country. However, this farm bill as it looks right now he is promising to veto, precisely because he doesn’t feel the subsidies are needed or justifiable at this point either. So my hats off to him for hopefully sticking this one out.

PS – I will be writing about the other side of these subsidies mean here shortly in this blog…

Hero: Willie Nelson

As I am waiting for a few thousand files to upload across the network so that I can move on the next step of something I doing for me on the computer end of things (which of course in turn allows me to put off for a bit longer what I need to do for the office between now and the morning) – I thought I would blog. Despite having a long list of blog ideas here on paper, as well as another list recorded in MP3 format – I was feeling particularly lazy. So, I thought for a bit and decided to write a bit about Willie and why he could be a hero.

First let me say there are a 100 reasons or more why Willie shouldn’t be anyone’s hero, but there are a good four or five reasons why he should. I don’t advocate some of the things that Willie has been involved in but I am going to focus on those reason above and beyond his musical talent of why he could be a hero.

Reason 1: Willie certainly gets my vote with all he has done over the years with the Farm Aid nonprofit organization. He was involved in the beginning back in 1985 with the first farm aid benefit concert along with John Mellencamp, Neil Young, and seems to me Bob Dylan was involved behind the scenes as well. I still think that some of what got farms in the situation they were in the 80’s was the move toward big industrial agriculture instead of smaller family farms – but that is beside the point as there were as many folks inside the beltway and out associated with government agencies that were just as, if not more, responsible for the move. Anyway, twenty plus years later they are still going strong with a motto of, “family farmers, good food, a better America.” That certainly hits right in line with my thoughts on the matter.

Reason 2: Aside from the farmers, Willie just has a connection with the common man. Despite being a wealthy man (or least he was at one time) he just sings about and makes such a connection with the general common everyday person. Mostly through his music, but I have seen clips of things here and there that show the point as well. And despite that, he can also rub shoulders with anyone if the need be and not be out-of-place. A large part of this in the payback when Willie got in some tax trouble and the number of folks that helped bail him out by buying back his stuff and giving it back to him.

Reason 3: Willie is his own man – there is no question about that. From drinking whiskey and other questionable substances to the now trademark hair in brands. He isn’t going to change for anyone or anything from who he is. More valid proof can be found in his early career – when Nashville had a certain clean-cut tow the line image it wanted its singers to have. Willie wrote songs, and tried some, but unwilling to play the game settled on pig farming for a time being instead of compromising.

Reason 4: Willie is all about family. I know I personally get a bit aggravated about my family coming down to me, but if I ever have children I hope that I can have the kind of unconditional love and desire to do right for my kids that Willie has. An example, once asked about a few songs that he wrote and sold complete rights to for a fee of $25 and $50 bucks in an interview – songs that were then made top ten and even number ones by artist the like of Patsy Cline and Ray Charles – was he bitter about that. His simple common mans answer was something to the effect, $50 dollars bought a lot of food for my babies at the time and that was what was important that day or week.

Reason 5: Willie really is just a cowboy when it comes down to it and in my opinion – in case you haven’t guessed it already just being a cowboy – especially that wears a white hat as is evidenced by some of the above puts you in the realm of being a hero. He loves to head out to his western town on his ranch in Texas, which is best accessed by horse back and kick back. How much better could life get then that.

So Willie, if you ever stumble across this and you want someone to head back to the frontier with you, let me know and I will be there in a day or two – horses in tow. Be careful though about inviting me, as I may not ever want to leave.

Poor dirt farmer…

So I am currently re-reading parts of the book entitled The Complete Agrarian Reader, a collection of essays by agrarians and their opinions on things. Probably the book that first introduced me to the idea. Actually, I should say, that made me realize it was not necessarily a some romantic notion that I alone had, that there were other people with similar thoughts on things.

Anyway, there is an introduction to the book by Barbara Kingsolver. In it she talks about her days in college and in the world at large where she in as many words hesitant or even almost ashamed of her background of having grown up on a Kentucky tobacco farm. Both the tobacco and the farm were considered less than desirable things to bring up in her circles of associations in a positive light so instead she stayed quiet. I have been there with her. I knew exactly what she was talking about. I would never deny, but there were times when I tried to distance myself from my own personal history.

Continue reading “Poor dirt farmer…”