Illinois corn farmers are writing a letter to Santa; what’s on our list?  Today we continue with item two… less government regulation!  Thanks to Thomas Martin, SIU student, for this series focusing on IL Corn’s top priorities!

Initially it is easier to attack government regulations (it is like that fruit cake that nobody wants), than it is to take the moral “high ground” and stick up for government involvement (kind of like Pabst Blue Ribbon – not smooth or drinkable but it’s “cool” to claim you like it even though we all know you don’t). To me the truth is that government has a role to play but it is a delicate balancing act that, when off-kilter, is either overly liberating or poisonous to business. No doubt about it, I consider myself woven with the same political cloth that makes up the Heartland of small constitutional government but as I like to think (perhaps oxymoronically), I’m a pragmatist first in politics.   I don’t think that this is a distant thought process for rural Americans because at our core, “pragmatic” defines us.

There is no doubt that the government does have a role to play in agriculture and business. Just as pure communism is impossible, pure unregulated capitalism is undesirable and perhaps dangerous. I appreciate having public roads, public waterways  – though they need major renovations – standard weights and measures, a justice system that is just, etc. I even think that we can agree that government has done a good job with starting agricultural research, developing infrastructure through cooperatives such as rural electric and telephone, promoting education in agriculture through 4-H, FFA, PAS, and other programs.

I grew up along Old US Route 66, a major endeavor of its time, which served as the progenitor (along with the German Autobahn) to the US interstate system that has made it to where I can easily reach Amarillo by morning from my home in Montgomery County! I certainly would be naïve and ungrateful to blindly attack the government. But whoever said I was wise or gracious? There are also lots of flaws in the government and regulations are like a hand tightening around the neck of farmers and small business.

For instance, we have that ridiculous proposal to ban dust, or that rule the US Department of Labor wants to implement essentially strangling the future of agriculture by banning students from working through supervised agricultural experiences programs (aka “coop” or “work study”). Then there are the political traumas such as our bizarre trade barriers with Cuba (keep in mind that last I checked the Cold War is over and we’ve been trading with Russia and China for some time) or the hold-ups to improve our crumbling infrastructure as outlined in yesterday’s blog post.

What’s next? Ban nitrogen applications and genetic research? There is no question that the underlying issue we must continue to grapple with is and will likely continue to be engaging logical conversations instead of idiotic rants about doomsday scenarios (GMOs, after all, are a conspiracy like the moon landing, John Lennon, JFK, and Colonel Sanders).

When we write Santa this year and our congressional representatives about the latest stupidity to be translated into legal speak (like the proposal Senator Jim DeMint had to ban all commodity check-off programs) let’s remember that while we should be disgusted with the shockingly idiotic legislation, we do need to have the government investing in infrastructure and to provide a safety net.

We certainly have a strong gust of wind ready to push us over with regulations so we must stay vigilant! There are constant proposals for legislative and regulatory measures that seek to destroy and cripple modern agriculture.

If you’re not a member of a commodity group or general farm/agriculture organization then take this time to help yourself and JOIN! Don’t be humble when it comes to public advocacy – write those letters and make those phone calls. Be aware of the constant threats to eliminate that meat from your table through legislation, rule changes and judicial activism.

Thomas Martin, Raymond, IL
Senior in Agricultural Systems
Southern Illinois University


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