As this year has progressed we in agriculture have been given the opportunity to have our hopes risen on the news that the current administration is going to aggressively tackle a lot of the issues that we in Farmers Union have been fighting to change for many years –corporate concentration, especially in the livestock industry, Country of Origin Labeling, the evermore important climate, Right to Repair our own equipment, etc. These are all really important issues that desperately need action taken to address.

The concentration in the livestock industry became glaringly obnoxious in the midst of the pandemic when JBS, Tyson, and the others were making and continue to make grossly record profits that they were not trickling down to the producers, while at the same time the USDA was sending out livestock payments to producers to help them survive on the farm. In my thoughts that’s really just a direct subsidy to JBS, a Brazilian company, from the U.S. taxpayers. 

I vividly remember at the beginning of the Obama administration when many of these chronic issues were promised action on by the president, and they even went so far as holding a few hearings across the country on livestock concentration. Then he caved…

I will believe progressive change will happen when it actually happens. 

We have the same secretary of agriculture, Sec Vilsack, that served under Obama. He made a fortune representing the dairy industry the past four years so it’s kind of hard to imagine he will crack down on DFA who has flexed their wings way, way beyond what a farmer-owned coop should be. If DFA, a farmer owned cooperative, which reports say control over 55% of the milk flow in the country, still has record amount of producers going out of business then they have failed their basic mission for existence. A close friend whose wit and wisdom I have greatly respected over the years once told me that he thought coops should have charters that automatically sunseted after 10 years so that they would have to file to re-charter re-establishing their basic mission. 

To my knowledge the GIPSA (Grain Inspection Packers & Stockyards Administration) which was gutted during the last administration hasn’t even been put back together yet much less a new administrator named.

If change is happening within the USDA it’s at a snail’s-pace.  

We have a long-long way to go to actually make effective changes to the status-quo that has taken us down this path that has bled off so much of our rural wealth. The first step for us in Farmers Union encompassing our full membership was going to be our annual fly in to DC in September where we would hammer our message to all those on the Hill. We were going to have an in-person fly in to meet Congress and the USDA in person after having to hold a virtual fly in last year. Now we have converted this year’s to virtual again as this pandemic worsens for no logical reason. Pooh. 

The Virus

In my March 2020 President’s Report, I wrote:

We are grieving a lost innocence. This generation has just lost its invulnerability to a mere virus, it’s virginity to a pandemic, and it can’t comprehend that and is threatened. Previous generations have dealt with pandemics and world wars that required the entire nation to focus on the crisis and they did it. We will too. 

We are grieving because we are awakening to the realization that our lives and our communities aren’t going to be the same after the virus has run its course. Our lifestyle, our comfort zones, our coffee shops, restaurants, service industries, our churches and religions, etc. Which will survive this time of closure and how will they have evolved to do so? We have quickly adapted our lives to be able to work through the internet and physically distance ourselves from our norm, will that continue after the threat is over? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? 

We are grieving because there will be gaps in our umbrella of family and communities of some who do not survive the virus. They will be grieved. Immensely.”

As I review this part of last year’s president’s report I have to reflect on how much it has changed our world this past year, and on those within my circle of life that were taken by it that I grieve, and what the virus did to my own body and soul, and I fret is still doing a half a year after contacting it.

I am astounded that people still refuse a simple shot to avoid what my loved ones and myself have succumbed and suffered to by the damned virus. I was told by an infectious health care professional in a hospital here in Kansas on Tuesday, August 24th, that she had been on the phone solid for days trying to locate available ICU beds. She said that there was not one single ICU bed available in any of the 11 states surrounding Kansas that day. She also said that almost every Covid patient in those ICU beds were unvaccinated. 

KFU will probably lose some members from me writing this. That would be so sad… but my directions are clear. I’ve just been stalling hoping the pandemic would fade away. This is our Kansas Farmers Union policy special orders #1passed in December of 2020:

COVID-19 Pandemic

Since early 2020, Kansas and the nation have faced the rapidly growing spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. The pandemic threatens to overtake health care resources including personnel, ICU beds, equipment, supplies, etc. Rural areas – already with limited health resources, are hard hit. Bringing this disease under control is the top priority for protecting public health and maintaining a functional economy and the life of our communities – rural and urban.

Kansas Farmers Union (KFU) believes we must end the politicization of COVID-19, and support and practice the public health measures, grounded in science, known to effectively work: wear masks in public, practice physical distancing, avoid large crowds, limit social interactions in small groups, isolate when sick, and practice conscientious sanitization.

Government at all levels has a critical role to protect people and the institutions essential for maintaining key community and economic functions.

Please, just think about others, your loved ones, your community, the horribly overloaded health care profession, and those who crisis’s other than Covid that don’t have access to ICU, and get the damned shot!