I often hear “if only” statements.
If only consumers understood where their food is grown. If only farmers and ranchers shared their stories better. If only it would rain to give the corn the shot of moisture it needs. If only my boys would pick up their dirty socks.
OK, so maybe the last one is only in my head, but I’d like to add another “if only” to the list today: If only we could get Rep. Frank Lucas to explain why the farm bill is important to America.
If we could, I think consumers just might have a better understanding of what it’s like to try to make a living off the land, where it hardly ever rains and the work is tough; to want a farm bill that works with producers, instead of requiring them to farm a government program; to want a bill that will help provide a safety net that hopefully they never have to use.
Lucas, the Oklahoma representative and chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, gave an impassioned speech recently on the House floor. I wasn’t watching but I caught the clip on C-SPAN’s website.
“I was raised by a generation, my grandparents, who were young men and women during the Great Depression, who lived through that drought. They were scarred forever,” Lucas said.
He spoke of the 1950s drought and farm crisis of the 1980s that left many farmers bankrupt.
“The misery of the 1930s, the misery of the 1980s was not an accident,” Lucas said, “It was the policy mistakes in the 1920s and the 1930s that led to that agony. It was the policy mistakes in the 1970s and the 1980s that led to that agony.”
If we don’t get the farm bill right, history is bound to repeat itself. The farm bill seems like such a low priority to the vast majority of Congress. In fact, the only reason most legislators even notice the bill is that 80 percent of the spending of the bill goes to nutrition assistance.
But probably more important than the passion with which Lucas spoke, was his plea: to work together to pass a good farm bill.
“I cannot make it rain,” he said. “But in my tenure as chairman of the House Agriculture committee, I can make sure we pass a comprehensive farm bill that does not repeat the mistakes of the 1920s and 1930s; does not repeat the mistakes of the 1970s and 1980s. I will not be a part of inflicting on future generations what was inflicted on what I call that generation of Vietnam veterans who came home to farm and instead went to the bankruptcy auction. I will not be a part of that, so I will work with all of you to try and improve this draft that attempts to produce a safety net that is workable, that is efficient, both for rural America and consumers.”
He, and other legislators like him, know the importance of delivering a quality farm bill that will work for farmers, ranchers and consumers alike. If only they can do just that.
Holly Martin can be reached by phone at 1-800-452-7171 ext. 1806, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.