Bailing Out

Through geekery alone, my knowledge is significant. I can crack open a book, read, and absorb information; surf the internet and flex my Google-Fu; take classes and attend seminars. The possibilities seem endless. But there are limits. There are things that you cannot fully understand until experienced through hands-on application. I can argue superiority between Star Trek and Star Wars because I've seen all the movies and TV shows; I've played video games and board games related to both franchises. I've experienced both fandoms so my knowledge is equally practical and intellectual.

However ...

There are things where (until recently) I've had no need to learn through visual, auditory, or kinesthetic pursuits. Farming is one of those topics. During 1985’s Farm Aid concert, I knew American growers faced a financial crisis, fighting against political pressures. However, I was only six years old so the technical details and shifting dynamics in our economy were far beyond my grasp. I knew nothing of the changes corporate agriculture had on independent and small family farms. First grade curriculum doesn’t include the concepts of supply and demand, property rights, mass production, or GMOs. Even as I got older and learned about economic principles and American civics, costs and efforts required to harvest food were irrelevant to me. I was a product of the suburbs, completely disinterested in the agrarian lifestyle. I saw the American heartland as endless amber waves of grain, boring scenery between me and Grandma's house. I valued purple mountain majesty and fruited plains, preferred the scent of cedar groves and alpine meadows over dairy air, and would rather hear honking horns than mooing bovine. I was content to keep it that way. If I could go to the grocery store and buy prepackaged delights, then the plight of the farmer was not my concern.

Priorities have shifted over the past several months. Farming is no longer something other people do; it's a part of my daily life. My health improved because of the work it takes to build fencing and stack hay. I appreciate the view from my back porch where I watch the sunset every evening. I love the darkness at night, revealing a vast expanse of stars undiminished from the light pollution plaguing city folk. I also understand how hard you must labor to enjoy this life and how much it costs to maintain it.

We love our horses. Horses eat a lot of hay. Hay can be expensive - especially when the horses eat (roughly) a ton of food each month.

Until now, the financial side of equestrian care was a foreign subject. Money spent on field fencing is staggering for someone who has never investigated those prices. A trip to the theater for the newest Marvel movie (including soda and popcorn) is cheap compared to the price tags on saddles at the tack shop. I've been exposed to the world of rodeos, household repair, and farm maintenance. I now spend time in North 40 and Home Depot the same way a younger version of me once occupied Hastings and GameStop. I’ve become familiar with how expensive it is to maintain a farm with goats, geese, ducks, chickens, horses, and a free-spirited rabbit who does whatever it wants; I also see how hard my neighbors work with their pigs and cattle. We purchased hay from local farms - all of which are grown and harvested by young families or old men wanting to be productive after retiring from the workforce. I’m grateful for how much they spend on equipment and the hard work they do to cut and bale the hay we buy to feed our animals.

When I hear people talk about their motivations behind voting or Trump, it makes sense to me. Vibrancy fades once you get out of urban centers and bedroom communities. Small towns in rural America have been shrinking. I've driven through many dwindling municipalities with boarded up windows, signs announcing store closures, and empty streets on what should have been a busy day filled with people shopping for goods, services, and supplies. Their populations are leaving for better opportunities in bigger cities, costs of running a farm are increasing, profits from selling meat and produce are slimmer. Their way of life is slowly disappearing. Livelihoods of many Americans depend on their land, their crops, their livestock. They see an uncertain future, a possible end to their lifestyle. Justified or not, many of them blame Obama and Democratic policies for these changes. Afraid of losing everything they've ever known, they believe Donald Trump was the only candidate who cared about them. They thought Trump was the one would protect the familiar, he would be a champion of their values and interests.

Economic, social, political, and demographic insecurity. They were unsettled by changes in the populace from gay rights and immigration to lower attendance in their churches every Sunday morning. They saw massive societal shifts and it scared them. People who are anxious of losing their status, power, or influence can act irrationally. Fear makes us stupid. Trump tapped into those fears and exploited them. Now, the farmers who voted for him need rescue from the negative impacts of his administration.

It's sad because it was all entirely predictable. We could see this coming. Trump campaigned on promises of trade wars and tariffs. Democrats raged against his plans. Comedians and late-night talk show hosts mocked him. Conservatives voiced tempered concern. Economists predicted disaster. When Trump threatened trade wars, we all knew it wouldn't end well. We all knew what would happen. Those of us who opposed Trump tried to warn everyone. Yet Trump still won the election. The predictions of doom came true and the people hurt the worst by Trump's tariffs are (or were) his biggest supporters. Trump offered a $12-billion bail out to offset the consequences of harm caused by his trade war.

Money fixes everything.

How do you get a slice of that $12-billion pie? Our farm needs two more pastures fenced in, a new round pen, deer fencing erected so we can start our garden, privacy landscaping planted to shield our pool from view of people driving by, and several trees need to be felled or pruned. A pest control treatment would be nice. Our work truck broke down and needs replaced. When you live on a farm, there are always a list of projects you'll complete if/when you get a little extra cash. Our list is a little longer than most.

Realistically though, my family won't qualify for any funds. Nor will my neighbors, or the ma & pa farms where we purchase hay. Operations like ours are ineligible. The $12-billion will not be going to independent and family farms with small acreage. Instead, large corporate owned farms are getting it. Companies who stock the frozen foods isle at major grocery stores. Ag-industry giants who supply beef and French fries to fast food chains. The bailouts are gifts to big businesses, not to the people who need it most.

Let’s treat those poor farmer-CEOs the way many conservatives malign impoverished Americans. They don't deserve welfare, need a hand up not a hand up. It's time they pull themselves up by the bootstraps. They're just lazy. I don't pay my taxes so these people can have money handed to them – no strings attached. Who do they think funds their free lunch? They better not be buying beer or cigarettes. If they're unable to pay their bills, they should go get a second or third job. They could drive their tractors for Uber or list their farms on Airbnb. Perhaps they should be drug tested before they get a bailout. Why not drug test all their employees? Hopefully none of those employees are undocumented workers; we'd have to deport them.

If all else fails, we can vote differently in November than we did in 2016. We might still be scared; hopefully we're smarter.

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