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(Please note - this article was written by SRW, a contributor to mrW)

SRW’s 4-1/2 cents:  (January 2010) 

I’m really bugged about something and I’ve decided to throw it out there. Here’s my question – Are the American farmers heading towards the same fate as America’s auto industry? I know some of you are already thinking “What the heck is this guy talking about?” but just stay with me for a few minutes.

I had a real interesting conversation the other day with a friend of mine. She was raised a God-favouring, true blue American gal. She believes in and supports America, proudly wears red, white and blue and even thought about enlisting in the Navy back in 1975 when she graduated high school. She wore a POW bracelet for 6 years (interestingly the name on it was John McCain III). She considers herself a moderate conservative and honestly, truly believes she puts her money where her mouth is. So what happens is she gets hooked on this thread started in our Water Cooler last year called Ford Pays For Its Prudence. (Check it out – it’s still going on.) Anyway, Mike posted there several times and got this gal to thinking about stuff. Turns out she’s owned a BMW for 21 years, is quite happy with it and hopes it lasts her the rest of her life. It also turns out that she had never considered buying an American car because she learned that foreign cars held their value better and, depending on what it was, lasted longer than American cars and she works hard for her salary and likes to get the best bang for her buck. In fact, because of those “facts” she had sworn she’d never buy an American car.

Then this auto crisis slams the country and all of a sudden she’s paying attention. She’s really troubled by the whole deal, the effect on our country’s economy and is concerned about all the folks who lost their jobs and families impacted by the disaster with no end in sight. To top it all off, billions of our hard earned tax dollars start getting pumped into 2 failing companies to prevent them from going into bankruptcy (again). And it’s not like we got a lot of extra dollars to spare, right?

Anyway, to cut to the chase, she tells me that because of that Ford/Prudence discussion, she realized that she was talking out of both sides of her mouth. She loves the good old US of A but is going to buy foreign cars for the rest of her life? What’s up with that? And now her tax dollars are going to support a couple of companies who are happily taking those tax dollars to keep them afloat. All of a sudden who cares if her BMW lasts forever and held its value better than a Chevy – that car just cost her (and millions of us) about what… $ 300,000 in taxes used as bail-out money? I dunno, you do the math but my point is that had everyone who says they support America bought American, would our auto industry be in the pathetic condition it is at the moment? I’ll go out on a limb and say nope. In fact, I’d bet on it.

Of course there’s no going back, no rewinding the video and playing it with a different ending or anything. But here’s the bigger question – what have we learned from the experience?

OK, OK, I’ll get to my original point. Maybe you haven’t read this article in the Wall Street Journal: Poachers Arrive at Egg Farms but I did and it hit me as to what’s bugging me. The article by Lauren Etter says in part: “A year after Californians approved stricter rules on the treatment of farm animals, Idaho and other states are trying to lure away the Golden State’s poultry and egg farmers with promises of friendlier regulations and lower costs.

In Idaho, as lawmakers convened Monday, Republican state Sen. Tim Corder said he would introduce legislation designed to attract California chicken farmers who might consider relocating. In Nevada, Pershing County is aggressively recruiting poultry farmers in California, the nation’s fifth-largest producer of eggs. Georgia’s poultry industry also has reached out to some California farmers in a bid to woo them eastward, California egg-industry officials say. The movement comes after California voters in November 2008 passed a ballot initiative called Proposition 2 designed to prevent “cruel confinement” of farm animals in cramped conditions, like small “battery cages” for egg-laying chickens, or “gestation crates” for pregnant pigs.

Such measures have grown more popular nationwide as the Humane Society of the United States and other groups have pushed to raise awareness of how animals are treated in the food-production system. Since 2002, similar provisions have passed in Florida, Arizona, Oregon and Colorado.”

I live in California and I’m one of those people who adopt abandoned dogs. I’ve sent my $25 checks to the Humane Society after watching particularly awful commercials on TV showing little pets horribly mistreated and suffering. I completely support spaying and neutering of animals in most instances and would adopt an abandoned pet before I’d ever get one from a breeder or pet store. I don’t eat veal but I’m not a vegetarian.  I’m not the only one who doesn’t get a vegetarian who still wears leather belts, jackets or shoes or carry leather purses but that, too, is another story. Those are my choices and I’m not telling anyone else what to do – it’s a free country.  I didn’t vote for the proposition they’re talking about because it didn’t make sense to me. I couldn’t buy into the emotion of seeing animals in cages and using the worst examples of some unethical people as the end-all be-all for every farmer in the state – passing that measure would negatively affect our food sources and our farmers.

I happen to believe that using emotion to manipulate voters is just plain unethical and wrong.  Who wouldn’t get choked up to see a mistreated animal? And look, I’m sure that some farmers use methods that are not humane.  I’m equally sure that there are many who don’t.  Just like all blonds aren’t dumb and all polish people aren’t stupid, the few bad eggs shouldn’t represent the many good ones (sorry – I just couldn’t resist saying that).   Should we put every good citizen in prison and let the prisoners run free?  Just like you can’t say that every person who owns a puppy is going to treat it like the bozo down the street that runs a puppy mill, you can’t say that all farm animals are abused and all farmers are to blame.  I don’t believe that keeping a chicken in a cage, free from bad weather or predators and feeding them well and making sure they stay healthy is a bad thing. My grandparents had chickens.  I know what the chickens did all day and what they were happy doing and it didn’t include much else besides eating, “talking” to all their pals and laying eggs.  Seriously (no disrespect to all the chickens out there).

I gotta think that the meat that arrives at my local meat counter had to come from healthy animals otherwise the USDA isn’t going put their “approved for consumption” stamp on it.  I’ve never known the USDA to be tentative about avoiding salmonella (or other) poisoning.  I don’t think animals who are miserable and unhealthy magically get converted into excellent USDA Grade AAA+++ meat.   I love animals. I also love to eat and my favourites include a good steak for dinner and bacon and eggs for breakfast and I’d prefer not to spend a fortune on those things or get my beef and eggs exported from some other country.  Nothing wrong with all that, right?

Then what smacks me in this article is this:

Of course, moving to another state could be costly, too. Moreover, Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society, said farmers who flee California may wind up facing tougher rules anyway, because more retailers are seeking food raised under strict animal-welfare standards.

“It’s not surprising that some of the factory farms would flock to states that are deregulated when it comes to animal welfare,” said Mr. Pacelle. But “that is not a long-term answer.

Maybe it’s just me but Mr. P’s “that’s not a long term answer” comment sounds like it carries a threat. What does that mean? Is Mr. P and the Humane Society and all the well meaning animal savers going to go get these laws passed in every single state in the nation so that one day we wake up and every single farmer is out of business unless they grow vegetables?  Are we going to go from watching the ruin of the auto industry to watching the ruin of the farmer?   I ask you – what is in America’s future? We’ve sent clothing manufacturing out of the country because 1) we can’t afford to make them ourselves, 2) we can’t afford the prices if we make them ourselves and 3) many of us never pay retail. Our own buying habits and “both sides of the mouth” talk has left Detroit and other US cities basically destroyed. We’re spending billions and trillions of our own tax dollars trying to recover from our own behaviour and simultaneously, we may be stupidly and naively destroying America’s farming industry. Another one bites the dust.  Seriously folks, what’s next?

Like most people, maybe I really don’t want to know. I should sign off and go back to living my own life and pretend nothing bad is happening or point my finger at something or someone else. Someone else will fix it, right? It doesn’t involve me specifically at the moment anyway – I’m still having a steak for dinner. Our country will bounce back from seeing its industries shut down one by one, won’t it?  I mean that can’t *really* happen – it’ll all be OK.

Then why do I feel this nagging sense of dread…?

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. My friend? She decided to put her money where her mouth is – she and her husband just bought American – a Ford Edge.  They love it.

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      Unlollaaled | 05/06/13 | 6:26 am
    2. …and why are we listening to an organization (PETA) that is and has been for many years on the FBI’s top ten most watched “terrorist” group?

      Sandi | 06/28/10 | 8:32 am
    3. Thank you for writing this. I have been raising turkeys with my husband for a year now, and I have become so aware of the issues farmers are facing – It is nice to see someone SUPPORTING the American farmer instead of tearing us down. Thank you!

      Katie | 06/25/10 | 3:24 pm
    4. The American farmer has more to fear than humane societies who want them to treat their animals better. Small farmers get bought out by factory farm corporations all the time. Farm Corp millionaires get money from the government NOT to grow crops. Little kids think milk comes from grocery stores. Poor cows, their contribution is unknown and unappreciated. I guess contribution is another word for stealing their milk. And in return we let them steal good grub and warm stalls.
      The end game is that people do what makes them the most money. Only laws, rules and cops prevent some of them killing each other (and us, the customer) to make more money. If you don’t believe this look at what wall street just did. And that was not the first time. Look up Black Friday. We exist to breathe and make money.

      Tex Hunter | 06/15/10 | 9:34 pm
    5. The free market can be unfettered except where the possibility exists for producers and manufacturers to harm people, animals, or the environment. Because states compete with each other to provide jobs, the way to protect animals from abusive farmers is through federal regulation. The same is true for environmental protection against companies that pollute.

      Randy C | 06/14/10 | 3:15 pm
    6. Well after reading all the posts I thought I would throw my two cents in. I grew up in the country and worked on a farm during the summers. I think I started to get paid for the things I did when I was around 12. I guess that is where I learned that hard days work is very rewarding. I have had a lot of different jobs/careers in my life. I am 41 now and two sons of my own. My rules to them are #1 no hospital visits (they like to rough house around) #2 Earn your keep! OK on with my point. A lot of the people I have talked to over my years make their judgment on things before they have the facts of it. I was a master auto mechanic for 9 yrs and have worked on just about everything that is on the road today. When it comes to American quality yes it is there. Most people do not take care of the car or truck like they should. I myself own a 1997 Chevy Cavalier with 256,000 miles on it and still going strong(and still getting 35mpg)! The farm I worked on growing up the Dodge truck that we used for just about everything had over 300,000 miles on it. I think a lot of Americans need to get out and spend some time on the farm. This way they know what it means to put a days work in. Farming is not a 9 to 5 job and off on the weekends. Farming is 24/7 365 day job. Yes I do agree there are some really crappy farmers out there. The problem that needs to be fixed is the crappy farmers. I would like to know when it became the solution for dealing with a problem person or persons is to punish everybody for what they did? Like I stated before I have many different careers in my life so far everything from a mechanic to my most recent one which I worked for a bio tech research company. Currently I decided to take a break from it and find a new direction.
      If you want to help the American farmer buy from them! I get my eggs from a local farmer as well my beef. When you do this you can see how they are raised and are taken care of. Do you want quality veggies go the farmers market. Do you want quality clothing look for the tag that reads Made in the USA! Some of you may not see my point yet! I will some it up. Know all the facts before buying, eating, drinking or making a judgment about anything until you know the facts! The reason I say this is I have talked and dealt with people all over our great nation and they vary from coast to coast. Do you know what kind of person knows what a hard days work is? It is the blue collar worker the farmer, the volunteer that gives just about ever bit of their free time to help someone. This same person still puts family first! So in the end take a good look at yourself when you zoom by somebody on the side of the road with a flat. Did you stop to help? Why not? Just remember that excuses are like rectums everybody has one! When was the last time you held the door open for somebody? When was the last time you help the older couple across the street with their yard or anything? We are losing who we are and what we stand for! As it was stated in another post WAKE UP!

      Dave Potthast | 06/02/10 | 12:16 pm
    7. Charity starts at home and so does good business. We have collectively abandoned our small town farmers, retailers, grocers, etc. in our search for the “cheapest” price. So we go into debt to pay less so we can buy more of the stuff we don’t need. We allow special interest groups to buy our politicians and push through whatever is the special interest item of the moment.

      This isn’t about HSUS or PETA – this is about each of us, as individuals, voting with our hard earned money to keep our country and our way of life intact. Buy American when possible, shop at your local butcher, farmers market and local retailer – reject the big box stores. Tell them to take their substandard products back to their countries of origin. We keep buying and companies keep cutting corners and standards while raising prices. How about we each make a commitment to go out of our way to support our own economy.

      Parting food for thought – if we had to produce our own clothing, uniforms, shoes, socks, cars, trucks, tanks, food, defense materials could we do it? We no longer have the manufacturing facilities to “ramp up” in a time of need. We have no skilled labor and certainly no unified sense of patriotism – and certainly no pride. If something is actually “manufactured” here many of the components are out sourced. We are on a slippery slope.

      Heather Berger | 05/24/10 | 6:57 pm
    8. The farmers in our country are highly overlooked and taken for granted for what they are capable of doing for us Americans and in crisis other countries that are in desperate need. Something needs to change. Farmers are the most needed. We must eat to live. What can we do as American citizen’s? Think about it. And send in your ideas. American Farmers should all be funded by the government without raising taxes. Afterall, they need to eat too. I know that will probably never happen, but if we don’t want to happen to our Farmer’s what happended to the auto industry…what are we to do? Extreme matters need extreme decesions to be made to ease the burden of producing foods of all kinds. Meat, poultry,wheat, rice etc.

      ralph vasquez | 05/22/10 | 11:26 am
    9. Certainly appreciate having you stand up for agriculture. I have a hard time figuring out why people can’t see the importance of farmers and ranchers for our very survival! Would love to chat with you sometime.
      Thanks again!

      Patsy Denham | 05/21/10 | 10:31 am
    10. For the last 8 years, I’ve spent my weekends on a sheep farm. It started out as a hobby to learn how to herd sheep with my Border Collie, but soon it became an addiction. Every weekend, we tend sheep — deworm them, sheer them, clip nails, vaccinate, tag, examine, and so forth.

      I won’t speak for large scale farmers/ranchers, but many small time folks take incredibly good care of their flock. Our sheep have a lot of access to open land, grazing on fresh grass, supplemented with hay throughout the winter. The sheep are rarely confined, and they are protected by from coyotes and bad weather.

      So please, people like “Michigan Girl”, don’t talk about what you haven’t experienced. Looking at the worst-of-the-worst pictures online is not the same as living the life of a farmer. Our sheep are taken care of to the hilt, so don’t spread nasty, untrue rumors about how people take care of their flocks.

      There is a HUGE difference between advocating for larger cages for chickens and completely banning all cages. The legislators seriously dropped the ball on that one. If people are not careful, PETA and H$U$ will take over all animal issues. Protect your right to care for your animals.

      Weekend rancher | 05/18/10 | 4:25 pm
    11. You should watch “Food, Inc.” a production that features just the sort of thing your talking about.
      E-coli and salmonella are both rampant in many of the foods we consume. Fortunately for us (but unfortunately for the families who have lost children, parents and other family members to infections)the levels are low enough to pass inspection (there are not ENOUGH inspections) and to give us the courage to keep on eating the very food that might, in the next salad or jar of peanut butter, or jelly, or eggs or ground beef or pork be the last time we have to even think about it..food roulette. Sound thinking, of course not.

      betty | 05/13/10 | 5:27 pm
    12. “talking out of both sides of (our) mouth(s)” did not destroy Detroit. Politicians and unions did that. I grew up in a GM factory town three hours south of Detroit and watched it happen in real time for forty years. The smart folks who saw the writing on the wall went into the military and got the h*** out. The reason foreign cars did better was smarter design and reliability. Even with the few Toyotas having a problem, the vast majority will still be running years from now.

      jms | 04/10/10 | 4:26 pm