Farmers work hard to feed nation

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I am responding to Mr. J.J. Ring III’s letter to the editor that appeared in your newspaper regarding “Cons exist in gov’t farming programs.” The title is the only thing that accurate about Mr. Ring’s piece.

I reviewed the news article as it was originally written by Mr. Vershal Hogan, and he and the FSA county and parish county director were very accurate in their assessment of the programs. In addition, they were very knowledgeable of the programs because they deal with these programs every day and they provided very valuable insight to your reading public.

The statement Mr. Ring made that he does not believe the issues are so complex that they cannot be explained certainly needs to be expounded upon. He begins with his first fallacy in that a farmer can obtain a crop loan from a cooperating bank by placing some ragged equipment up as collateral.

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I can tell you that the lending institutions have tightened credit substantially. Equipment must have a value that far exceeds the value of the crop loan being obtained in order to receive production financing. His statement that the loan can be guaranteed up to 95 percent by the U.S. government is also a fallacy. I know of no program available anywhere that will allow the government to guarantee 95 percent of any crop loan.

Mr. Ring also asserts that a farmer “does this year in and year out, no matter the quality or profitability of his operation.” He further states, “he/she does have to pay for crop failure insurance or he/she can apply for one of the safety net programs that keep them from failing.”

It is so obvious that Mr. Ring has never been involved in agriculture. Agriculture is no different from any other business. Those lenders who participate in making production loans to farmers require that they have equity and that they are able to show sufficient cash flows before providing operating loans. If his statement was true, how do you explain the huge number of bankruptcies that occur in agriculture every year? As far as the safety net that keeps them from failing, farmers are like any other business if they fail to be profitable and to sustain their operations by maintaining a margin of profit, they simply go out of business.

Mr. Ring stated that “the farmer does not have to own the land that he grows crops on as he/she can lease it for a cash consideration.” It is true that farmers do lease land for cash and as he states, they can gamble with a tenant who is working their land by giving them a percentage of the crop. If a farmer pays a cash lease, he generally furnishes half of the rent up front with the other half paid at the conclusion of harvest. As with any percentage of a crop, the amount owed cannot be determined until the crop is harvested and sold.

I do not understand at all why any individual would believe farming is different from any other type business. Sure, you can hire custom type operators. I can tell you, though, those custom operators charge an amount sufficient to cover the cost of harvesting and transporting the crop to the final processor.

Mr. Ring alludes to the fact that farmers work six months out of the year and that the balance is spent hunting, fishing, and snow skiing. I know of no farmers who are successful who only work six months out of the year. The field work may be done in six months of the calendar year, but there is a huge amount of paperwork and an even greater amount of maintenance that goes into the machinery the other six months.  While the farmer only does physical labor in the field six calendar months, he works from 15 to 18 hours every day that the weather permits. So, if Mr. Ring is alluding to the fact that those six months are spent in 8-hour days, he really needs to spend a day or two with a working farmer.

In his final comment, Mr. Ring alludes to the fact that a farmer provides a safe, affordable diet for less than 10 percent of the U.S. consumer’s budget. That is an accurate statement. We do have the highest quality, most abundant food supply in the world. It is more interesting to note, though, that of the dollars allocated in the farm bill, 79 percent of those dollars go to food nutrition programs, not to the farm owner.

I can state unequivocally this nation’s farmers provide something that no other nation’s farmers have been able to provide for the population of their country. That is food security. Yes, never in the history of the United States have so few fed so many for so little.

David Waide, president

Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation