Guest Opinion

Monday, July 1, 2002

Voting in favor of the farm

What is to be done about the farm economy? It's pretty easy to place the blame on the government, but that doesn't solve the problem. Farmers need some idea about where to go from here. For that, there is not a good answer.

I've heard many theories about what Iowa farmers could do to improve the future of agriculture. My former history teacher, Bill McCabe, believes that Iowa farmers could hold the world hostage if they didn't sell their corn. Granted, they would lose money in the short run, but they would make gains by partaking in this quasi-strike.

It's possible, I guess. I just can't envision all of Iowa's farmers uniting under a banner that read, "Farmers of Iowa, unite!" I think that the workers of the world tried to unite once before - it was called communism. From what I've heard, it didn't work out too well. So maybe we should take our search further to the right.

A close confidant once espoused to me a rather radical idea that involved raising ostriches and llamas, and then reselling their young for profit. This too could potentially work. Yet I have to question the regional market for these exotic animals. I don't think you'll find a lot of buyers in the area. Perhaps one could try to sell them on e-Bay or something, but I bet there haven't been too many hits for "llamas" on e-commerce sites. If you're seriously thinking about this idea, I suggest you go ahead and throw in a cow, a pig, a few chickens, a porcupine and a lion and try to start up a petting zoo. I think you'll be more successful.

Question: What do these ideas and current crop prices have in common?

Answer: They're both a joke.

But in all honesty, are these ideas any more ridiculous than the thought of continuing to farm for such meager pay?

While it may seem that farmers are helpless and that the government will do what it wants, there are a few things that we, as American citizens, can do to improve our lives.

1. Contact Iowa's senators and representatives.

You may not think that these people give a crap what you think, but you might be surprised. They realize that in order to get reelected they have to keep their constituents happy. Give 'em a call. Or an email. Write a letter. Something, anything. Let them know how dissatisfied you feel. Basically, instead of complaining to your wife, complain to the people who actually have an influence on American policies.

2. Vote wisely.

We, the general public, have very few checks on the power of the government. But there is one thing we can do to exercise our collective power - don't vote for ineffective politicians. If you think the president should have done more for the Iowa farmer, then for cripe's sake don't vote for him. The same goes for senators and representatives. It's legal to vote for a person that comes from a political party you don't always agree with. Anymore, there isn't really a big difference between a Republican and a Democrat. Vote for people, not parties.

3. Be informed.

This does not mean that you have to watch CNN so much that you can predict Wolf Blitzer's wardrobe. But pay attention to issues that concern you. Find out what bills associated with farming are being introduced in Congress. Think about what parts of those bills will help you and which parts could hurt you. Then contact your representatives and tell them what you like and what you don't like. When you're on the phone discussing the intricacies of a Congressional bill with a representative, listen closely. I bet you can hear his jaw hit the floor.

4. Have confidence.

This is essential. You must believe that you, just you, are important. You're important enough to contact representatives and give them a piece of your mind. Never forget, this country is just as much yours as anyone else. Try your hardest to make the most of your situation. Do everything in your power to make your life better. It's the government's job to provide for its citizens. Make them stand by that. Let them know that you - the Iowa farmer - are not going away until you see positive results.

In short, become active. Get involved. Don't sit on the sidelines and expect someone else to get things done. Take the initiative. Tell your neighbor that you're going to call Senator Harkin's office in Washington, and convince him to do likewise. Changes won't be made because one person contacted a representative. This is going to have to be a team effort. You are all connected by one common bond - you are all farmers!

It's high time the government gets involved. But politicians sometimes need a fire lit beneath their butts to get things going. My suggestion - go buy a lighter. Better yet, maybe a blowtorch. It's up to you to get that fire going.

Kenny Kolander, Albert City, is a writer and a history student at Simpson College.