The crisis of the U.S. family farmer has been well publicized
for years, and many exercises in public relations have seemed
to attempt some relief to financially ruined families who are
about to lose their homesteads to the banks. But never does a
politician, bureaucrat or journalist suggest a basic solution -
just lots of phony advice that assumes the victim is at fault.
That is because the destruction of family farming is the
deliberate intent of an economic system that now favors
"agribusiness" as more profitable to corporations, evoking
the dictum "Get big or get out!"

Yet, a solution does exist that starts by simply remembering
that, after the oceans, all life begins on the land. Thus,
farmers can still feed themselves and their families even in
the worst of times when the cities may be destitute. That is
too easily forgotten today amid the glittering allure of
gigantic acreages, big machines, chemical fertilizers and
pesticides, lots of money and rich lifestyles all presented
by slick advertizements. Seemingly benevolent government
policies encourage banks to offer generous loans to families
who imagine they too can become rich farmers - except that
government subsidies to corporate farms to keep food prices
low, also keep profits so low for small farmers they cannot
earn enough to pay off those generous loans, so they wind up
going bankrupt, selling out and looking for wage-paying jobs,
and their land is sold to an agribusiness corporation.

Looking back, many such ruined families might wish never to
have gotten involved with any sort of debt in the first place -
and they would be right, because then, poor or not, they
would still own the land and so would their children instead
of starving on unemployment checks while most of the
industrial jobs are exported to China, India, Mexico and
anywhere overpopulated people can be trapped into working
for very low wages. But the Amish farmers of Pennsylvania
have operated successfully ever since they came to America
from Germany to practise their simple motto: "Don't spend
more than you make and life will be good to you."

Today the entire global economy is based on habitual debt,
multi-trillions of it, impossible to manage without a steady
flow of gullible victims to be cleverly stripped of their
family assets by the on-going process of centralizing the
wealth of the World under control of the super-rich Chief
Executive Officers of multi-national corporations - the great
game of robber-baron capitalism.

Our willingness to play that game is one of humanity's worst
mistakes because it produces only a few thousand winners and
billions of losers. Even middle sized farmers who appear to
be be surviving financially are struggling to pay off high
interest loans to buy seed, fertilizer, pesticides and to
replace worn out equipment, working to exhaustion until one
bad season of drought or flood wipes them out.

All of this is both tragic and unnecessary, for while factory
workers and miners may have no choice if all they have is
their hands and corrupt unions, farming families could turn
away from the whole predatory system to live independently
on their own land, cooperating with each other for their
common good. Many thousands would probably choose to do so
if not for the hypnotic attraction of commercial advertizing,
the true-sounding double talk of politicians and their various
federal regulations that dictate what farmers may and may not

But suppose groups of exasperated farmers and other citizens
quietly organized to help each other avoid spending more than
they earn by recycling their TV sets, cancelling all their
commercial magazines subscriptions, trashing their catalogs,
refusing to mortgage their land, instead organizing a barter
network. Then, by returning to crop rotation, soil conservation
renewable energies like wind power and water mills, farming
and organically with horse power only for their families and
communities, they could afford to say "to hell with the market".

By such peaceful methods they can build a workable future
for local, small scale populist agriculture for many happier
generations to come.

John Talbot Ross

( Send comments to me at )

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