Even for the Middle East, a region of the globe where unrest seems to be an everyday fact of life, the unrest of recent weeks is extraordinary. Regimes are crumbling, and no one really knows how the revolts and revolutions will play out in the end. As a result, oil prices are skyrocketing since much of the world’s oil supply is dependent upon this unstable region.
The timing of crude oil hitting record highs could not be worse. The United States is trying to pull out of the deep recession. During this time of stressed budgets, government is looking for ways to slash spending, and agriculture is in the path as the time for rewriting the Farm Bill approaches.
We could totally eliminate farm programs that benefit farmers and still only put a very small dent in the real cost of the Farm Bill which pays for food stamps and other food assistance programs. With so many people out of work, eliminating food assistance programs is unthinkable.
We do not know what we are facing with regard to our future fuel supply, but consider what we could be facing if we were dependent upon the Middle East countries not for our fuel, but for our food. Imagine the inflation we would witness right now for every speck of food we eat if an organization similar to OPEC had a monopoly on the world’s food supply. Thank goodness they do not, and we must keep it that way.
March 13-19 is National Agriculture Week, a time Americans should be thankful we have the world’s best food production system. No matter how many community gardens there are or how many cities follow the lead of others to allow people to raise chickens in their backyard, these efforts are not going to feed the population of the entire United States.
In general, what benefits agriculture in America benefits all Americans. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers need and deserve the support of the American public. To me, that is the most important message of this National Agriculture Week and every other week of the year.
(Denny Banister, of Jefferson City, Mo., is the assistant director of public affairs for the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.)