Giving Thanks For American Farmers and Ranchers
Thanksgiving Message from Dr. Dale McCall, President of RMFU
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It is an American holiday, one that celebrates family and food. And, of course, our blessings.
We can be grateful we live in a land of plenty when it comes to food. We like to say we have the most abundant, affordable, and secure supply of food anywhere in the world. We do. Thanksgiving literally brings this home. Consider what is typically on the menu: turkey, gravy, potatoes, cranberries, bread, butter, stuffing, corn, apple pie… we sit down to a smorgasbord of choices. A seemingly endless supply of seconds will follow.
We are blessed that America is home to thousands of families that make their living farming and ranching and being the economic and social cornerstones of rural communities. Indeed, America’s biggest cities are possible only because American farmers and ranchers produce food in abundance.
Yet we do have people who go hungry in America for a variety of reasons, most of them pure economics. We also have “food deserts” in rural and urban and suburban communities, as local grocery stores struggle to stay in business. Most alarming to me is that we know farmers and ranchers themselves who are facing difficult times when it comes to making a living by feeding others. The uncertainty of the ongoing trade war has taken a toll on crop farmers and livestock producers. Markets that were a sure thing are suddenly shifting about like a carnival shell game. The cost of planting and harvesting, calving and marketing, milking and making cheese all remain high. Through our marketing orders, farmers and ranchers paid to develop these overseas markets. It took decades of work to build them. In a short time we have seen these markets upended. Time is equally short to restore them and return profitability to agriculture.
Farmers can’t raise prices on their crops. Ranchers can’t hold out hoping to earn a higher price on their livestock. When these families don’t have cash to spend, it shows up quickly on Main Street. Rural communities are facing similar problems with relatively high fixed costs yet too little revenue to keep even, let alone invest in future needs. We see it in Wyoming, in New Mexico, in Colorado. We see it in our neighboring states of Kansas and Nebraska. We see it in our sister states in Farmers Union, from Wisconsin and California to Ohio and the New England region.
We know it is tough out there. Some days it is hard to count our blessings. We need to. Farmers and ranchers know what it is like to endure lean times. In the 1920s rural America had to deal with low prices and bank failures. In the 1930s it was drought and the Great Depression. In the 1940s we saw many farm boys trade familiar surroundings for fighting on foreign soil. The 1950s and 1960s introduced widespread applications of technology (we still had “party line” phone service, though). The 1970s and 1980s introduced new changes and challenges. Inflation, high interest rates, the first serious export markets, tractorcades, and the Farm Crisis.
Farm and ranch families have always survived. They haven’t always thrived. This is a time of figurative belt tightening. We are optimists. We are realists. We have invested our lives in the land. And, in the future. We pray this harvest has been safe and productive and encouraging for each one of our members. Equally so for farm and ranch families everywhere.
We must continue working together and to be supportive of each other, continue to be there for each other, and continue to be there for our own families. We can find answers to the challenges facing our operations and hometown communities using a team effort. We don’t need to go it alone.
As you look forward to Thanksgiving, do so with a measure of optimism. Count your blessings, hold close your family, keep your dreams alive.