By LINN HAMILTON
Special to The Progressive Populist
Farmers have been occupied chasing rainbows or illusions. An illusion is a false idea or conception: belief or opinion not in accord with the facts. An example of an illusion is when someone thinks that the rock he found is made of gold, but further scientific investigation indicates that it is only quartz or some other shiny rock. Farmers today have many illusions. The media, the creditors, and those who sell products to farmers and those who purchase farm commodities from farmers promote these illusions.
Illusion No. 1: There is a free market in the agricultural economy.
Illusion No. 2: If a farmer works hard and manages well he will succeed as a farmer in the free market economy.
Illusion No. 3: The road to prosperity on the farm is through the credit process. A farmer must obtain huge amounts of credit in order to succeed. Borrowing does not dull the edge of husbandry.
Illusion No. 4: The bigger your farming operation the higher your chances to be a successful farmer.
Illusion No. 5: Technology is the farmerís friend. The more technology you employ the better your chance of success.
Illusion No. 6: The global market is the salvation of the over-productive American agricultural economy. Without the global market the American farmer cannot exist.
Illusion No. 7: Our federal and state governments are the friends of the farmer. They will help us with our problems. Leave every problem in their hands and your success as a farmer will be assured.
These seven illusions are the foundation of American agriculture. Farmers have believed in them to the point where they have been the controlling beliefs of agricultural policy.
Farmers keep chasing these illusions like they were so many rainbows looking for the pot of gold at the rainbow's end, only to have the rainbow elude their grasp just when success seems to be near.
Those people who make a fat living from the farmer constantly promote these seven illusions. The creditor class who make loans to farmers, the corporations who buy and sell to farmers, and the technology crowd who sells their wares to the farmers; all these forces promote these illusions to the American farmer like they were the road to the New Jerusalem. They are all illusions and false from the American farmer's point of view.
The methods and practices outlined in the seven illusions do not benefit farmers as a class. Rather, they profit and serve the interests of the creditor class, the processor class, the corporate class, the Land Grant University class, the media and the government class. These illusions do not benefit farmers as a class.
Why do I assert that farmers do not benefit as a class? Simply because since 1930 until 1999 the class of farmers has been greatly diminished. From 1930 to 1999 our nation has lost 4.5 million farmers or 65,217 farmers per year during the 69-year period. During this 69 years the bankers, the corporations, the promoters of technology, the government and the media have become stronger and bigger and richer as a class.
By loaning money to farmers the bankers have gotten fat. By buying from and selling to farmers the corporations have had fantastic growth. By dreaming up new technology for the farmers the scientific community has become the new Gods of the new age. By telling us what to think the media has become our master. By ruling over us the government, which started out to be the servant of the people, has now become our master. The farmer class, those who created the agricultural wealth of the nation were denied any share in its benefits as their ranks were reduced by seventy percent from 1930 to 1999.
If this is a true reflection of the facts then one might ask why have farmers agreed with these illusions and even helped promote them in many cases? The answer is that they were fooled into believing in these illusions. The illusions promote the interests of non-farmers, but not the interests of farmers. Also, the alternative to the seven illusions, or the national party line in agriculture is sometimes hard to discern and quite muted in its profile.
The power structure is also opposed to any viable alternative, which would permit farmers to thrive economically and to grow as a class and to share in the benefits of the agricultural revolution. Farmers have also promoted the cannibalization of their own class. A process in which each farmer engages in a contest to see which one can beat the other in an economic race that grants no quarter or mercy to the less fortunate members of the class.
This theory fairly well explains the demise of the American rural community in the 20th Century. How a loyal, God-fearing, hard working class of rural producers were dispossessed of their land, their livelihoods, their homes and their heritage by a greedy, rich creditor class who desired and got the land, the livelihoods, the homes and the heritage of the rural middle class in America. At the turn of the century you can turn out the lights in the rural areas of our nation on the rural middle class of producing farmers.
Linn Hamilton is a rural advocate based in Washington, Penn. Email firstname.lastname@example.org