Anybody But Obama

Anybody_but_Obama

The best explanation I’ve heard for why the world did not end last month according to Mayan prophecy is that “every calendar has a beginning and end”–when the last page is torn off we simply start a new one.

If it ain’t the end of the world then maybe its just time to turn the page.

End of days came again, in November, when President Barack Obama was reelected to his second term. I don’t really think he’s that bad for us. But a lot of people here do.

That’s because people said he was gonna regulate farm dust and make it impossible for farm kids to do their chores.

EPA farm dust rules never happened. According to administration officials they were never even planned. Child labor rules meant to safeguard kids of migrant workers gained attention when laws were said to impact family farms where farm kids do chores every day. The whole thing was widely publicized as an attack on middle America. Some farm groups helped promote the rumor.

That never happened either.

Obama was even gonna take our guns away. Then, after the election, panic sales of firearms tripled and gun shops placed pictures of the 44th President on their walls with the inscription, “top gun seller of the year”.

Now NRA has proposed placing armed guards in schools. This does not look like gun control to me.

Obama Administration policies have given lip service and a even some economic help to rural communities during the last four years. The final frontier of rural industry, ethanol, was rescued from pro big oil Republicans by none other than Obama. Obama had a rural jobs agenda, farm to table food projects, conservation, even a promise, albeit broken, to enforce laws in favor of more competition in Ag markets.

And while most Democrats pushed for a 5 year farm bill in September this year before the election (which is normally the very best time to write any farm friendly bill) Republicans drug their feet and promoted deep cuts to the USDA budget.

Most of USDAs budget goes toward feeding poor and disadvantaged people. The elderly, retired people whose social security doesn’t provide enough, kids of poor parents, and school menus. Even though we benefit from them, big swaths of rural America supported those cuts by voting Republican.

But they rely on them as much or more than big cities.

Even some conservative farm groups supported cutting entitlements in the USDA budget. In return for that, urban Republicans–the conservatives who don’t normally have much good to say about USDA’s Ag programs–implied a hands off on most of Ag’s measly 2% of the USDA budget.

In the end the farm bill was derailed mostly by Republicans, with a little help from House Democrats from more conservative districts. Nothing much happened until well after the election when Congress drove us to the edge of the fiscal cliff. Once the brakes were on they included a 9 month extension of the old farm bill which takes us to September of 2013.

That could be very bad for agriculture.

One reason why is that after all the talk against public entitlements from USDA, Congress continued Direct Payments to what is commonly referred to these days as “production agriculture”. With those big farms experiencing an unprecedented period of good prices, giving them payments originally intended to bolster profits in times of low prices amounts to an unneeded, unjustified entitlement.

Its money we didn’t earn and don’t really need.

Now, even though many of us didn’t want it, farms have put themselves on the hit list with welfare Moms and deadbeat Dads. It was done in such a way that when the issue is revisited in midterm, between elections, our ability to influence the outcome of the farm bill will be at low ebb.

We lobbied for a farm bill last year in September, and we’ll be doing it again this year, in September. A friend of mine found a unique way to look at it when he told me farm group lobbying for a new five year bill is going to cost twice what the last one did.

It is unprecedented.

When it comes up, once Congress returns from their August recess, the issue of farm entitlements will surely come up also. It could be an embarrassment. While my group, Farmers Union, will surely call a halt to Direct Payments devoting those savings to a permanent disaster bill and helping family Dairy farmers into profitable businesses as we did last year, conservative southern farmers may be part of the opposition who want the handout to continue.

Missouri has been one of the states leaning more toward conservative lines. Rural areas here seem to be most Republican by a margin of two to one. Even after Democrats championed many important rural issues, our citizens continued to support anybody but Obama. I’m sure the newly re-elected administration has noticed that supported issues they thought important to us did not equal more votes in November. Now Missouri’s overwhelming conservative majority in the General Assembly continues to push for a steady deregulation of CAFO agriculture to the detriment of family farms and property rights.

It is unprecedented. But there is a reason.

The political reality for any office holder is generating campaign dollars and translating those into votes. Yet many farm groups support conservative Ag budget buster candidates, ignoring Democratic champions. I think thats mostly because they prefer to listen to unjustified claims against the political left for things like dust rules, child labor, gun owner rights, and abortion.

Rural Americas inability to judge issues clearly on the facts has allowed political campaigns based mostly on rhetoric to do it for them.

If the farm bill goes badly for us the second time it’s taken up this year, it will be another year before we can make ourselves known at the ballot box. Even then, our failure to focus on our own best interests combined with low voter interest could amount to too little, too late.

By the time we start looking for old support again, after the way we’ve voted in two elections, that help might not come from anybody.

Not even Obama.


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