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By Katie Stockstill-Sawyer
March 9, 2013 5:10 p.m.



It seems the Chicago Tribune is more in-touch with the American farmer than I would have guessed. A recent editorial published by the Windy City paper skewers the farm lobby for not accurately representing the interests of the American farmer, almost as if it has hard-working farmers and ranchers on its board, providing the insight it claims to represent. But upon my evaluation of their criticism, I wonder if any member of the editorial staff has ever been to a farm or bothered to speak to a farmer before putting their thoughts to paper because their claims and criticism of the American farmer and American agriculture are both incorrect and harmful.

Read the entire Chicago Tribune editorial here: http://my.chicagotribune.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-74636314/

While the editorial does make some true statements – that Congress failed to pass a farm bill in 2012 and that agriculture isn’t what it used to be – it misses the boat on most of its points.

The authors get it wrong right out the gate when they separate the farmer from the farm lobby. For farmers like my husband and I, the producer and the lobbyist are one in the same. Sure, we are not in Washington pounding the pavement with lawmakers everyday but we are working behind the scenes, making contact with politicians, sending letters and expressing our opinions – all important parts of the lobbying effort. And we are not alone, many farmers work to make their voices and needs heard at the state and federal level. That’s how organizations like the American Farm Bureau Federation operate, from the ground up. If we, as producers, don’t’ approve a policy, our lobbyist don’t advocate for it on The Hill.

But the staff goes even farther outside reality when it makes the assumption that we as farmers want protection from outside markets and oppose free-trade agreements. Exactly the opposite, we believe in the power of a free market economy and want to see our products exported, like any business owner, understanding that demand is good for price and price is good for the bottom line.

The editorial moves on to attack direct payments claiming they are making Washington poor and farmers rich. I don’t know the amount of the direct payment other farmers receive but we certainly are not getting rich off Washington. The payments account for less than 10 percent of our overall income and all of that money goes back into our rural economy in the form of feed bills, gasoline purchases and farm needs. Take away direct payments and you take away dollars rural Main Street relies on.

Crop insurance, on the other hand, is a necessity that ensures a stable and affordable food supply. With one five-minute hailstorm, millions of acres of wheat fields in Kansas can be leveled and destroyed. That impacts supply and therefore price. We, as farmers, pay good money for our crop insurance and many years put in far more money than we pull from the program. Companies behind crop insurance act and profit no differently than companies behind home, car and flood insurance. In stable years profits go up, in turbulent years profits suffer. Crop insurance is a far cry from a hand-out. Crop insurance is one of the few risk management tools we have and without those insurance payments, many farmers would not have the capital to continue into the next season. We purchase insurance policies not to guarantee a profit but to ensure protection from catastrophic occurrences and continue our business.

When editorial boards like the Chicago Tribune urge their readers to deny the farm lobby and support the American farmer they are only working to hurt the hardworking 1 percent of America that produces the food that feeds not only this country but millions across the world. Farmers want and need a new farm bill one that does not give us handouts but risk management tools to allow us to manage the impacts of Mother Nature, make our cropping decisions in a timely manor and raise the food and fuel this county depends on. The farm lobby has and continues to act in our behalf and we, as farmers, continue to work to make our voices heard.

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