Picking the right president critical for U.S. farmers

One of the benefits of writing a monthly column in Southeast Farm Press is that I often get some colorful feedback.

I've been accused of being a right-wing Republican with no understanding of the benefits of technology because I reported that one North Carolina grower often relied on his conversations with his God, rather than on modern technology, to make some farm management decisions.

On the other hand, I've been accused of being a bleeding heart Democrat and unpatriotic because I wrote a column pointing out the high costs to farmers of running two wars that in my opinion we can't win.

That's all good. I'm glad we live in a land where we can disagree without planting roadside bombs — now called improvised explosive devices — or otherwise endangering one another's general welfare.

That non-win political reality being what it is, I still often ask farmers which of the three, now two, presidential candidates will be best for agriculture. The consensus opinion is — I don't know. I share that consensus — I don't know either, but fairly soon we will all have the opportunity to make a statement in the voting booth.

One reader recently wrote, as part of his criticism of a recent column, “I never sold corn for $7 a bushel nor soybeans for $13 a bushel during a Democratic administration. My response: You never paid $5 a gallon for diesel fuel and $1,550 a ton for DAP (di-ammonium phosphate) during a Democratic administration either.

I don't know whether Senator Obama or Senator McCain will make a good president — one that is better or worse for agriculture. The Senator before their names makes me a bit skeptical of both, based on Congress' abysmal performance the past few years.

Sen. McCain is a war hero — I guess. I don't know the hardships he faced as a POW in North Vietnam. I question whether long years in a foreign prison would be good for one's mental processes in general, much less being an asset for running the country. Either way, I don't think it means he is more or less patriotic than Sen. Obama. Neither does it mean he is more or less in tune with America's needs.

Stopping the war, or at least publicly stating he will end the war in Iraq, has brought Sen. Obama millions of dollars in e-contributions from baby boomers with money and plenty of time to peruse the Internet. If he does get elected and does pull our troops out of Iraq, I don't think that means Obama is not patriotic nor non-supportive of the military. I do contend that the economic boost from ending the war or wars will have a direct and positive impact on farming, energy and our way of life.

I believe the price of food and fuel will be driving issues in the upcoming presidential election. Farmers are key players in both, as we strive for sustainable alternative energy sources to fossil fuel. These issues and the Presidential campaign should provide an ideal stage for farm organizations, if not farmers to have their concerns heard.

Most farmers I've talked to don't really care whether corn sells for $8 per bushel or $3 per bushel. What they care about is how much it costs them to grow it versus how much they are paid for their crop. Lowering risk means longevity in the farming business.

Even busy politicians vying for the top spot in the free world should be able to figure out that a farmer getting $7 per bushel for corn, but paying nearly a $1,000 per acre for land rent, fuel, labor, etc, etc to grow that crop isn't doing so well. Factor in a little drought or a little flood and yields below the national average, and he or she isn't doing well at all.

I don't know whether Sen. McCain or Sen. Obama understand the risks involved in farming in today's environment of high prices and high inputs. I'm betting they understand the reaction of Americans to a $5 loaf of bread or a $10 gallon of milk. In fact, if we continue down our current road of escalating food prices, I am betting they will understand and act much more quickly to the needs of hungry Americans than to hungry cars and trucks.

Like it or not fuel, food and fiber are critical issues — all tied to energy costs — that our next president will have to solve to avoid being a one term wonder.

I'm sure both candidates have carefully calculated how much it cost per year to be president of the United States. We typically have Democrats for eight years and Republicans for eight years. If that trend continues we better make a better choice in 2008 than we made in 2000 and again in 2004.

I think both Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain are good men. Unfortunately, the criteria for being a good president and being a good man, a good husband, a good father, etc are not the same. We all want a ‘good man’ or a ‘good woman’ to be our leader, but the key part of that statement is LEADER.

My father-in-law contends being a good husband means keeping your mouth shut and your pocketbook open. Unfortunately, it seems our current administration has tended to keep their mouth open AND their (our) pocketbook open, too.

What the American people, including American farmers need is a good leader — one that will restore pride and confidence in U.S. industry and remove our country from the brink of international bankruptcy.

A big part of our future will be determined by this year's presidential election. It seems to me to be a good idea to learn all you can, keep an open mind and to vote for whichever candidate you think will make the most positive difference.

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