January 16, 2019 Blog, Media

Op-Ed: ‘Crisis Is Not At Southern Border, But In Our Southern Fields’

By Jacob Goodman

This has been a hard year for farmers; a kind of year I have no doubt that if I reach the age of 60, we will still be talking about. An emotional rollercoaster, as we’ve seen a stable grain market hit with irreversible damage. A mind-numbing level of frustration, from dealing with a market so volatile and unpredictable that marketing advisors just shrug their shoulders at every question with a reply of “I don’t know.”

To relieve the stress and income loss caused by President Donald Trump’s trade war, Trump made a promise to farmers that with the Market Facilitation Program we will have a lifeline to hold onto. With a harvest already plagued with a frantic search for grain storage because of a mounding surplus of grain with nowhere to go, this was a promise we needed dearly.

Persistent precipitation, freezing temperatures, as well as the limited space at the grain elevators caused harvest to extend far longer than most ever thought it would. This though did bring out some of the beauty of relationships within agriculture. Many upon finishing their harvest turned immediately to neighbors offering equipment and manpower, even though they knew that this meant thanksgiving would be spent in a cab and not at the dinner table with family. This comradery and the primal instinct of “these are my people and they need me,” was never more evident than this fall.

Little did we know though that this extended harvest season would put more in jeopardy than imagined. The extension of harvest guaranteed that many farmers and landowners would be delayed in reporting and certifying the yield of their crops — a step that had to be completed in order to receive aid from the Market Facilitation Program. Because of this many found themselves delayed into the partial shutdown of our government.

This income then became inaccessible to them at a time when many needed it most to pay loans, this year’s seed, chemicals and fertilizer. We are not in this boat alone with many federal workers having to work without pay.

Now politics has taken hold and the comradery that was once evident has disappeared. A few individuals in agriculture and politics have shrugged this off with “they will still get paid after the shutdown is over.” For those individuals, my only rebuttal is that even though the government has shut its doors, doesn’t mean that the wolves still aren’t at ours. Where is Senator Mitch McConnell in all this? Here in his home state of Kentucky, we have a crisis and he is nowhere to be found.

Bills still need to be paid, food still needs to be purchased, and work still needs to be taken care of. This is a world that many find themselves in as the stalemate over funding a wall on the southern border continues. A policy decision that has halted aid during a time when farmers are working with 65% less income than they had just 5 years ago.

A decision that has halted aid even with the knowledge of the Center for Disease Controls study that revealed the suicide rate among farmers and ranchers is 5 times higher than that of the general public. A shutdown during a time that for some farmers and ranchers has meant an end of livelihood, a lifestyle, and somberly life itself. Are we in a crisis? Yes. A crisis that is not at our southern border, but a crisis that is in our southern fields.

Jacob Noel Goodman is a corn, soybean and wheat farmer at Walt Goodman Farms, Inc. in Fulton, Co. Kentucky. Goodman graduated from Murray State University with a B.S. degree in Agriculture Science, emphasis in Agronomy. Goodman is also the 1st District Director of the Kentucky Hunter Education Association.