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Sunshine, Corn Growth Continue sans Farm Bill

Want to know someone who's not terribly worked up over Rep. Kristi Noem's failure to pass a Farm Bill over her Republican colleague's do-nothingism? Orland farmer Charlie Johnson:

The corn has grown about a foot and the sun has rose in the east every morning since the U.S. house of Representatives failed to pass a farm bill. Now if the emphasis is about providing millionaire farmers billions of dollars in "safety net" measures such as taxpayer funded crop insurance, then perhaps life in rural America would be so much better without a farm bill. But if we are willing to allow farmers to assume and pay for their own risks while also working on measures that cares for the hungry, supports beginning farmers, highlights resource conversation, and addresses community development, then yes, let's move ahead on a farm bill. Until "we get it", the corn will grow and the sun will rise [Charles Joseph Johnson, Facebook post, 2013.06.30].

So how about that plan: let the Farm Bill's obsolete corporate welfare wither on the vine. Farmers tell potential Senate candidate Annette Bosworth we don't need farm subsidies. New Zealand got rid of farm subsidies three decades ago, and their crops still grow, just like Charlie's.

Maybe it's time for Kristi Noem to go with the flow, say she's had an epiphany, and apologize to fiscal conservatives and independent farmers alike for perpetuating corporate dependence on federal handouts.


  1. Rorschach 2013.07.01

    Rep. Noem wants you to know she voted to limit payments to millionaire farmers to $250,000 taxpayer dollars per farm per year. At least I'm assuming that farmers who get that much must be millionaires. Are there any non-millionaire farmers that get $250,000 per year in government payments?

  2. Jana 2013.07.01

    I bet Charlie Johnson would be mad if his family made their living selling government subsidized crop insurance...and getting $175,000 for doing nothing in Washington D.C. Other than trying to be more conservative than Nancy Pelosi and keeping the family welfare plan alive!

  3. Douglas Wiken 2013.07.01

    A Democratic congress critter (forgot the name) wanted to cut guaranteed crop insurance sales profit from 14% to 12% and that would have prevented any cuts in SNAP. That was rejected by Republicans.

    Moyers may have noted that the four people with the highest US incomes make more than the total costs of the US food programs. Republicans must protect them.

    Farm payments should be limited to the equivalent to two minimum wage jobs per year. The existing program is destroying rural America.

  4. Bill Dithmer 2013.07.01

    "But if we are willing to allow farmers to assume and pay for their own

    All this time I thought we were dealing in the risk to a food supply and now I find that it is only the farmer and ranchers risk. You people are living under the false assumption that there will always be an adequate food source. You also expect that food to be as cheap as possible. Why not fix the problem in farm insurance not do away with it?

    Remember this country doesn't have that much in reserve anymore. It doesn't matter if its grain, or animals on feed. Both of those are controlled by someone other then the farmers and ranchers you seem to want to take down.

    "while also working on measures that cares for the hungry" Why should that be a farmers responsibility anymore then anyone else's? Or are you really talking about free food for the hungry supplied by the farmer and rancher? It sure sounds that way to me.

    " supports beginning farmers" Why do we keep going there? Again are you talking about lowering the prices for land to help those that truly want to farm or ranch? Name another industry that wants to help the competition get started when it would effect their bottom line? Would that be the machinery dealer? How about the doctors office? Maybe it would be that car dealer on the corner. No they are all in business to make as much as they can from the product they carry, or am I missing something here? How about the grocery store? No they like to make money to. Funeral home, same thing. Maybe the hardware store would be willing to give someone a place to do business to help them get started. Ya right.

    "highlights resource conversation," What the hell does that mean anyway other then three words put together?

    "and addresses community development," Here's an example of what the ag people do for their communities. When the auditorium in Kadoka was built in the early sixties, it was the farmers and ranchers that came to the aid of the town to furnish the trucks and a good deal of the labor to get the building built. Without that help it "would not have been built." That same thing played out in many of the small towns around the country.

    I'm about through.

    In this part of the country it takes at least two thousand acres of the best ranch land for a family of four to "get by." Not live high on the hog but get by.

    If you are farming, that same two thousand acres of ground wouldn't justify the purchase of the machinery to farm efficiently enough to to keep you competitive enough to continue going to the bank every year to ask for operating money. I don't know a single operator that doesn't have to face a banker for just that task every damn year. Do You?

    Agriculture is an expensive business no matter what your game is. The only way to succeed is to inherit, have a rich benefactor, or sell enough drugs to get the job done.

    If ag is such a sure thing business, why are so many young farmers and ranchers leaving for something else? More importantly, why aren't some of you going together, pooling your recourses, and getting in on the action. After all it's easy money isn't it?

    If it's no good throw the damn thing out. But if it's just broke do what the farmers and ranchers that I know do, fix it.

    The Blindman

  5. bret clanton 2013.07.01

    I would be willing to see how it would work without it.......

  6. Charlie Johnson 2013.07.01

    The "gorilla in the room" is taxpayer funded subsidized crop insurance. Guaranteeing farmers a set amount of revenue does not follow the free enterprise system of economics. Supporters talk of a "safety net". In recent years, it has been more a federal "valet service" for high land prices and cash rents to flow upward to land owners. Which in the end has all but disallowed beginning farmers to have the opportunity to acquire land. We are fast racing to a point in American agriculture where opportunity to farm will based more on whose sperm fertilized your mother's egg than one's ability or desire. There is nothing wrong with insurance especially when one self insures or pays the full cost of premiums. Where it gets murky and awfully socialistic is when taxpayers foot the bill.

  7. Roger Elgersma 2013.07.02

    Scott Vander Wal said it more clearly than he realized on South Dakota Public TV. He said that if the Food Stamp program worked we would not need it anymore so get rid of it. Well the same is true for the Farm Program. If it worked we would not need it anymore. But then we are compairing apples to oranges aren't we. The rich farmer(as compaired to the person working for minimum wage and below the poverty line) should be a good enough manager to get ahead in a fair free market. Does that always work well, not in an up and down economy. But some do well and others do not. But if you are working for minimum wage the food stamps do not raise your income ability. Farm subsidies did not help overall income producing ability either. Developing alcohol fuel did greatly increase income producing ability.
    I learned in the farm crisis that all this fear that we will not have enough food if farmers go broke never happens. The farms just get taken over by other farmers. That is capitalism.
    Mr. Vander Wal made another very not conservative mistake. Well it was partly conservative and partly wasted money. He said that we can say that food supply is a national security thing. Well if you tell a Republican that national security is at stake they will find not limit to the amount of money they will spend. But we put a lot of food into exports, a good thing, and a lot of corn into alcohol, and a lot of grain into livestock, so if we just ate all the grain we could feed ten times the people we do now. So starvation is not on the radar. That is just a manipulative game to get government money for the rich.
    Anyone with a quarter section paid for is a millionaire. Most farmers are over fifty and bought land at one tenth of the current value. So they did not even work for it, they just got lucky on inflation.

  8. Bill Dithmer 2013.07.02

    " Which in the end has all but disallowed beginning farmers to have the opportunity to acquire land. We are fast racing to a point in American agriculture where opportunity to farm will based more on whose sperm fertilized your mother's egg than one's ability or desire. "

    You are sure right about that. Lets face it, if wishful thinking was worth anything I'd be a doctor cutting on people. You are either born a farmer or rancher or have to have the money to get into it. Nobody is going to set you up in business out of the goodness of their heart.

    So Charlie what is different between big ag and any other business that it would take a large amount of capitol to get into. If you don't have the money, you just plain don't have it. Could you explain how the benevolent farmer or rancher system would work I would sure like to hear some specifics, you know some real answers to get to where you seem to want to go here. I'm sure there are thousands of young people that would like to know how to get on the gravy train to.

    Like in every business that I know of, money talks and bull shit walks.

    The Blindman

  9. Bill Dithmer 2013.07.02

    "Anyone with a quarter section paid for is a millionaire. Most farmers are over fifty and bought land at one tenth of the current value. So they did not even work for it, they just got lucky on inflation."

    That is an out and out lie Roger. I own a few of those quarter sections and I'm sure not a millionare. And by the way I worked damned hard for what I've got.

    You need money to make money. That will never change, ever. What you want, to drive big farmers and ranchers out of business, wont happen unless you are willing to go down the communist road. Do you really want to go there?

    The Blindman

  10. Roger Elgersma 2013.07.02

    There was a time when if you wanted to build cars you could start your own company. Most failed over time. Although even some of them did well for a time. Henry Ford was just a farm kid that liked mechanics more than farming and he did real well. Most do not do that well no matter how hard they try.
    But we do need some regulation to balance between the power of management and the power of labor or a few will get real rich and the rest will just survive.
    As a lady named Rose working the night shift in the factory told me, if me and my Dad worked to the best of the abilities that God gave us and some smarter rich kid who got a free college education from his family also works to the best of the abilities and opportunities that God gave him, why should his kids get five times what my kids get. Well she probably should have said five hundred times as much, but her point was made.
    Thirty years ago our CEO's made forty times what our workers made and the CEO's in Japan made twenty times what the workers did. Japan was not at a lack of managers because the pay was to low and they had gained a reputation for quality also. Now our CEO's make four hundred times what our workers make and we wonder why some complain about the one percent.
    So now our economy is skewed to the rich by this redistribution of wealth to the few by low wages, so that now our people do not have the buying power to buy a house and keep it unless the government skews the interest rates so low that you can not teach your kid to save because it does not pay.
    I could go on a lot longer than this but am getting off of the original subject.

  11. Roger Elgersma 2013.07.02

    Bill, I grew up in Minnesota and am more in tune with their land values that South Dakota land values. So you are probably right on where ever your farm is. And I am sure you work hard but inflation does make you richer and also makes it hard to buy land when everyone else knows it will go up also.

  12. Roger Elgersma 2013.07.02

    7,000 per acre x 160 acres is $1,120,000. Lots of land in eastern South Dakota goes for much more than that.

  13. Bill Dithmer 2013.07.02

    Roger isnt that the same with any business?

    The Blindman

  14. Bill Dithmer 2013.07.02

    The value of the dollar didnt just go down for those making low wages, it went down for everyone.

    The Blindman

  15. Les 2013.07.02

    What's the return on the million dollars once the land is sold Roger? .8% on a Mil is $8000/year. That lands worth no more than it ever was and inflation has been friend of few on our side of the counter.

  16. Roger Elgersma 2013.07.02

    Inflation causes more problems than it solves. It makes bad decisions look good and stops others from being able to compete when they make good decisions.

  17. Douglas Wiken 2013.07.02

    Why should taxpayers subsidize people who live in floodplains? Flood insurance is subsidized. Flood protection dams, levees, etc are almost always subsidized.

    If a farmer pays in $100 premium, how much is the government subsidy? Does the rate still depend on the level of coverage, proven yield, etc.? Crop insurance is not all subsidy.

    Trucking is subsidized billions of dollars because the heavy trucks do most damage to highways and the fuel taxes they pay are insignificant in comparison.

    Junk mailers are subsidized.

    City residents in school districts with agricultural land in them have the education of their children subsidized by farmers and ranchers.

    There is more that a fair bit of hypocrisy in the whining about subsidies for agriculture while all kinds of other subsidies are apparently ignored.

  18. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.07.02

    I'm wondering if various tax breaks and start up capital that new businesses get could be applied, in some form, to start up farmers. I don't know, just askin . . .

  19. Bill Dithmer 2013.07.03

    Here is something to think about. In the early 70s the dollar that we are spending today was worth seven times what it is now.

    Or look at it this way the buying power has been reduced from 100 cents to just over 14 cents.

    Now look at the farm prices from the same time. Not that much different then today but people still expect more for less. And for the most part they are getting what they want. With more efficiency from the farmers and ranchers. At the same time prices continue to go up for everything that those ag people need to run efficiently .

    Now are the land prices to high for the beginning farmers? It could very well be but that’s life right now anyway. Are they out of line when compared to everything else, not really.

    The Blindman

  20. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.07.03

    Hmmm. Although I grew up on a SD farm near Miller, I left in 1976. Blindman I know, as you have indicated, that the value of a dollar has dropped drastically, and that commodity grain prices have not risen commensurately. I used to haul wheat to the elevator and I think we got about $3.50/bu. Does that sound right? I know we were getting $2 for corn. I don't remember what we got for sunflower seeds. This was pre-soybean and chemical time.

    We couldn't make a living at it. Dad's depression increased, along with his drinking and suicidal thoughts. Foreclosure in 1986. I'll never forget a single detail of the farm sale. I'm sure none of us 6 children, mom, dad, or dad's 3 siblings will forget the day we had to sell the Home Place. It was heartbreaking.

    Must be something like that when a family sells the small business that was in the family for a generation or more.

    Sorry to digress like that. I have very passionate feelings about farming. I'm still tempted to buy a little land here near the Twin Cities for a vegetable farm. It's a good business here, but I'm too old to get a loan - 60. Rats.

  21. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.07.03

    BYW Bill, I did read the Fact Sheet. Thanks for the resource.

    A small town in MN recently lost its cafe. They held an essay contest and gave the winner, a young MN couple with restaurant experience, the cafe free of charge, plus a year free utilities. According to press accounts everyone is very happy with how it worked out. I know other small towns have done similar things. Is there a way to do something similar with farm land?

  22. Les 2013.07.03

    Great stories Deb! Some business's can only succeed with that opportunity. A friend and I both got out of business at a similar time. I sold mine turnkey for 30 cents on the dollar and he had an auction and closed his. We both walked with a similar amount and mine still lives.
    I've been around a few who've lost the farm but it sounds like you could have had the part Jessica Lange played in Country..
    More should be written on this as people only see or remember the good times when beating up on family ag.

  23. Douglas Wiken 2013.07.03

    "I think we got about $3.50/bu. Does that sound right? I know we were getting $2 for corn. "

    Prices were about like that in the 1953 to 58 time. A 2 pound box of Velveeta "cheese" was 59 cents, A quart of Mayonnaise around 49 cents.

    We don't really have a "cheap foods" policy, we have a "cheap commodities" policy.

  24. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.07.03

    Led, I saw the movie "Country" in Huron when it first came out. I went to movies regularly and the audiences were uniformly children, teens, young adults and adults who lived in town. At Country the theater was packed. I looked around it there was a solid sea of seed caps. It was rare to see a farmer and wife at any movie, and I'd never seen that.

    I was seated towards the back. Throughout the movie there were nodding heads, murmurs of agreement, and deep sighs. It was just like the movie for so many family farms.

    My dad often blamed the policies of Reagan and his butt-of-jokes Ag Sec, Earl Butz. It was a sad time in rural America and ripe for legitimate organizations like NFO, and the lawless Possee Commitatus in ND and elsewhere.

  25. Les 2013.07.03

    The Cheap Food Policy of the US Dept of Ag was in reality a slight of hand trick on our sleeping Congressional delegations. It was indeed a large part of the US Ag Depts 1970's plan to eliminate the family farm which a Sen Conrad or Dorgan or?? got for a customer of mine through the FOI act. How much better a defintion of treason than our own Ag dept destroying the very fabric that built our great nation..
    Food was a small part of our expenses until they moved all classes down a notch, it now is impossible for some and expensive for others to feed their families well.
    We sit with a 3 day window on supply due to potential weak links in many systems that must work, nothing cheap anymore.

  26. Bill Dithmer 2013.07.03

    Deb that was a great, if sad, story. I personally know of two other people that had similar experiences that lived within a hundred miles of this ranch.

    Les of course you are right about the US Ag Depts over all plans in the 1970's. It not only encouraged the farms to get bigger, but forced them to do so. It also forced them to get into the farm programs or fail. If you couldn't keep up with the methods that produced the most product for the least amount of money, modern equipment chemical application, and fertilizer, you were doomed. Small farmers didn't have a chance. And the same would be true today.

    People pay close attention. Reread what Les said in his last post and then think about this one statement.

    "We sit with a 3 day window on supply due to potential weak links in many systems that must work, nothing cheap anymore."

    Now let me add another log on the fire and then I'm through.

    Most people will not understand this but most farmers are less then two years from bankruptcy. That's right if they have two bad crops then they are in deep financial trouble.

    I already know that some are going to say that cant be with all of that money floating around they had to save a bunch of it for just such a purpose. Nope a farmer operates from year to year on a huge scale. Those new vehicles and tractors that you see need to be constantly updated to continue to operate efficiently. Then there are farm payments, cost of spraying, fertilizer, insurance, and the list just goes on and on and on.

    All that money made in a good year has already been spent before that crop is brought in. Very few farmers have the luxury of failure without scamming the federal government.

    If you have a farm worth ten million, machinery worth four million, you are looking at operating expenses of not less then three million a year just to survive.

    No crops equals, no farm payments, no money going into local businesses, and no way to recoup your losses. That in turn equals another farm family lost to the neighborhood. In a lot of cases that family is broken up by the loss. And in more cases then everyone cares to admit, tragedies like Deds happen.

    A farmer has to do a lot of things that the ordinary person doesn't think about. Here is a partial list of those things.

    Transit authority
    Chemical engineer
    Legal expert
    Professional agronomist
    Expert in animal husbandry
    Tax interpreter
    Versed in government speak, regulations of county, state, and federal laws
    And family counseling

    Now add to this the art of making a decision, many times within a couple of days, to substitute one crop that is failing for another that might, I repeat, might have a chance for that farmer to break even.

    Farming isn't an easy profession. They handle vast amounts of money and make complex decisions that very few people that don't farm will ever understand. People don't live this way because they want fancy stuff. They live this way because they like to farm. Why else would anybody put themselves through what I just wrote?

    The Blindman

  27. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.07.03

    Good comment Blindman. I do want to say that a farmer is not more heroic than the family who worked so hard to keep the corner store only to be run out by shortsighted city govt breaks for Walmart. (One of the ways I believe farmers did not help themselves in the 80s was by insisting that they were a special class, above independent small businesses.)

    In the 80s there were too big to fail farms. Our neighbors, who swallowed up our farm, were one of them. The were into the local bank for a few $million. The bank couldn't foreclose because it would fail. With farms even bigger now, aren't there some Too Big To Fail?

  28. Bill Dithmer 2013.07.03

    You are right Deb. In the eighties we used to call it creative banking, but in reality it was a friend that was high up in the government lending institutions that wrote down a loan, or forgave that loan. In some cases giving another loan the same day to buy yet another farm. It is still going on.

    For the life of me I don't see why these things aren't being brought to light.

    There are many things that "could" be done to fix big ag. The scammers could be eliminated if the right people were in office, but I don't see that happening. To many friends in high places with their hands out.

    The Blindman

  29. Les 2013.07.04

    NFO, my father was a member Deb. It started falling apart for them in the mid to late 70's about the time we purchased my fathers ranch. They (nfo) brought in tough guys to try and strong arm dues out of me as they struggled to stay afloat.
    Posse Comitatus, thank the Lord our Government protected us from Gordon Kahl. He really shouldn't have gotten that excited when they shot up his son on that lonely stretch of road.
    Those were the days, we may need to re-visit them over a toddy, for the extreme clarity.

  30. Charlie Hoffman 2013.07.04

    Hey Deb the farm wife in "Country" ; Sandra Seacat, is my sister-in-law married of course to my brother. She is a very spiritual person who grew up in Greensburg, Kansas. ET and Sandra live in Santa Monica, CA.

    Les, your stories are of past are good ones to hear.

  31. kurtz 2013.07.04

    A five year farm bill should include the dissolution of USDA: its division among Interior, Commerce, and HHS. The Forest Service should look more like Reclamation with fire management going to BIA and DHS.

  32. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.07.04

    Getting rid of an entire government department? Sounds awfully Republican to me.

  33. kurtz 2013.07.04

    In subsequent years DHS should also be dissolved.

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