(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.