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The problem the politicians can't see

(April 16, 2002 CropChoice)

Dear Editor:

As legislators went about their work of trying to tie up a new farm bill before "W" spent the surplus his way, the debate turned to payment limits. To his credit, Senator Tom Harkin tried to reassert limits. Those who opposed limits forced him to see things their way or else. It seems no one could see a problem with expanded limits, or even no limits at all. Ask Tyson, Smithfield, or Microsoft what's wrong with big and they'll likely answer "Absolutely nothing". Bigger is always better in the land of the free and the home of the SUV.

The Environmental Working Group (http://ewg.org/home.php) has posted on their website a list of our agricultural excesses. Names, dates, and places are there along with dollar amounts. I have to admit it was a little embarrassing the first time I scanned the pages for familiar names, including my own. It seemed an invasion of privacy, but if one is to be so good at collecting the public largesse then one should expect that the public will find out. Most of us have skeletons of one type or another, but it seems some of us have larger closets to keep them in.

In looking over this website, I concluded that rice guys do the best. I don't even like rice, so paying one individual $49+ million to produce an ever-growing surplus of it seems like a pretty stiff price. Even our Asian brethren who chug the stuff by the bowl-full don't want our leftovers. They have their own surplus to deal with, so I'm not too sure where the government is headed with this.

As a corn and soybean guy I can appreciate the importance of staying competitive, but how do I compete with other corn and soybean guys who sign up their wives and all their kids for subsidies that total into the millions of dollars for a camouflaged 'family' operation?

In one James Bond movie, James asks the bad guy what he expects of him. The villain just laughs at James and says "Why I think it's obvious, I expect you to die Mr. Bond." If my business can't compete with those who make the big subsidy bucks, then what does the government think it is supposed to do? I believe the answer is obvious.

Congress must re-establish payment limits. The level of some payments is absurd and fraud is a growing problem. The bad press we receive will cost the farming lives of many as well as open domestic markets to foreign production as taxpayers take their revenge on a wasteful system. It's up to all of us to take a stand and call for reasonable farm programs and payment limits that assure a diverse, plentiful, and secure domestic food supply. It's time for the guys at the bottom of the list to speak up or wear the same black eye as the ones on the top.


Richard Oswald
Langdon, MO