Letter to the Editor – 12/25/13

Thank a farmer

My hat’s off to Roger Simon for his column “Say Thank You to Our Farmers.” Someone finally has gotten it right.

I was raised on a farm in southern Minnesota nearly 70 years ago, and know firsthand the work that goes into being a farmer. But more importantly, when I left the farm to study, I studied agricultural economics, and then became a small-town newspaper reporter and editor. Again, I learned firsthand about the economic and social benefits that accrue to rural America – and to Americans in general – because of the productivity and industriousness of our farmers.

Later, when I had a chance to travel, I visited nearly every continent and many countries in the world, studying how their agricultural practices and policies compare with our own. Again, I learned firsthand how rural American communities have adapted to change in the modern world while others have clung to restrictive government tariffs and other restrictions that actually have caused the price of their food to remain significantly higher (think 50- to 100-percent higher) than food prices in the U.S. We all are the beneficiaries of the largess that comes from agriculture in the U.S., but few have taken the time to actually study how and why these benefits have come about.

One more point worth mentioning: Farm products are the largest single export commodity, generating more foreign exchange for the U.S. than any other single product. And productivity studies have shown again and again that the American farmer is by far the most productive worker in the world.

I have been studying agricultural economics as an avocation for 50 years, and I don’t pretend that U.S. agricultural policy is perfect and should be left alone. But my experience – on the farm, in the classroom and in the community – tells me that those who would dismantle our farm policy (and the food-benefit programs contained in it) should be careful what they wish for. I believe the alternative is significantly higher food prices, significant disruption of the food distribution system in the U.S., and more and more imports of poorer-quality food products from abroad.

Mark Zeug
Waialae Nui

No Christmas war

Jade Moon’s recent column regarding the “War on Christmas” shed critical light on an increasingly tiresome canard. What war indeed? The war notion appears to be the creation of folks who make a living rallying conservatives to a cause, no matter how bogus. If there is a “War on Christmas,” it is being waged by those who are using the celebration of Christ’s birth as an engine for financial gain.

James B. Young
St. Louis Heights

Send your letters to dchapman@midweek.com.