Opinion – 5/23/2003

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 23, 2003

The Panolian Editorial

For additional opinions and articles,
pick up the 5/23/03  issue of The Panolian

Our Farmers Have Tough Row to Hoe

Some folks don’t shed many tears for the plight of farmers but I’m not one of them.

There are those who believe the farmers get fat off government subsidies but I’m not one of them.

I’m not one of them because I know too many farmers, mostly in eastern Arkansas where I was reared, who have gone broke.

Plus, I grew up being told that "if the farmers don’t do well, we don’t do well."

The "we" in that was my mother’s small general insurance agency that she took over after my father’s death.

She explained it saying that if the farmers don’t have money to spend, they don’t buy new trucks, equipment and homes and other things that need insuring.

Pretty simple economics.

Watching all the rainfall we’ve had lately has been more than an inconvenience to my horseback riding. It could be a disaster in the making for our farmers, according to Kimball Billingsley of the USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Batesville.

Most of the crop that should be in isn’t and a large part of what is in will have to be replanted. Some cotton won’t be planted or replanted because farmers won’t take the risk of planting after the crop insurance deadline Sunday.

Yes, farmers get subsidies – some of them quite large.

But without the subsidies, I can only imagine the high prices we all would have to pay for food and fiber.

Plus, farmers couldn’t afford to farm … where would that put us?

Hungry, I believe.

Someone once said farming’s the only business that buys at retail prices and sells at wholesale.

If you don’t believe me, go price a new cotton picker … and a bale of cotton.

In my mind I can see some of the guys and families that I know who are out of farming.

They’re broke. One fella even lost his elderly mother’s house. She’s been forced to move out of state to live with her daughter.

I think about my friends "the Bell boys" a lot. Luckily, they’re not broke, they’re still hanging in there.

We grew up together … in Sunday School, in school, riding horseback, playing baseball in their yard and sometimes smoking vile twigs we broke off their grandmother’s grapevines.

I babysat for the two youngest, Edward and Jeff, and ran interference with Larry and Michael to keep them from tearing up the house … and each other!

Larry and I went to the University of Arkansas at the same time.

When Larry was growing up he, and especially Edward, liked to spend time on the farm with Mr. Larry Joe, their dad.

Now, Larry and Ed are partners in a farming operation as are Larry’s two sons, Becton and Ross.

Though every effort was made to talk Becton and Ross out of farming as a career, they "love it so," their grandmother Miss Carolyn told me … all the while just shaking her head.

Though he graduated with a degree in business, all Larry ever wanted to do was go back home and farm.

A few years ago he recalled how excited he got as a child every spring when the tractors cranked up for the first time and headed for the field.

He loved the sights and sounds of it all.

But now, when he hears the familiar sounds he has a different feeling.

"It makes my stomach hurt," he said.


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(Kate Dickson can be reached by email at: editor@panolian.com)