Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to johnc@cfra.org.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Letter to Senator Harkin


--- editor's note - this is the letter that I sent to Senator Harkin on behalf of my family... john

Senator Harkin,

We farm 400 acres of corn and soybeans near Dougherty, Iowa. We used to raise hogs but were driven from that endeavor long ago by the consolidation and vertical integration of pork production. Sheffield, where I attended high school, has about 1,000 people; a consolidated K-12 school (Sheffield, Chapin, Meservey and Thornton); and Sheffield’s main street, which has struggled, like most, to hold onto enough economic activity to remain viable. So far, they have done so. Many others have not.

The consolidation in farming that has resulted from unlimited farm program payments is hollowing out my part of the country. We farm land in Franklin and Cerro Gordo counties, and both have experienced a virtual exodus from our rural communities.

Senator Harkin, no one will ever farm our farm again after we leave, not if things remain the way they are now. Of course, someone will till the soil, plant and harvest. But no one will farm here, no one will live here. If a beginning farmer wanted to farm our land, we would likely do whatever we could to help. But he would not be able to afford to add onto our small farm. The current farm bill has driven up land costs to the point where young farmers have no chance. The only so-called “farmers” that are still buying land are mostly speculators or very large operators that do not even live around here.

We are selling 80 acres to a local banker, not the bank, but the banker – purely a speculative purchase on his part – because we need the cash to keep my mother in the care center where she now resides. But the transaction confirms what I suspected. No one will farm here when we are gone, unless you do something about all of this.

We farm some of the best land anywhere. There should be lots of farms with kids and with livestock and lots of building for the future. The November elections made you the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. No one will play a bigger role in writing the next farm bill than you. I urge you to stand up to the Southerners and tell them we will no longer write nor tolerate farm bills that destroy family farms. If they want to destroy their family farms, let them have their way with cotton and rice, and may God have mercy on their souls.

But let us have a farm bill here in Iowa, the Midwest and the rest of the nation that supports family farmers, especially beginning farmers, and the communities that have grown up around them. Let us have a farm bill with real payment limits. No more tricks, no more loopholes, no more multiple entities – but real farm payment limits that level the playing field and bring young families back to our communities.

I have heard many farmers say that they would rather have no farm bill than one without payment caps, and perhaps they are right. I will say this, there is nothing in the current farm bill, nothing, not… one… single… thing… that is worth trading away payment limits. Any farm bill without payment limits is doomed to fail. And the people who will suffer that failure the most are the family farmers and rural people living in and around places like Sheffield, Iowa.

Sincerely,


John Crabtree
Crabtree Farms
2238 Thrush Ave
Sheffield, Iowa 50475

Post a question or comment here or contact John Crabtree, johnc@cfra.org

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

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35 Comments:

  • At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    John, let me be the first to say, that is an amazing letter. I already sent my letter (got my alert from the Center last week) but now I am pissed, and I think I'll send another.
    whiting, iowa

     
  • At 6:05 PM, Anonymous Nicole said…

    I second Whiting's comment. I think that this is an outstanding letter and to be perfectly honest, I think that if this letter doesn't piss you off and make you want to write a letter to your Senator or Congressman, than you really don't care at all about rural America.
    I'm writing my letter too!

     
  • At 8:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Good Lord John, that about brought me to tears, thank you for sharing that letter with us. I'm writing a letter to Harking too, I'll send it tomorrow.

     
  • At 8:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    may God have mercy on their souls, indeed, indeed

     
  • At 7:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Mr. Crabtree, let me echo the comments so far. I hope that Senator Harkin reads your letter, I have no doubt that he would be stirred by it. I am sending a letter as well. Many thanks for all you do and for the work of the Center for Rural Affairs.
    I am from Spencer, Iowa.

     
  • At 8:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I sent my letter too John, in the mail this morning. I'm from Dougherty, Iowa and I have commented here before. I can vouch for what John says in his letter. The farm program is hollowing out the towns and farms around here.
    Dougherty, Iowa

     
  • At 11:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Amen!

     
  • At 12:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Why isn't Harkin way out front on this? He talks about it often enough, or he used to, and now he's the chairman, what's so difficult?

     
  • At 12:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm from Iowa City and I mailed my letter today.

     
  • At 3:31 PM, Anonymous lisa said…

    John,
    that's a very poignant letter; one to which so many people all across the Midwest can relate, myself included. Not only did I write my own letter, but I'm urging anyone and everyone within earshot of my soapbox on this issue to do the same.
    Thanks for sharing your story and prompting others to take action, as well.

     
  • At 9:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    John-

    I will simply echo previous posts and join the letter-writing campaign.

    Many Thanks from Rural McCook!

     
  • At 12:29 AM, Blogger Center for Rural Affairs said…

    thank you all for your kind comments, john

     
  • At 1:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The letter is right on, and there's even more to the story. A week ago I wrote my congressman Mike Conaway of West Texas after reading an article about the members of Southwest Council of Agribusiness pushing a farm bill virtually without limits. My letter was over a page and that was just Part I. We can't give up. Young, capable people such as my son and daughter may never get a chance.
    Donny from Texas

     
  • At 2:00 PM, Blogger Center for Rural Affairs said…

    Donny, we respect people's right to comment without any or all of their contact information. However, I would like to discuss your letter and what you are hearing there with you. If you prefer, contact me at johnc@cfra.org
    thanks, John Crabtree,
    Center for Rural Affairs

     
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    Does the senator know how to lose weight?

     
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    Good luck writing letters to officials. Seriously doubt they ever read them.

     
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    I can vouch for what John says in his letter. The farm program is hollowing out the towns and farms around here.

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