Written for Aug 8, 2011 High Plains Journal
What are they smokin?
The list goes something like this: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington Carver, Justin Smith Morrill, Norman Borlaug, John Deere, Eli Whitney, Henry Wallace and Cyrus Hall McCormick just to name a few. Now imagine, if you will, the inclusion of Willie Nelson in that list of historical agricultural icons. Yes indeed, this may be one of the most ill-guided moves ever in recognizing agricultural leaders as the National Agriculture Hall of Fame says they are going to induct Willie Nelson into the Hall of Fame.
It is a complete embarrassment to the tremendous individuals that have already been recognized in the Hall of Fame and should cause us to question any credibility this organization might have.
Let’s forget for a moment that many refer to Willie Nelson as “America’s favorite stoner” and dismiss the 2008 CNN reports about Willie Nelson as the poster boy for tax evasion. Let’s just look at what he has really done for farmers.
First off, Willie Nelson has spent tireless hours campaigning to end horse harvesting in the United States. In June 2011 the Government Accountability Office released a report that documents that Nelson’s efforts have greatly reduced the horse welfare in the United States. Thank you Willie!
I have personally known family farmers that have had lawsuits filed against them by Farm Aid to prevent them from expanding their operations. In 2004, suits were filed against twelve farm families that I know of in Iowa and Minnesota. The Farm Aid organization has a history of working hand-in-hand with animal rights organizations that want to end animal agriculture altogether.
You don’t need to be very skilled in internet searching to find the most damaging stuff about this “non-profit” organization. This comes directly from their own website:
Farm Aid works with local, regional and national organizations to promote fair farm policies and grassroots organizing campaigns designed to defend and bolster family farm-centered agriculture. We've worked side-by-side with farmers to protest factory farms and inform farmers and eaters about issues like genetically modified food and growth hormones.
They have an extensive area on their site called “Know your food” which encourages consumers not to purchase any food that is produced in the most modern and efficient manner. Everything that Abraham Lincoln and Justin Smith Morrill accomplished in the 1862 Morrill Act, which established the Land Grant System and propelled the United States food production model into the role of world leader, is now being destroyed by this dope smoking hippie who has spent 26 years gathering funds to dismantle it.
So what has the $39 million Nelson gathered at his fundraising concerts accomplished for farmers in the past 26 years? Well, a bit of quick cowboy arithmetic tells us that they average only $1.5 million annually. Charity Navigator, an organization that ranks non-profits, says that since 2008 they have had revenues in the $1.1 million range. The first 20% of that goes to administration and fundraising expenses. Their rating as a non-profit dropped from 4-star in 2007 to 2-star in 2009. So you tell me how much real benefit has ever gone to any farmers from this project? It is minimal at best.
For those of you already revving up your email fingers to tell me “but Willie sticks up for the little farmer.” I tell you he gives them lip service and does nothing to help them in any way. In fact, I will tell you that Willie Nelson and Farm Aid work hard with every dollar they get to increase food insecurity in this country. Since their beginning, they have rejected the very science and technology that allows us to provide the consumer with the most affordable, safest food supply in the world.
In closing, I will share with you that Farm Aid has every right to spend their money as they see fit and people can continue to donate if it makes them feel all warm and fuzzy. But the truth of the matter is that if the National Agriculture Hall of Fame deems this man to be worthy of recognition in the same building as the individuals that laid the ground work for the greatness in American Agriculture then the future of our food producing machine is about to derail itself. One has to ask the obvious question about Nelson’s selection for this honor. “What were they smokin’?”
Trent Loos is 6th generation United States rancher who has taken his passion for the Rural lifestyle to the radio airwaves with a program called Loos Tales. More information can be found at www.FacesOfAg.com