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What convention season tells us

By Larry Dreiling

It's political convention season. The TV networks have their skyboxes filled with anchors in prime time. The cable folks are out in the bars of Tampa or parks of Charlotte hearing from the "people."

As I write this, Tropical Storm Isaac is barreling in on New Orleans. Back home, we're celebrating a lengthy, gentle rain upon the sorghum crop, though the drought is far from broken.

The drought, once the topic du jour of the broadcast newsrooms, is now pretty much back in the hands of us in the farm media. After all, the conventions' keynote speakers--from New Jersey and Connecticut, respectively--really has one interest.

That interest? Making a big enough impression on voters now to prep for the 2016 elections. If there's a peep out of either St. Pete Times Arena or Time Warner Cable Arena on the topic of agricultural policy and its relationship with everyday Americans, I'll be surprised.

Meanwhile, the drought continues, farm country lacks a farm bill and the big city media's attention is elsewhere. The things that really matter to my neighbors are of little concern to convention delegates being wined and dined and to the reporters watching them and attending their own parties these days.

To quote Doughboy, played by Ice Cube in the movie "Boyz N The Hood" about another forgotten part of America, "Either they don't know, don't show, or don't care about what's going on in the hood."

What happened to us? Why are we, the people who feed, clothe and shelter our fellow Americans and people around the world, more taken for granted than ever before?

We are the stuff about which Steinbeck and Cather and Wilder and MacLachlan wrote books. Guthrie and Bates and Mellencamp turned our lives to music. In the 80s, Hollywood made insipid movies about us.

Yet we in the center of the nation are being placed ever more into the margins of American society.

It leads me to ask: Will this drought finally be the rest of America's wake-up call?

We've predicted before that traumatic events in farm country would be such clarions. Grandpa likely thought the Dust Bowl and Great Depression would wake up our ever increasingly urban kit and kin. I had lots of friends in the mid-80s who predicted an agricultural bust longer than the next boom. Many have already met their Maker.

So what now? It seems like we're the kid who cried "wolf" so many times. Perhaps, to the rest of society, we're of little value now because our food supply is so cheap, plentiful and safe. When there have been shortages, suppliers buy from overseas sources because we now have so many free trade agreements.

It's imperative that we have a new farm bill done by the end of the month. That's likely not going to happen. We'll likely get an awkward extension of current legislation and some help for cattlemen thrown in like so many nickels and dimes.

I honestly am starting to think the only way we finally will be listened to again is if the nation does experience high prices and regional shortages of food next spring as a result of a lack of animal feed due to a short fall harvest.

Meanwhile, let's all pray for rain. Perhaps we even say a prayer that our lawmakers will free themselves of their own nonsense and start thinking about the people back home rather than those high dollar interests financing their campaigns.

Congress will have had its fun by Sept. 10. Let's hope they get to work--and fast--on that farm bill.

Or, if they don't, maybe we should try to put them and their 12 percent approval rating out of work in November.

Larry Dreiling can be reached by phone at 785-628-1117, or by email at

Date: 9/3/2012


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