Editor’s Note: Columnist Gerald Krueger is off today. Instead, we present this Krueger column — with some editing — that was first published in the July 12, 2002, American News.
I attended a gathering of interesting folks the other day. Our two U.S. senators were in Aberdeen to listen. The rest of us wanted to hear about the state of things in Washington, D.C., as they pertain to our lack of moisture, the continual decline of farm prices and our government’s view of agriculture in South Dakota.
As I sat there listening to my colleagues in farming comment on what we are up against as producers of food, I was struck by those people in the beef barn at the Brown County Fairgrounds.
They are honest, hard-working, people, willing to sacrifice, but no longer in control of their own destiny.
That’s because their own government has caused them to be so beholden to it for prices and they must depend on Congress and the president to find markets and honest prices for their end of the food-chain.
I was further moved by the thought that all of us present are holding on to values and to beliefs that are fast becoming old-fashioned and archaic to say the least.
Doesn’t that say something loud and clear?
We hold in our hands one of the most precious commodities known to mankind — food, nourishment for the body. Every human is dependent on it — even al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden — and we darn near give it away, having little control over the price we receive for it.
Now, we throw in Mother Nature’s handiwork — current lack of moisture — and we have no way out other than help from our government. And suddenly we are ignored or unheard by our own president.
I know our leaders are fighting a war, and really don’t have much time for us. I understand that, I really do, and I’m grateful for what they are doing. However, what we do here in the heartland of America is pretty darn important too.
Maybe it’s not as high on their list right now, but seems an awful lot of people these days sure do take food for granted. And someday we may not have enough food, if Mother Nature is not forthcoming.
There was a fellow in the audience that day from the Standing Rock Reservation who spoke eloquently about the importance of water. I loved the way he reverently talked of God’s bounty and gifts to us and how important it is that everyone understands this — even our nation’s leaders. Simply put: We can’t grow food without water. Period.
Wouldn’t you like to say to President George W. Bush and Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, “Hey, we didn’t ask for this state of affairs. We didn’t ask for unfair trade agreements. You made it like this. We didn’t ask you to take away all competition, We can’t make it rain.”
And maybe throw in a few additional remarks: “Hey, we are NOT rich, we are not a bunch of whiners, and welfare cases, we can compete, but it’s gotta be fair.
“You, who are in charge have neutralized us in the competitive world. Level the playing field and watch us go to work. You will be amazed at what we can do! Just give us the opportunity.”
Even so, we are truly blessed to live in this country where we the people have a voice and can still be heard in Washington, D.C. How great it is to have our elected officials stand before us to listen and to talk, to answer honestly our questions and speak of their perspective.
I always wonder how our congressional delegation does it. There they are amongst a large group of lawmakers back in Washington, D.C., who mostly represent urban millions and they must go back to them and say, “Hey, our farmers and ranchers in South Dakota aren’t doing so well. Can we help them out?”
Most of them would probably reply, “Hey, don’t talk to me about farmers’ problems. I represent millions with very meager means who think all they have to do is go to the supermarket and buy food off the shelf.”
To use a well-worn phrase, is there something wrong with this picture: People who need food caring less about those who provide it?
Despite current hardship, we have a few last words for our president, his advisers and to Congress: In the words of Winston Churchill: We will never give up.
Gerald “Jerry” Krueger is a retired educator, coach, commercial pilot and farmer. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.