How the Presidents’ Outlook on Agriculture has Changed

Yesterday was President’s Day, a national holiday so Americans may remember our country’s great leaders. Did you know this holiday began as a way to remember our first U.S. President George Washington after his death? Then it became a way of honoring both Washington and Lincoln, and today it has been transformed into a day to honor all past presidents.

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My social media feed on President’s Day was filled with farm-related quotes by presidents. I expected quotes from Washington and Jefferson about agriculture because everyone had a connection to farming in the late 1700s and 1800s since food production required so much labor. However, I was shocked by the number of non-farming presidents who referenced the importance of agriculture. I always think of President Eisenhower as a soldier, yet I particularly like this quote of his:

“The proper role of government, however, is that of partner with the farmer – never his master. By every possible means we must develop and promote that partnership – to the end that agriculture may continue to be a sound, enduring foundation for our economy and that farm living may be a profitable and satisfying experience.” 

Cumbersome rules and regulations change the balance of the government-farmer relationship. Take for example, what I witnessed firsthand while visiting Ukraine during the Black Sea Farm Study Trip. Ukraine is, or at least could be, the bread basket of Europe!

Ukraine’s fertile soils have so much potential that is not being realized due to government intervention. I saw acres and acres not being utilized! The country is trying to come back from communist control when the government decided the land should be farmed for the common good. What I saw – and what I have read – is how villagers could grow more food in their own backyards than in the vast fertile fields. Ukrainians had control of their backyards, but the government controlled the farm fields.

Now I see this idea that “all must be done for the common good,” making its way across the United States. Our government wants to control all that we do, and property rights are being infringed upon. Environmentalists are pressuring people in power to make laws and rules with adverse effects on farmers’ livelihoods. Imagine how you’d feel if you were in our shoes. Say, for instance, your only source of income comes from the grass and a small garden in your backyard.

You must grow enough food to feed your family plus sell excess food to earn money for all the things you want. Your “backyard” puts a roof over your head, as well pays for your kids’ clothing and your car. However, this lawn and garden is regulated by a bureaucrat sitting behind a desk in Washington, D. C. She’s telling her employees that you’re polluting the environment and using too much water to grow your crops.

As if you don’t have enough to worry about, your neighbors are growing so much food that you’re forced to sell your produce for what it costs you to grow it. Now the government lady is saying you need to control all the rain water falling on your backyard. As the water passes through the ground, which you have worked so hard to make fertile enough to grow a crop, some of that fertility leaches. You aren’t making any profit from your backyard lawn and garden, but you’re required to build a system to stop that pollution! As a result of potential environmental impacts, you must complete a management plan. It’s so complicated that you hire someone to help you complete it.

Not only are your bills mounting, but your crop is being threatened. Weeds are competing with your garden plants for nutrients and water, but your plants’ needs must be sacrificed due to an endangered species of butterfly that was found in your backyard. The butterfly feeds on the milkweeds, so you must let your garden go to weeds.

Your backyard “farm” is costing you more to operate than you’re making. Will you make it through this season or will you look for a job in town with Obamacare as a benefit?

Hopefully, this hypothetical situation helps you understand the situation facing America’s farmers and small business owners. Entrepreneurship and innovation made our country great. It’s what allowed us to “live the American dream.”

Today our American way of life is being threatened. Some candidates for U.S. president believe everyone deserves to have equal things. Some believe incomes should be equal no matter how hard one works or doesn’t work. I remember seeing how that worked in Eastern Europe… it didn’t!

The U.S. Constitution gives everyone an equal chance, not equal outcomes. Social equality reduces the will to work. We’ve seen a cultural shift in the way we’re raising future generations by rewarding them for everything. Not everyone deserves a prize! If you didn’t work for a ribbon, why should you get the same ribbon as the kid who worked hard and achieved better results?

Farming is hard work that requires long hours in sometimes very trying conditions. Let’s not take away all incentive! Let’s remember what built America and what makes our nation great.

Back to thinking about President’s Day… Elections matter. Be an informed citizen and make your vote count!