Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Need for Rural Roots

Tonight I am sitting in the pickup watching my son’s football practice. Let me set the scene. We go to a rural school and the football field is set with a soybean field on one side and a corn field on the other. There is a Catholic Church in the background and the smell of alfalfa hangs in the air. If I close my eyes I hear the sounds of practice and the whistles of the coaches. Is this heaven, no its Kansas but in my eyes this is about as close as it gets.

This Midwestern scene is a great place for me to just relax and let the sights and the sounds take me away from the problems we all face. This is a long way from the partisan politics and fighting in D.C. This place seems light years away from the threat of a recession and the financial gloom that hangs over us now.

Sometimes I wonder if those elected officials have forgotten what it is all about. I wonder if they have forgotten (or never even gotten the chance) to spend a crisp fall evening watching football in the middle of rural America. Maybe they have never experienced the smell of fall with the roar of a combine in the background.

It makes me wonder if this is just a game for them much like the football practice directly in front of me. Do they believe in what they are fighting for or is it just another way to get re-elected. This country was built with rural America as its base. The corn and soybean fields I see are the foundation that keeps this country running.

In rural America, we understand the idea of civil discourse. We love to debate issues and ideas; we know how to disagree without being disagreeable. We understand that the greatness of this nation is because opposing views help strengthen our positions. Sure we have principles that we stand on and from those we do not back down. However, we also understand that you cannot have everything your way and that compromise is also necessary.

I think it is no coincidence that many of our great statesmen have come from rural areas and agriculture backgrounds. They understood the idea that hard work, compromise and sacrifice were needed to arrive at a good solution. They were grounded in their principles and in reality. It is that sense of farm and ranch values that we really need from our policy makers not the bickering, self-promotion we are getting now.

Do I have a solution? Other than the idea of sending them all out to spend a week (or longer) on the farm, I do not. However, as I watch the young men on the football field I do see hope for the future as they pull each other up off the ground, pat their teammates on the back and go back to work. I am confident in our ability to regain our composure and right the ship. I am also betting that leadership will come from someone with rural roots.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hunger is the Real Danger

I should know better than to watch the "popular" media or see even the smallest of portions of one of "those" talk shows because quite often what I see makes me very angry and upset. Too often those programs bring out the latest and "greatest" experts who want to tell us how to be healthier. Their idea of healthy often includes bashing our agricultural infrastructure.

Yes, I said agricultural infrastructure. Much like the system of roads, canals, ports and airports we all depend on for transportation, we have a tremendous network of farms and ranches who fuel our nation. These farms and ranches are operated by dedicated, hard-working men and women, who spend their entire lifetimes producing the food and fiber we all depend on.

That is why I have such a hard time and get so annoyed when I hear so called "experts" talk about all the health issues caused by modern agriculture. The first and foremost food issue that kills more every year, worldwide is hunger, not heart disease or cancer, but hunger. That is the very issue farmers and ranchers are trying to take care of.

We utilize the latest advancements in science to produce the maximum amount of food on dwindling acres. As urban encroachment eats more acres of farm ground and range land we must do more with less. The world's population is growing at a rate higher than our current increases in food production. I am confident that advances in technology will help us overcome that gap. However, there are those who sit in judgement proclaiming the necessary scientific advancements as bad, with no scientific data to back up their claims.

Folks, the health problems most of us suffer from are not because of the farmer or rancher, they are because of our lifestyle choices. We eat far too much and exercise far too little and that has nothing to do with farmers, ranchers, or any of the businesses who support us. Those choices start and end at us. I agree that we eat too much fast food and too many processed and packaged foods, but again, that is not the farmer's fault.

Instead of being thankful that we can overeat and smart enough not to, we blame modern agriculture. The truth is that our modern advancements have allowed us to produce more with less and have significantly reduced our impact on the environment. The American farmer and rancher should be applauded for the food they produce and the lives they save.

As for the safety of that food, I feed my family the same food you feed yours. I would never produce any food that was not healthy or wholesome. Like many of you, I do not make good nutritional choices, but that has nothing to do with the food I produce. The bottom line is that we need every advance science can come up with, because hunger is a far greater concern and we are doing all we can to take care of that problem.