I love Willie Nelson’s movement, called farm aid, in that it supports farmers and ranchers. I also enjoy Willie and company — they sing from the heart and aspire to assist those in agriculture. Sadly, however, they only seem to support the smallest farmers around the country, although they are not the only agriculturalists struggling these days. As I have said to many of my city friends, the backbone of this country has been, and has to be, agriculture — but the backbone of America is cracking….and perhaps the rest of the country won’t know it until it is too late.

What Willie doesn’t expose to the general public is that more than 95% of farms in the US are family-owned (vs. “industrial”/large commercially owned farms); and these are not just farmers selling produce from 10 acres. Many of these family owned businesses, some generations old, are hurting as much as the smallest in the business. Coupled with increasing regulation and permit fees, fines, agency domination, and you have a business that is being strangled while the rest of America sleeps at the wheel. It is as if Orwell’s 1984 “predictions” about turning the world upside down is truly occurring. If this sounds Greek, stop and ask a farmer or rancher – how’s it going these days?????

For a myriad of reasons, the public is developing an antipathy about the importance of agriculture and the role of farmers and ranchers. Oh, yes, they want to support their “local growers” — uh, let’s see, how many farmers and ranchers actually live a stone’s throw from urban areas? Have you examined a map of the nation???

But if, for example, CA lawmakers win their bid to find more ways to bleed taxpayers, they’ll eliminate the Williamson Act, which taxes agricultural land on what it produces versus its value on the ‘real estate’ market. And in areas like Napa or the Central Valley, or Southern California, how can farmers compete with the land values of those seeking to expand urban sprawl or to build their ‘dream homes’ or second homes with that ‘country flair?’

Moreover, if inheritance taxes are eliminated or radically revised, agriculturalists will pay again and again just for the right to farm — with each passing generation it becomes almost impossible for the younger generation to keep the land. What so many consumers forget is that agriculture is a business; as someone wisely said, farming “without a financial motive” is gardening! Unfortunately, the issues facing growers and producers nowadays are complicated and are forcing more and more out of the business. It’s becoming impossible to compete with the extremist movements and biased media that perpetuate MYTHS about the people raising the food in this country; as a result, they are driving many hard-working and farm-loving families out of business. This is especially sad when it means that wide open spaces will then be carved up because holding onto the farm is impossible. And that impacts wildlife and waterfowl tremendously, so that even the most extreme environmentalists should be pushing to KEEP farmers and ranchers on the land rather than finding ways to eliminate them.

If there was ever a time that consumers should stand up and look to FARMERS and RANCHERS for answers to some of the most important questions about conservation, environmentalism, resources, and what could very well be lost across this nation, NOW is the time. From California to Montana to Texas and Alabama or Florida, agriculturalists are dying on the vine…….

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