Tuesday, April 29, 2008

We the People still need a department

I can only imagine that Abraham Lincoln is not simply turning over in his Illinois grave but he must be beside himself trying get out and bring some logic back into our political system. For the past ten years a series of societal pressures have taken our nation down the path of eliminating our ability to feed ourselves. In 1862, during the Lincoln Presidency, two extremely important pieces of legislation enabled us as a nation to become the world’s premiere supplier of food, fiber and fuel to our citizens. First, the Untied States Department of Agriculture was established and Lincoln himself called it “The People’s Department”. Second, the Morrill Act created the Land Grant University system and the three-legged stool of teaching, research and extension. These two programs are vital to our industry. For the past twenty years, we have allowed the continued erosion of both of these entities.

Once upon a time we as nation did not need to rely on other countries for our energy supply. But due to the social pressures from shortsighted and self-serving individuals, we began to seek foreign crude oil. The white collar Americans didn’t want to bother with the dirty work of mining the oil and refining it into gasoline or the other petroleum based products that we rely on daily. We just wanted to brag about the regulations we put in place that would lead to a pristine environment. Why subject our people to a task that Middle Easterners would do? It is certainly easier to import gas than it is to utilize the resources we have at home and provide jobs for our own labor force. Fast forward to the 21st century and suddenly our nation realizes we have become extremely dependent on foreign energy supplies. In fact, one slap in the face from Mother Nature called Hurricane Katrina and our nation has finally decided that we have a problem.

In fact, since 2001 we have sent 1.6 million of our nation’s young soldiers into Afghanistan and Iraq. Must I remind you that over 4000 of them came home in body bags and tens of thousands more were injured? I am not making a judgment on whether or not we should have gone into the region but I am telling you that because of petroleum we created a position where we did not have much of a choice. Why? During the past decades of building dependence upon foreign crude oil, we have allowed our system of domestic energy production to erode. Any nation that relies on foreign suppliers for food, fiber and or fuel is vulnerable.

In the past ten years I have seen the same erosion of our domestic food system. In fact, one person that was a hanging chad away from being President openly admitted that we as a nation should produce only some food locally and allow less developed nations to do the majority of that for us. I have repeatedly witnessed township, county and state officials that are reluctant to allow local families to expand their livestock enterprises because of public pressure and the fear of the unknown. What is happening in the home state of both Abraham Lincoln and myself right now is the worst case of ignorance yet.

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich announced the elimination of the ENTIRE Extension program last week. Indeed 450 people in the state believe they are unemployed as of today. The concept of the Land Grant System was based on a three-legged stool -research, teaching and extension and it cannot be expected to function in any other manner. He uses the excuse that it costs too much money and the state budget has too much of a deficit. Governor Blagojevich, I suggest you fly from your home in Chicago to the State Capitol in Springfield, (because he has refused to move into the Governors Mansion and commutes to work at the taxpayers expense) and stop by the grave sight of our nation’s first President from Illinois. Tell Ole Abe that our people no longer need to provide for themselves. I suggest that if you are paying attention you might get a real different feel for the importance of self-reliant food, fiber and fuel production.

We have an abundant supply of natural resources in this great land. We have incredibly intelligent scientists at Land Grant Universities, like the University of Illinois, that have the ability to create so much more efficiency in the food system if they only had a commitment from elected officials to let them do their work. We need to continue to teach young people who want to be a part of the all-encompassing American food system whether it is on the farm or in the food plant. And most importantly in this case, we need extension folks who communicate the results of these research findings to the individuals in the field who simply get the work done.

This needs to be a wake up call to all who have ever doubted the need to continue the world’s premiere food system. We cannot take for granted the things that individuals before us have worked hard to develop. We must also never take for the granted what American families continue to sacrifice in the name of national security through energy production. “The People’s Department” needs some real leaders to once again stand up for what is right for the future generations of Americans. Shortsighted bureaucrats need to stop putting the American Soldier at risk simply because they can’t see any future for the importance of feeding, clothing and providing fuel for our fellow countrymen.

Our forefathers were wise and visionary and recognized, even in those early days, the need for a country to be not only independent but self-sufficient; to rely on our own hard work and ingenuity to make this nation a great place for all of us to live. To start farming these responsibilities out to third-world countries is opening a Pandora’s box of trouble for future generations. If planting corn or feeding cattle isn’t up your alley, that is fine; But don’t use your spare time and money to support groups and leaders that try to prevent those of us who make it our living from taking on the challenge of providing the essentials of life for our fellow man.

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