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The Freedom to Farm Lottery

The Bet the Farm Game

by George Naylor,
Greene County, Iowa

My name is George Naylor, I’m a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Immprovement (ICCI) from Greene County and have been farming since 1976. You’ve always heard how farmers are taking the biggest gamble -- just to put a crop in the ground and hope for a harvest.

Well, now we’ve got the -- Freedom to Farm Lottery -- the Bet the Farm Game!

Step right up folks; see if you’ll be a winner! Inside this box we have the names of the two million family farmers in this country plus the names of the few multinational companies that feed livestock or export and process the commodities the family farmers produce. Let’s see if you’ll be a winner! Will somebody please pick a name out of the box?

Oh Gosh. The first winner is ADM -- $1.50 corn, $4.00 soybeans, $2.50 wheat. NOT BAD!

Let’s try again. Oh Darn. Its old A.J. DeCoster -- $1.50/bu corn, $140/ton soymeal. Is Mr. DeCoster in the Audience?

Just have patience. Your name must be in here. You produce the food for the nation. Here we go. IBP -- $65 cattle $8.00 hogs. IBP is a BIG WINNER!

This just doen’t seem fair. Lets try one more time. Cargill -- cheap everything. Heh, the Grand Prize winner is Cargill.

What do you think? Is this the way the Freedom to Farm lottery works?

Record low commodity prices, record high government costs, and fencerow to fencerow farming. Does this seem fair? We all know who loses -- family farmers and their communities, the American public, and the environment. Does Anybody Not Understand This?

Well, who were Congress and the President listening to when they passed this turkey. Seems like it was really a bi-partisan effort. Seems like what ever we do to change things needs to be a bipartisan effort also. If these economists had been running the space program, instead of sending rockets into space, they’d be digging holes in the ground.

Folks, this hole in the ground called Freedom to Farm wasn’t dug overnight. Twenty-two years ago I served on the first Iowa Corn Promotion Board. Agribusiness economists told us we could just export more and find new uses and someday we wouldn’t need a farm program -- We’ll get the government out of agriculture. Heh, that’s what Freedom to Farm was supposed to do. Folks, those were empty promises then and they are empty promises today. We have seen the Freedom to Farm Future and it doesn’t work! If we don’t get the picture now, we never will.

We can’t ignore history. Freedom to Farm has taken us back to 1933 in the Great Depression when there were no floors under farm prices or supply management. In February of 1933, my father hauled corn to the Adaza elevator. He asked the manager what he was paying. "Well, we were paying 10 cent a bushel yesterday, but today we’re not buying!" Folks that’s what we’re facing this fall. With inadequate storage or transportation you might not be able to give your corn away.

The difference between then and today is that at that time, all the major farm organizations, including Farm Bureau, all agreed on a goal for the Federal Government to Raise Farm Prices. Managing supplies and conservation were also high priorities. President Roosevelt announced the non-recourse loan for corn at 45 cents a bushel in fall of 1933. The nonrecourse loan set a floor under prices at no cost to the government from then until Freedom to Farm.

Now today, instead of the nonrecourse loan, we got the marketing loan that cost the Federal Government billions of dollars and delivers ridiculously cheap grain to exporters and giant livestock confinements. If the $2/bushel non-recourse loan rate for corn in 1978 when I was still on the Iowa Corn Promotion Board had been adjusted for inflation it would be $4.69/bushel today.

We CAN manage supply with land setasides. By denying the big feeding companies the cheapest feed in history and by allowing the grazing of setasides, we can bring livestock back to the Family Farm!

International cooperation not trade wars

In this day of the global market place, we need International cooperation not trade wars. Over the last 5 years, over 65% of exported corn came from the United States. Over 64% of soybeans came from the United States. In fact, in the last five years from 89% to 95% of corn, soybeans and wheat came from 5 or fewer countries. It’s going to be a heck of a lot easier to negotiate with 4 countries to agree to put a floor under world prices than to convince hundreds of countries to buy food they don’t want and to put their family farmers in the dumper, too.

We could be using a fraction of the Freedom to Farm billions for Land Stewardship grants for conservation and support of young and beginning farmers. Using these dollars wisely, together with bringing livestock back to the family farm will generate real economic development in our state!

Some people think Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement just opposes Hog Factories. Well, we think Freedom to Farm STINKS, TOO. We passed a resolution at our annual convention to encourage our elected officials to support the end of Freedom to Farm and to enact the long term reforms I mentioned that will guarantee farmers a fair price for their commodities and livestock and young people back to the family farm. We have 1300 dues-paying members in urban and rural areas of the state. A family farm system benefits all our people and we will need the support of all the people to stop the corporate take over of agriculture. That takeover is not inevitable. Join us in the fight for family farms, thriving rural communities and a clean environment -- Together we can do it!

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Published in In Motion Magazine - August 29, 1999