Friday, February 18, 2011

Galatia, Illinois: Randy Anderson

You know, we ARE trying to be stewards of the land.  I look at it like this.  I look at the land and it's almost like a vehicle.  Okay, if you take this vehicle out here and you drive it back and forth to town just as hard as you can drive it, every trip you go, there's not going to be very many trips left in that vehicle.

In Benton, Illinois, on a hot day, we stopped at the local library to do some research and cool down.  We chatted with the librarian about our project, told her of our search for farmers, and she vanished for a few minutes.  When she emerged she had a sticky note with Randy Anderson's number and a smiley face on it.

Currently, Randy is recuperating from an injury that has his arm immobilized in a sling.  Two young boys played on the floor of his home, playing with John Deer tractor toys.  Their house is set on the same farm that Randy grew up on, amongst long Illinois crops, with typical grain storage bins in the driveway.   He farms about 3,000 acres of corn, soybeans, and winter wheat.  In this interview, he speaks of Roundup Ready crops and Bt corn.  These both refer to genetically engineered crops, a hot topic in agriculture.  

I'm part of the system and I'm part of the victim.  All of my soybeans are Roundup Ready.  Yeah, it's nice and easy to do.  The thing is, trying to grow traditional soybeans, there's not enough seed companies out there, and the majority of the companies are not concentrating any of their new development bringing any of the new traits, new genetics to the forefront as a traditional seed.  Meaning increased yield.  They put everything into this here other seed that's already got all the traits to it and then they send it out's kind of like walking onto a car lot and you got this model here to choose from but every model has got the same stuff on it except each one of them's a different color.  And then you go over to these other models and they don't got nothing.   They got stick shifts and no air conditioning.  That there's kind of like that traditional seed.

Randy seemed more skeptical than many of the farmers we spoke with, first suspecting us of having an "environmental" bent to our project.  We assured him that we didn't, and he started talking; nearly 20 minutes went by before we even asked our first full question. 

 A lot of people has a view that, you know, the farmer's out here and we're destroying the environment and we don't really care about what's going on.
Just seems like things is just not always as good as what they used to be.  I mean, there's so many things that I don't quite agree with anymore...I feel I produce as good a product or anything that I can out here on the farm, but by the time it gets to the consumer it's been messed with; I feel somewhat inferior.

I recommend reading this full interview; from a commodity farmer's perspective he speaks of politics, genetic engineering, pesticide use, and family history. 

Click here to read the full interview.

Do you have any questions for us before we start?

Well, um...Is this an environmental issue or anything?

What do you mean?

Most of the people out here that is in agriculture do have an aspect of looking out for the environment instead of just...a lot of people has a view that, you know, the farmer's out here and we're destroying the environment and we don't really care about what's going on.

Well, if you want to talk about that then feel free.  We don't have a take on it...
Okay.  Okay, I just wanted to ask...sometimes this stuff is know, we ARE trying to be stewards of the land.  I look at it like this.  I look at the land and it's almost like a vehicle.  Okay, if you take this vehicle out here and you drive it back and forth to town just as hard as you can drive it, every trip you go, there's not going to be very many trips left in that vehicle.  Same way with that land, if you go out there and you farm that land and you farm it to where you're not as friendly, like to help reduce erosion, and try to use the least amount of chemicals as possible, which...

You know, the least amount of chemicals possible, is more economical for me!  'Cause every time, if we do have to spray, I mean, that's money that I'm having to put into the inputs of that crop.  And doing that in that type of manner, and using just the minimal amount of fertilizer on the ground, instead of just overloading the ground with fertilizer.  Whenever it's overloaded like that, then when excessive rains come, it will wash down the streams and things of that nature.  Just like as if the ground's been worked up in a manner, comes excessive rains, it's gonna wash down the rivers.

Sayin' all that...if the soil's washed away...that gets back to the vehicle; you're just a-runnin' it as hard as you can.  And once that soil is gone, it's gone.  You know, they're not making any more of it!  That's the way I look at it.  It'll never grow like what it did prior to being washed away. 

So, that's one of my takes on, if you don't take care of the land, the land's not going to take care of you.

Sometimes there's people, they develop all these regulations, and I don't think they ever had a clue of what took place out here in the countryside.  All they've ever become accustomed to is, is a concrete sidewalk and thirty-story buildings and all they ever look out's a glass window.  And they think what they see on TV is just the Gospel, you know?  But I mean, I'm just one feller, and there's thousands of us out here.

And what's agrivating too, from my aspect of it, is, you know, in this country we try to produce a very economical and reasonably priced food source.  But then you take some of your bigger companies and they'll go out and we'll have food and things imported in from, say, Mexico.  Well, there's chemicals that they're using in Mexico that we have done long outdated and said, "No, we can't use them in the United States!"  But people's more interested in buying that cheaper stuff as they are looking out for their health later on down the road.  That makes me sit here, I'm following all the regulations, trying to do all the right things, but my food's not good enough...

And more expensive.


But I've been on this farm...I was raised here.  I'm 38 years old, and whenever I was old enough to drive a tractor, probably 10, 12 years old...that's what I've done all my life.  There's times that I've looked back and thought, "Well, maybe I should've left and went on to school, and maybe done something else or something or other."  Something that's an easier life.  'Cause in my profession, I feel know, I do have control over some things and there's a lot of things I have no control over whatsoever.

The control factor is, I'm the one that makes the decision what I'm gonna do TODAY, whether I'm gonna go to work or we're gonna have some leisure.  But whenever I go to work, if it's time to, for instance, be planting a crop, or mowing some pastures, or even getting ready for day might start at 7:00 in the morning and it might not end till 9:00 that night.  It's not like it's a nine-to-five job.  As I say, there's a lot people out there who, all they've got invested in their job is a dinner bucket.  You go to work for a company, yeah, there's people out there who went to school and they've got a college education...yeah, they've got that.  They're an educated person.  They've spent that money to get that.  Now they're hunting them a job to pay that bill to pay that education off, okay.  So let's say you get that education paid off.  Yeah, you've retained that knowledge, nobody can ever take that away from you.  But you're working for somebody else.  And you're working for a paycheck.  You've got an automobile, and your car payment, but that automobile's getting you to work.  In essence, that's you're only real true expense, where, in our line of work here, it's a business, in essence.  I've got capital and overhead.  Machinery.  Expenses.  I've got money invested out there to go out there and put that crop out.  Not necessarily the fertilizer and the chemicals and things of that nature, and then I've got labor and so forth.

Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of people, they've got hard jobs.  And I've got hard jobs, you know, but it''s a life that's all I could do.  It's discouraging when you talk to somebody and they just don't have no inclination of where their food comes from.  I have a friend, he's got a website, and one of his comments this week...and he's a fellow farmer trying to get across to people where their food comes from.  There was a statistic that 50% of the people still believe that food comes from the farm, and the other 50% think that the food comes from the grocery store.  The other story is, you run across people that think chocolate milk has to come from brown cows.  {Laughs}.

It's like, on my farm, the corn I produce is white corn.  Okay?  That goes into corn tortillas, masa, Tostito chip, things of that nature.  I get paid a little bit extra money for growing just white corn instead of regular yellow corn.  Your regular yellow corn can still go into making corn chips and things of that nature, but then a lot of times it goes into feed production for feedin' livestock.  What' neat is, sometimes whenever I go to the grocery store with my wife or family, or even myself, and I pick up that bag of white tortillas or know, that mighta come off of my farm!  You know, you have that...oh, I wouldn't call it that warm fuzzy feeling, but it still makes you feel important.

But there has been tough years.  We had one back in...ah, it was 2002.  It would be just like...I told a guy, "Now, you just imagine that you've got a $10 an hour job.  Or $20 an hour job.  And you've got at home $8 an hour worth of expenses on this $20 an hour job.  So then that leaves you $12 to go and buy extra goodies.  Your luxury items, things that you don't have to have.  But in that year, instead of me making, for instance that $20 an hour, I brought in $5 an hour.  But I still had that $8 an hour worth of expenses.  So we got $3 an hour going in the hole, and a year like took four years to recover from that, with the work of a good bank that's willing to work with you.

Here's the thing, I can put the right amount of fertilizer on, I can spray the correct chemicals at the correct time, I can buy the best seed that can be bought.  I can plant it all in a timely fashion.  I can harvest it all exactly when I feel it's possible to be harvested.  But if it doesn't get the right amount of precipitation on it, rain, it doesn't make any difference what I did.  That's where you lose control.  You gotta have faith.  With God.  That's just the way Iook at it.  You know, you get a closer feeling, that somebody else is in control besides yourself.

My father, he was a farmer.  I was probably 18 years old when I first drove my first tractor.  It was a little old Cub Farm-All.  Next thing you know, I'm driving a bigger tractor.  I can remember the first field I ever worked with a disc on a tractor.  I'd go down and I was discing this field...a little like mowing a yard, you know, if you drive too wide, you're gonna skip.  Well, I was out there and I'd drive too wide and I'd skip, and I'd raise the disc up, go back there where I started skipping and I'd drop the disc back in, here I go!  I didn't want Dad to show up and see that I'd been skipping and all that!  He showed up and he'd say, "Son, what's these here marks out there?"  I said, "Well, that's just where I missed."  He said, "That's alright."  He said, "You don't know until you do it yourself."

And my daddy gave me a good work ethic, to where when I was out there working, as you could say, side by side with him, he gave me an interest in something or other.  We used to raise fattening hogs, where we'd buy feeder pigs, pigs that weigh anywhere between 30 and 50 pounds.  We'd raise them up and fatten them off ourself. And this was back in...oh, the early '90's, shortly after I was graduating high school.  We'd run about 150 head of pigs, and we's running them on the ground, not on concrete.  They had a building to get inside and they had free run of the ground and all that.  That's when a lot of the movement was going to confinement hog operations.  Whenever I'd take my pigs in to sell, there towards the end, they was taking the hogs in and they done what they called "grade and yield."  That there's based upon back fat, how fat your hog is, how it's gonna kill out, how it's gonna dress out, whether it's gonna be a lot of lean meat or if it's gonna be a fettier annimal.  My hog that was raised on the ground, you know, he's out there in tougher conditions.  If it's cold outside, well he's gonna have more fat on him, you know, 'cause he's gonna have to stay warmer.  Where them hogs that was on confinement, they had more of a controlled environment.

The last hogs I took off I cleared $5 a head.  And I told dad, I said, "You know what?  We'll go out, and I'll go try to find me another 20 or 50 acres to rent."  Cause I said I'm not gonna mess with these pigs anymore.  For $5 a head...and it took me four months to get that $5! {laughs}  You know, and it just took all the fun out of it.  That's why a lot of the commercial confinement operations is still in business, is cause they can control more of the factors that I couldn't control.  And I don't agree with everything that they've's like you go buy pork chops in town and so forth, which...meat you buy at the grocery store's gonna taste different than if I took meat off my farm and took it to a locker or a local processer and had him butcher an animal for myself, brought home.  It just don't taste the same; I don't know what it is, it just don't taste the same.

Just seems like things is just not always as good as what they used to be.  I mean, there's so many things that I don't quite agree with anymore...I feel I produce as good a product or anything that I can out here on the farm, but by the time it gets to the consumer it's been messed with; I feel somewhat inferior.  What I mean about that is, some of these foods that have a lot of preservatives and things of that nature in wonder in your mind sometimes, why there is so many people that does have cancers.  I mean, you can go to the grocery store and there's them summer sausages sitting there at the checkout lane, and they're stacked, laying there on the shelf, and they're not 'fridgerated are they?  There's enough stuff in them that they're not rotting, and you're sitting there wondering, "I wonder how healthy that really is."  {laughs}  I mean, there's nothing wrong with dehydrated beef jerkey, don't get me wrong, cause there's no moisture in that!  It's just some of them other things {laughs}.

Was this the farm that you grew up on?


And is it the same size or have you gotten bigger?
We've gotten bigger.  There's been some property that, you know, a next-door neighbor, he was looking to retire and we was able to purchase some tract.  Our neighbor might have passed on and the estate put the property up for same and we bought it. 

Dad, whenever I was little, started off with about 350 acres and since that time we've owned about 750 acres.

Is that what you're farming or are you leasing some also?
I lease some too.  Total acrerage is somewhere up around 3,000 acres.

Over the phone you said you were doing some winter wheat, soy, corn...and some cow/calf?

Yeah.  And the cow/calf, reason we got them is we got some land here with the house that's not very productive for rowcrop farming.  It's better to be grazed then to work it up and try to produce something on it.  The farm's always, as far as I've know, has always had cows.  Actually, the way I got my start off in the cows is, when my dad was retiring he told me, "Now I'm gonna give you these cows but you gotta promise me one thing."  And I said, "Well, what's that?"  And at that time we had around 25 head of cows.  And he said, "Every cow that goes off this farm as gotta go up there to pay for that house that you just bought."  I said, "Well, I don't have no problem with that."  He'd went down to the bank with me and I'd bought a house and 10 acres.  Like I said, at the time he was retiring, and he said, like I said, "You can have these cows but every cow or any of the livestock that goes this farm, the money you get out of 'em's gotta go into that house payment for that loan."  But that didn't include whenever I had to go put up hay and paying for expenses of cutting hay and things of that nature, you know, there was them expenses in there!  But that made me draw a respect for him made me earn that house.  He didn't give me those cows and he didn't give me that house.  I still had to work to feed those animals during the summertime, during the wintertime, keeping the fences up, and keeping them fed and taken care of.  But then they helped provide for me, giving me a place for me and my wife to get started off with our family.  I took a house up there and within 6 years...I payed the loan off in 6 years.

So, did you transition pretty easily from your father to you?

Yeah.  My dad, he was very...he was up in his years when he got married.  He was 40 years old and he married a woman that was 20 years younger than him.   He told me, "Here I am working myself to death and I don't have any kids and I'm gonna have to get me a family started to leave some of this to.  'Cause at that time he'd had probably a couple hundred acres that he owned.  Him and my mom got married and the year after they got married, I come along.  That just thrilled him to death he'd got a son.  I just growed up, like I said, in the farm.  Soon as I got old enough to go out to the field and ride with him in the combine or something or other, I'd be right there.  My mother, whenever I got up to probably 4 or 5 years old, she got the opportunity to get a job outside the house and that helped bring a little bit more income in to the house.  She was a rural letter-carrier.  She left 7:30 in the morning, and then she didn't get home till 3:00.  During the summer months, then, I was with dad all the time.  Dad was my daycare!  You know, that gave me a knowledge of respect of others, your older people.  And a work ethic too.  Just not set around here and watch television and things of that nature and drink sody pops and eat tater chips all the time.  I always remember, especially on Saturday mornings, as a kid, you always want to sleep in or watch cartoons up till mid-morning.  But 9:00, buddy!  "Son!  You better get out here, it's time to get to work!"  I always respected my dad for that.

Then he passed away when he was 71.  It was 2001 wen he passed away.  He'd had diabetes.  You know, it was tough that year, and then the next year was 2002 and I had the bad year I was talking about.  So you had two bad years; yeah, a good crop year on year, but you still had the drama of dealing with your father passing away.  At that time, it was probably 5 to 6 years there that I was the one in control of the operation, making day to day decisions because he'd retired and was drawing social security.  But there was always had that crutch to go back to.  You wanted to come in to ask a question, you always had somebody to ask.  If you wanted to, say, drive around and look at the crops and see how things are doing.  That was gone.  And that was tough, very tough.  'Cause then I was the only one making those decisions.  You can make one wrong decision and everything's gone. 

What do you see the future of this being?  Are these guys interested (the two boys on the floor)? of 'em's pretty interested and the other one's semi-interested.  One of them, he has an inspiration that he wants to possibly go to school, and then he would like to be a fertilizer plant manager.  Or a fertilizer dealer, where he would sell chemicals and fertilizer and seed to other farmers and take care of them.  And then the other one, he wants to be a part of the operation and he wants his brother to work with him, and have another one of his friends help.  Myself, I would like to see one of the two take an interest in the farm and still want to farm.  You put all this here time and effort together, building a little something or other to leave to your other family members later on.  You do hate to see it just dismantled, I guess you could say.  It's almost kind of like, for instance, you know when you have a family name and you're the last one of that name.  Yeah, there might be some more Andersons out there somewhere, but it might be the last of that line.  I'm not saying carrying on a legacy, but it's just kind of carrying on a family tradition.

But my dad's dad, my grandpa, he was a farmer, but he was a farmer and a hobbyman and he had 12 kids.  They lived on a farm down there and they had 80 acres.  Of those 12 kids, 9 of them was girls.  So it was my dad, and then he had two brothers.  The youngest child of the family was a boy.  Dad was basically the only one of them that took an interest in farming.  Garndpa, he just did it because he had the 80 acres and he had the help to grit it out!  The girls worked just like the boys.  I always remember my dad talking about, whenever they'd go out and pick corn by hand.  He was the guy that always got to pick what they called the down-row.  When you take a team of horses and a wagon out in the corn field, you'll be three people.  There'll be a person on each side of the wagon and then there'll be a person on the back of the wagon.  Then you're driving that team of horses and the wagon through the field and them there rows that the wagon's driving over, that's called the down-row.  Well, that corn's already laying down and you gotta get down and shuck that ear off and bend over and pick it up.  Well, that was his job, to pick that.  He said, sometimes they would get out in front of the horses or the mules and he would pick it and throw it back into the wagon.  He always would tell me, he said, "there was always that one old mule, dang it, he'd bite me in the head!"  You know, nip at him! on the farm we never did have any horses!

What would be some ideal changes you'd like to see in the larger ag system? of the things I'd like to see changed is, for instance, there's a very large chemical company that has a very large contolling interest in agriculture.  There's people out here in the farming community I would safely say that feel somewhat like I do, that they control too much of what's being brought to the forefront of...some of the seed and technology things that's brought out here.  You'uns probably know what company I'm talking about.

I'm part of the system and I'm part of the victim.  All of my soybeans are Roundup Ready.  Yeah, it's nice and easy to do.  The thing is, trying to grow traditional soybeans, there's not enough seed companies out there and the majority of the companies are not concentrating any of their new development bringing any of the new traits, new genetics to the forefront as a traditional seed.  Meaning increased yield.  They put everything into this here other seed that's already got all the traits to it and then they send it out's kind of like walking onto a car lot and you got this model here to choose from but every model has got the same stuff on it except each one of them's a different color.  And then you go over to these other models and they don't got nothing.   They got stick shifts and no air conditioning.  That there's kind of like that traditional seed. 

The elevators now are trying to pay a little bit higher price for some of the traditional seed, but sometimes the added chemical cost that you have to put on the traditional seed doesn't offset what you're trying to get.  Like on my white corn, all of it is what you consider non-GMO white corn.  It's not got the Bt trait in it, but I'm not against that trait in that aspect because you can go and buy that Bt at some of your organic stores if you're gonna treat organic corn, 'cause it is a bacteria that you dust your corn with to keep the bugs from eating on it.  Only thing, they put that bacteria inside the plant.  Whether that's good or bad, that's to be seen too, I don't know.  But I'd rather have something like that in the corn than to go buy, say, summer sausages that been injected with no tellin' how much formaldehyde to keep it from rotting to start with, right?

This year it was available to us; there was actually Bt white corn available for me to purchase.  I declined to purchase it; for one thing they was gonna give me a discount at the elevator 'cause they're gonna segregate it, make sure they don't get it mixed up with non-Bt white.  I didn't want to have to worry about whenever I was harvesting corn whether this field was non-Bt and this field over here was Bt.  We've took some measures in the last couple of years, cause I've been growing white corn for the last 10, 15 years off and on, and about 5 years ago we had a late summer drought.  The corn plant got up there and got almost towards maturity, and then some of these here corn hybrids, they're bred to be like that.  They call them racehorse hybrids.  They put everything to that ear that they can possibly put in there to make a good ear of corn.  They'll do what they call cannabalize on theirself.  If there's not enough moisture, for instance, in the soil, it will start sucking the moisture out of the plant to put it to the ear.  To make sure it's gonna put a good ear of corn out there.  And sayin' all that, there was some other plant diseases that hit it, and a bunch of that corn went down.  Make a long story short, we had about 500 acres of corn that we had to harvest and it ruined the combine.  We was taking in so much dirt 'cause the corn had fell down, the stock quality was so poor.  But now, for the last 3, 4 years we been using a fungicide to help on diseases that come in and want to attack that corn later on in the season.  Our plant health has increased tremendously.  Trying different alternatives like that versus planting Bt.

So would you like some of these seed companies to develop something similar to Roundup Ready just to get some wider genetics out there?

Well, not necessarily even Roundup Ready.  I'd just like some of the seed companies to develop just, you know...I mean, have a traditional seed but have some of the new...

Focus on yield...

Focus on yields!  'Cause I mean...Roundup Ready's fine and dandy but I can show you a field down here that we planted June the 23rd.  Everytime we'd get ready to go plant it we'd till the ground all up.  Everytime we decided to go plant it, we knew it was gonna rain, so I wouldn't plant it, and it was already wet ground to start with.  So, like I said, finally, June 23rd we decided to go plant it.  Well, instead of working it up again and losing what moisture I did have there, 'cause it was starting to get dry, we had some weeds out there, and they was up yay high.  I knew when I planted into them that I wasn't gonna kill them.  I mean, we put Roundup on 'em.  Well, it wasn't actually Roundup, it was a generic, but it's glyphosate, and we put it on there and, as I say, we made 'em real sick.  About 3 weeks later, about a week ago, they was just starting to get as green as what they was when I planted into 'em.  Come to find out, them's resistant!  And they're gonna make seed!  For instance, one of them pigweed plants, they'll produce about 180,000 seeds.  So okay, you got one plant out there that's resistant, so now he's got 180,000 more...he'll produce maybe 18,000 resistant seeds and the rest of 'em may be not resistant.  That's one of the things, we're having to use different chemistries to control some of the weeds 'cause of the Roundup Ready deal.

Some people, I've got different farmers that are planting Roundup Ready corn, then they'll plant Roundup Ready beans, and they're hust continually Roundup Ready, and that's like a trainwreck waiting to happen.  To me it is.  It's kind of like fighting a cold and everytime you go to the doctor he gave you penicillen.  Okay, eventually you're gonna get so sick that it doesn't make any difference how much penicillen he's gonna give you, it ain't gonna work, is it?

Because you develop an immunity...

Right {snaps}, it gets a resistance.  Kind of like, you know, you'uns have head of them superbugs?  Like MRSA and all them.  There's certain antibiotics that's gonna take care of that.  Well, it's like some of these weeds out there, they...don't die. {laughs}

Any other questions?

Well, I'm curious, do you have issues growing a different kind of corn, surrounded by so much other corn with pollination...

Yeah, I have to watch...well, like even issues of growing my traditional corn with, for instance, Bt corn beside of it.  Yeah, it does cross pollinate somewhat.  I can't help that.  The main issue I have is like, for instance, if I got my regular corn and my neighbors got Roundup Ready corn.  And then when he sprays his Roundup Ready corn, he need to know which way the wind's blowing.  I don't care how good you are.  They make drift-retardant products, products to keep chemicals from drifting that we spray.  I use those products.  But a lot of it you gotta use common sense.  I've had a field where, I didn't spray it, but the neighbor had a commercial applicator spray it.  Here's these here two corn fields and the only way you can really tell my corn field from the neighbor's corn field is there's a post down here in the field that's the property line, and here's a post up here at the other end.  But you come around with a sprayer and you got the boom, and you think, well maybe it's in line...but you're setting in that cab and it's 40 foot over there to the end of that boom!  {laughs}  Boy, they come up there and they sprayed, and they was one row over too far.  It killed one row of corn all the way up through there. 

I had some issues back this spring too, where they sprayed a neighbor's corn with another product they call Ignite.  Used to be Liberty.  There's some corn out there that's resistant.  The custom applicator, they didn't flush out their spray rig good.  The guy running the spray rig, he though, well it'll be alright, this stuff here kills just like Roundup does.  Well that wasn't Roundup corn!  There was a small amount in didn't kill the corn, but it just made it so sick, it's like it's froze in time.  They've got insurance that's gonna pay him 'cause of their accident, but them on the other edge, whenever they was spraying down there beside me, they didn't watch what they was doing, they had the booms up too high, and the wind was a-blowing a bit more that what it needed to be, and it drifted onto some of my rows of corn, almost killed them too.  So that's the main thing you gotta watch out for is the drift and something or other on that.

What do you think that the role of the farmer in our society should be?

{sighs} I feel that he should be a person that has a knowledge of what he's out there doing.  And that he should have a knowledge of doing it in a manner that is not only environmentally friendly and safe to the environment, but its gonna be safe to his own well-being to his self and his family.  And it's gonna be productive enough that him and his family will make a living off of it, and that he won't necessarily be judged know, there's a lot of people... I'm an individual on this operation.  And I go down here to the next neighbor and he's an individual.  But you talk to some people and they think, well you're just a corporate farm.  There is some families that have formed corporations. And they've done that for various benefits of their own well-being.  Sometimes there's family farms and there might be 10 families, say, feeding out of that operation.  But saying all that, let's say those 10 families is farming 20,000 acres.  You break that down, that's only 2,000 acres per family.  They still have that sticker to them.  You know what I'm trying to say.  But they done that corporate thing for some other legal benefits to where maybe they'll be able to leave their farm for their family for the future. 

I just feel that, as time keeps going on by, that the American farmer will be viewed...the majority of people will view him as a corporate farmer.  Everything's just big business.  And I don't like that because I feel I'm still the family farm.  It's just me, my two sons, my wife, and my mom, she's still a part of this operation.

The thing, like I discussed earlier, that's a disouragement to me is that the American consumer is more interested in...importing in a car or a toy or various things of that nature is one thing.  Importing in your food, that's another.  Like I said, you don't know how that food's being handled. 

How can we avoid that labeling of farmers?

Well...I don't know how to answer that question.  I mean, I'm on a Farm Bureau board here in Saline County and we have a program we set up called Ag in the Classroom.  We hired a lady and she goes into a classroom environment and she tries to teach kids where our food's coming from.  You have two spectrums on that situation.  I consider this a rural community.  Our economic base is not agriculture-driven here; it's more of a coalmine-driven community, but still we're close to the land here.  You have an educator on one side of the fence here that...he or she absolutely loves our person to come in and help educate, bring a curriculum in that's science-based and the kids can get credit the whole other side where you'll have an educator and they don't even want you there.  If they don't want you there, you're not gonna get time in your classroom, and who suffers here is the kids.  They don't have that opportunity to learn where their food might come from and who's producing their food.

The true answer is, I don't really understand how it will ever become.  There's so many more people in this country that are raised in the cities and suburbs that have no farming background whatsoever.  I could go and talk to 10 people and, let's say 7 of them, "Oh, my grandpa used to farm."  Or, "My dad used to farm."  Or "My grandpa's got a farm."  But they just go to visit that farm.  And then when those people then have children, tehre's a possibility that the parent or grandparent's passed on.  And that farm's gone.  It just keeps getting further and further away.

The other side of that is, our know, I'm enrolled in some of the farm program payments.  A lot of people are like, "Oh, you draw money!" and all that...if they set up those programs and I qualify and I'm entitled to draw those moneys, I'm gonna take advantage of them.  Because they was set up for us.  Truth of the matter is, if there was high enough commodity prices and I made money and I never had to draw a government dime, that wouldn't bother me one bit.  Just like everything that the government always gets involved with, whether it's health care to the banking industry, whatever they get theit teeth into, it's usually not very good.  I've had older gentlemen tell me that they feel that someday the government could come out here and say, "Well...George Smith, you've drawed this amount of money off the government here and we want our money back or we're gonna take this land back away from you."  And I tell you what, way I see it is, that could come to pass!  They already put so many other regulations on us and if you don't comply with them, if you don't pay your federal income tax, they'll send you to the pokey, aint they?

One of the things I have difficulty with is property taxes.  Paying property taxes, in essence, is just like you made a mortgage payment.  You got a deed to this property, but you'll never own it.  You know, our forefathers, they sailed all the way from England to this country all because of what?  Taxes.  And my grandfather, born around 1898 I think, he told my dad, he said, "Son, there will be a day that will come and the property taxes on the land that you take care of will be so high that you won't be able to pay and they'll come and get the land."  Way that taxes keep raising and raising and raising, that will come to pass.

I put up a structure down here to store grain in, to help benefit my farming operation, to sell it more in a timely manner.  I didn't have that there grain bin up 2 months.  Guess who calls up.  Tax assessor.  Wanted to know how big it was.  How many bushels it would store, all that.  Got my tax bill the other day.  Doubled.  So, what encouragement does that give me as an individual to go out and better myself?  To help improve my operation?  Things like that's what I have difficulties with.


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