11 June 2009 - Thank God for Farmers and Ranchers

We all know that life is full of change and challenge on a daily basis; but as I look at America’s farmers and ranchers, I think they get more than their fair share. That is why every day I say “Thank you, God, for America’s farmers and ranchers; the people who put food on my table, clothes on my back, a roof over my head and energy in my tank.”

For those of you not involved in production agriculture, let me list just a few of the challenges faced by farmers and ranchers in 2009....a wet spring that has left a few million acres still unplanted or in need of re-planting; pork producers who have been hammered economically the past year, now getting a double hammer from the H1N1 flu virus that has cut their income even more; and dairy producers who are in financial pain dealing with milk prices that are $6 to $7 per hundredweight below the cost of production.

The pain becomes very real when you share it with me via e-mail as was the case last week when I heard from Charles in Connecticut who wrote “Dear Orion, I am hoping you can share some facts about the New England dairy industry. In Connecticut it costs $2.00 to produce a gallon of milk. The price of milk which is controlled by the Federal government is only $1 per gallon. This means that Connecticut dairy farmers are losing $1 per gallon of milk produced and with a milk price set as low as it is, small states such as Connecticut are losing their dairy industry. According to the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, the state has a $1.1-billion dairy industry; the state currently has 151 dairy farms after 12 shut down last year. If people do not contact their legislators and ask them to raise the milk price, the dairy industry around here will disappear. Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope your listeners and readers from all over the country will help out our farming industry here in Connecticut.”

Adding to my concern is the fact that, after sharing it with my audience, there is little I can do to help Charles and the rest of you faced with similar challenges. I can say to Charles that he is not alone, there are many other producers in the same boat, but that is little consolation. I can also say something you have heard me say many times...prices never go the same way forever, there is always a correction, but for some of you it may not come in time.

So I come back to the thought that started this column, thank God for all of you in production agriculture for facing the challenges of weather, markets, trade policies and politicians every day, as well as the criticism of consumers when food prices go up. And the next time you are asked to offer the invocation at a banquet, besides asking God to “bless the hands that prepared this food”, will you also ask to “bless the hands that produced it”?

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.