The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Letters to the Editor

December 23, 2012

Farmers still very essential

The Anniston Star on a good year for row crops:

Rural America may be losing its relevance, at least according to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, but it is not losing money — at least not this year in Alabama, if you planted row crops.

This has been a very good year for Alabama row-crop farmers. State agricultural officials say Alabama has brought in record yields in cotton, soybean and peanuts, so much so that they say this has been one of the best years ever.

Add to that the fact that bumper crops in corn and soybeans also are bringing in higher-than-average prices and it looks like a merry Christmas down on the farm.

Nevertheless, this should remind us of how risky farming can be. Prices for Alabama crops are up because drought conditions in the Midwest have meant yields out there are down. What is bad for those farmers is good for ours.

How this will translate into prices in the grocery store will be determined later, but it is safe to say the cost of food and clothing will not go down.

That should remind us that farm happenings have a ripple effect. By the time those often-praised and often-damned “market forces” have done their good and their bad, all will have felt the impact.

Farms feed and clothe us, but by the time crops reach the table and the closet, they have passed through many hands. There are few producers who are more essential to the high standard of living we enjoy than farmers. And there are few producers who get a smaller piece of the final price of their product than farmers.

Say what you will about the subsidies, tax breaks and other government programs that keep the farm economy afloat during the years when the rains don’t come, or when they do and the prices drop. It is a twisted web of regulations and benefits that, in the end, help us all.

Maybe because of careful planning, maybe because of dumb luck, the government and the market and — most of all — the farmers have worked out a system to feed America.

That is what matters.

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