Feb 18, 2010
Ag can Cure Our Woes

As I watch our government blunder, giving away billions of dollars to banks, special interest groups and foreign governments and arguing over health care reform, it occurred to me that agriculture has totally lost its voice over the last 18 months.

I understand we have two wars going on and a recession, but why isn’t there more focus being put on industries that are healthy and can expand and grow? The first one that comes to mind is agriculture, because it could solve many of the problems facing America for a lot less than “investing” stimulus dollars in government projects.

Agriculture also has a trade surplus. In 2009, the United States exported $96.6 billion in ag products and imported $73 billion, giving the U.S. a positive trade balance of $23 billion. Wouldn’t expanding trade programs and making a real fair trade agreement for American agriculture make sense?

State and local governments have been slashing Extension and agricultural research funding. Some non-ag folks and the mainstream media think ag research should be cut out entirely, saying other industries don’t receive this type of “subsidy.”

This is bunk – in early January the Department of Energy announced $187 million in grants to automotive-related companies to develop new technologies to boost automotive fuel efficiencies. State and local governments around the country are offering tax abatements for new plants to move in. I could go on and on, but I think you get my point – every industry gets government incentives, pork and research dollars.

Why aren’t the state and federal governments spending more money on agricultural research so we can grow our own food more efficiently and rely less on imports?

When are we going to stand up and convince the politicians that we need to take care of ourselves before we worry about giving all of our tax dollars away to foreign governments and ineffective government programs?

The push for fuel-efficient vehicles and wind energy are all well and good, but what if we stopped shipping produce thousands and thousands of miles and stopped letting it into our country with little or no inspections? How much fuel would that save? How many sustainable agricultural jobs would we create? How much farmland would we save from being developed? How much safer would our food be?

Plus, if we promoted eating more produce, Americans would be healthier, cutting down on heart disease and cancer and saving billions of dollars on health care costs.

To help our government officials, I thought I’d suggest a list of new government programs that would strengthen agriculture and solve the economic and health care problem.

1. Give Every American and Immigration Officer a Hoe! Each family and all Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees would be assigned 10 acres on a local farm to keep weed free. It will cut down on pesticide use, stop illegal immigration and keep you healthy.

2. Cash for Rotten Produce (CRP). This program would allow every American to clean out their refrigerators of old produce and trade it in at the local grocery store. The government would then reimburse the stores for the produce.

3. Produce Addiction Project (PAP). School districts get kickbacks from Coke and Pepsi for exclusively selling that company’s beverages – so why doesn’t the government pay schools to carry U.S.-grown produce? Let’s get these kids hooked on our products – just like Coke and Pepsi do. The more the kids eat, the more the schools get in government aid.

4. Tomatoes, Apples, Radishes and other Produce for People (TARPP). This plan would entail giving tax rebates to Americans for all the U.S. fruits and vegetables they purchase in a year. If you purchase $500 in produce in a year, you get to deduct that off your tax bill.

OK, so my list was filled with silly acronyms and sarcasm, but are they anymore far-fetched than the programs our government has put together for other industries?

The bottom line is, agriculture needs to stand up and be counted as having many of the answers we are looking for to strengthen our economy, create jobs, cut health care costs and keep our freedom secure.

Hopefully, our leaders will stand up and take notice of all agriculture has to offer this country!

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