Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How to Level the Playing Field

I just have to say this first thing ... I really enjoy each issue of "Graze" that I receive and read the entire publication cover to cover in the first few days. The articles are great and are often written by farmers who are out there trying to do things differently. There are also many thought provoking things in each issue. One of those things that made me think recently was Jim Van Der Pol's column titled, "Why unions are important to small grass farms." I will read anything with a title like that!

Like I said, it is a pretty interesting piece, but more than that I think it is an article that will make you think about your farm, the farms around you, the food you eat, and your core values. If you don't believe that there could be a very thought provoking article in "Graze" then just read this opening sentence, "For some years now I have been answering the question about a good and fair farm policy by saying that we need a decent universal health care system."

That sucked me in big time! Mr. Van Der Pol's basic premise (as best as my tiny mind can understand) is that we need to level the playing field, especially in the world of farm products that need processing (livestock, etc.). He uses his own farm as an example because they raise livestock and direct market to customers using a local small processor who pays his employees a decent wage for their work. Because of that he contends that his products have a wide gap between conventional products produced in a feed lot and processed at a large processing plant with cheap labor (can't disagree with that).

The conclusion that he has come to is that small farmers can no longer take a hand's off approach to the government. He writes, "the fact of the matter is that if we are not willing to grab the government and use it, then it will be used against us by those more powerful than we."

While I can't wrap my mind around universal health care or a union of small grass farms I think there is one thing that I take away from Mr. Van Der Pol's article. I agree that we can not just stand idly by and let others "grab the government" to use against us (see NAIS), and although I don't like the idea of using the government I do think we can work with the system and use it to make the changes that need to be made for our country and our farms (without creating more government).

My inspiration actually comes from across the pond. If you haven't seen the movie "Amazing Grace" I encourage you to check it out, but what I think we can learn from England is how William Wilburforce (and others) worked in vain for the government to end slavery, but it wasn't until they started playing the game (I don't think that means unions and universal health care) that they were able to win the fight.

What do you think? Are unions what we need to get changes in the broken system, or should we realize that working outside of the system is going to be best in the long run? Good questions to think about...


Blair said...

I looked up "Graze" and was intrigued by what I read on their website:

"Graze is a publication devoted to promoting management-intensive grazing and family-scale livestock farms.

Each of our 10 annual issues is packed with moneymaking ideas from "real" grazing farmers and ranchers who make their livings from the land."

Where did you find out about this publication?

sugarcreekfarm said...

I'm glad you recommended Graze a while back - I subscribed to it for Matt for his birthday and he's enjoying it.

jacksmith said...

Finally, the time has arrived to fix Americas Healthcare crisis, and Americas healthcare knightmare. Hundreds of thousands of you are killed needlessly every year by your healthcare delivery system in a rush to profit. And because of a rush to profit Hundreds of thousands more of you are needlessly dying from treatable illness that people in other developed and civilized countries don't DIE! from. Rich, middle class, and poor alike. Insured, and uninsured. Men, women, children, and babies.

Additionally, thousands more of you are driven into financial ruin, and bankruptcy just because you, or one of your loved ones got sick or injured. And all of this is happening at a time when America spends twice as much of it's GDP (Gross Domestic Productivity) on health care than any other country in the developed world. Individual Americans spend about ten times as much on health care as any other people in the developed world. This is a CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY. AND IT MUST END!

But before we can truly fix this healthcare crisis and disgrace, everyone needs to clearly understand what the problem is. And everyone needs to clearly understand the real enormity of the problem. The problem is that HEALTHCARE AND MEDICAL DELIVERY IN AMERICA IS SEVERELY CORRUPTED AND COMPROMISED BY GREED! AND THE PRIVATE FOR PROFIT MOTIVE. And it is corrupted, and compromised IN EVERY ASPECT, AND EVERY PLACE OF HEALTHCARE AND MEDICAL DELIVERY. Unfortunately for all Americans, compromised healthcare ALWAYS results in needless suffering, injury, disability, and or death. Which is exactly what is happening now in America in shocking numbers.

Health care is NOT! a private for profit business. Healthcare is an essential public service. Like police, and fire. And healthcare is also a human right! PRIVATE FOR PROFIT HEALTHCARE IS AN OXYMORON, AND AN IMMORAL AND UNETHICAL PERVERSION OF HEALTHCARE AND HUMAN RIGHTS.

So how do we fix this healthcare disgrace? I believe the fix for Americas healthcare disaster is essentially the same thing that every other developed country in the World has essentially done. "NOT FOR PROFIT, TAX PAYER SUPPORTED, SINGLE PAYER, AUTOMATIC, FREE UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE FOR ALL. Essentially HR676 (enhanced, and expanded medicare for all). Just like every other CIVILIZED! country in the developed World has. There is no other way to truly fix and reform our current disastrous healthcare delivery system.

All Universal health care systems work best when everyone participates. But I know that the healthcare lobby, and some politicians will try and undermine "Not For Profit, Tax payer supported, Single payer, Automatic, Free Universal Healthcare for all" by falsely claiming that it will limit your choice, and require you to participate.

So, I propose that everyone be included in the national plan unless they choose to opt out. If you opt out and need medical care the national plan will insure your provider that they will be reimbursed under the rules for members in the national plan. But those who opted out, and their insurer will be responsible for the FULL! cost to the national plan for providing your care if you or your private insurer fails to reimburse the provider or the national plan in a timely manor to at least the standards of the national plan.

Including reporting you to credit agencies, withholding of taxes, leans, and garnishment of wages for unpaid medical bills. Just like you have now under private for profit healthcare, and private for profit health insurance.

Further, people who opted out will be required to provide proof of financial responsibility for future illness or be required to participate in the national plan. And everyone with children will be required to participate in the national plan. Or provide proof of insurance coverage on each child to the standards of the national plan. It will be against the law to report anyone in the national plan to a credit agency for unpaid medical bills.

Frankly, only a dope would want to opt out of the national plan and opt to keep our current disastrous private for profit medical, and insurance plans. But they will be free to choose. The most important thing is that the vast majority of Americans that want the protection, benefits, and higher quality of a universal national plan have that choice.

You see, one of the most important aspects of a universal healthcare system is easy access, and patient protection. This is accomplished by having a single payer without a conflict of interest in patient care. And by having a payer who has the power to enforce minimum standards of excellence in healthcare delivery for everyone in the plan. This is much of what Medicare does now for senors. "Aeger Primo" (The patient first). Unfortunately in our healthcare system the patient comes last. We are just a peace of meat to them. Cash cows to be slaughtered for profit.

So this is IT! my fellow Americans, My fellow human beings, My fellow World Citizens. And my fellow Cyber Warriors. :-) The time has come. D day. H hour. HEALTHCARE REFORM THIS YEAR! Let no one stand in our way. Contact your representative and tell them you want "Not For Profit, Tax Payer Supported, Single Payer, Automatic, Free Universal healthcare for all. And tell them you want that choice now. Tell them you want President Obama's budget passed without delay. President Obama's budget is brilliant. And exactly what is needed now.

President Obama, and his allies will need all the support you can give them. The healthcare lobby will try to take out his people if they can, like they did with Tom Daschle and Nancy Killefer. And they will try to neutralize President Obama's popularity, and political power. Or they will try to take him down someway. Don't stand for it. If they attack him. Go after them ten times harder and remove them from office. We had an election. And you the people chose President Obama's leadership, and change agenda. Let no one in government disrespect the will of the American people and remain in office.

To President Obama, his Cabinet, the Congress of the United States, and the Supreme Court. I have noticed for some time a disturbing tendency for key members of your bodies to come down with illness, or medical problems at critical legislative times. This may just be coincidence. But I can tell you that there are a million subtle ways to medically injure someone just by doing nothing when something needs to be done. Or by doing things to someone when nothing needs to be done except to give them reassurance. I know for a fact that there are those that would have no qualms about hurting any of you to preserve our current disgraceful medical status quo.

So, I recommend as a matter of national security that you enlist the help of a friendly power to regularly review, and oversee the medical care you receive from your local regular healthcare providers. Briton, France and many other countries have excellent medical providers. As well as Canada. Briton, and Canada may be less of a language barrier for Americans.

Let's get this healthcare reform done now my fellow Americans. This year. Take no prisoners.

God Bless All Of You

Jack Smith — Working Class :-)


Yeoman said...

Um. . . Jack, I don't think that Ethan was looking for a lengthy discussion on health care.

Yeoman said...

Well, I think my view is obvious. I've been arguing all along that small farmers need to look towards the government leveling the playing field.

Unions are unlikely to achieve that goal, but organization is necessary. Small farmers, together with their natural allies, need to get together. Without allies, small farmers can forget achieving anything. Fortunately for us, however, there are many who will work with us. Conservationist, pure food advocates, land use activists, etc., all have a place here.

My fear is that farmers are so single minded that, over the years, they've proven to be very easy to sideline. Farmers tend to be willing to pick fights with their allies, and their allies with them.

There is some hope. Here in Wyoming we've just seen the Conservation organizations sponsor a "Thank A Rancher" campaign, thanking ranchers for keeping our state open, and advocating for ranching as a result. In the past, many of these groups might have been picking a fight with each other.

This is a good time to take on this topic. The economic downturn here in the country points out the weakness of the huge Walmartization of our economy, and points towards a more local, more Yeoman if you will, economy being more sustainable. We should strike while the iron is hot, but we'll need lots of help to keep the forge hot.

Anonymous said...

A level playing field would be great---we should work toward it. But to trust the government is perhaps not the wisest course. Note especially verses 3, 5-7.


Psalm 146
1Praise ye the LORD. Praise the LORD, O my soul.

2While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.

3Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

4His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

5Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:

6Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:

7Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The LORD looseth the prisoners:

8The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous:

9The LORD preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.

10The LORD shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the LORD.

Rich said...

A little off the topic, (but related to the recent Dirt Hog posts), the sample pages of "Graze" had an interesting article by Mr. Van Der Pol about his sow grazing system.


It contains some interesting details about his fencing, pasture mixes, and grazing management. If the other articles in "Graze" are similar to the sample articles, it looks like it is an interesting and informative publication.

Anonymous said...

the problem with "leaving the playing field " is that everyone wins no matter how much effort they put in. If some one puts in 90 hours of work in in a week they get the same as some one sitting on there couch gets , the way it works now is the more effort you put in the more you get. Around here there is a saying "what every does not kill you makes you stronger" having to work for something make you appreciate it. If everything is just given to us we start to take it for granted.

Anonymous said...

I wonder, have you read The Lord of the Rings? That kind of power can not be used for good, it corrupts all it touches.

Those who argue for universal health care seem to overlook what it takes.

Just as we who farm must be well aware of what it requires to eat meat; those who argue for universal health care need to be well aware that they are speaking of using force to enslave others.

Question: Since food is also a universal need. Should farmers be allowed to grow anything they want and charge what the market will pay, profiteering on the backs of the hungry? If not, then who decides which crops you raise, what rotations you use, how many hours you work, what prices you charge?

Ethan Book said...

Lots of good discussion here. In fact just as much thought-provoking stuff as in the article that prompted this post.

A couple of things:

1.) I'm not much up for a health care debate ... but, I'm not really in favor of universal health care. If that is your thing that is fine, just isn't mine.

2.) Trusting the government (or any other earthly thing) will always be risky. But, I do know that we are supposed to prayer for our leaders ... no matter what we think of them.

3.) The Mr. Van Der Pol article on his pigs is AWESOME ... you are completely right about that Rich.

4.) Anonymous #1 - I don't thinking leveling the playing field means that we are talking equal compensation no matter how much you work. Rather a level playing field for most small-scale farmers would mean less government intrusion and maybe less government payments for various things in the agricultural world. Or something along those lines.

5.) Anonymous #2 - I read the Book-In-A-Minute version of Lord of the Rings (and watched the way longer than a minute movies) and I agree that power can have a huge negative impact on people. But, I think my example of Wilburforce and others in England showed that you can work within the system to bring about very NEEDED changes.

And, I do think farmers should be able to produce what they want ... if they can't sell it at the price they want then they won't make it. The problem is that now that is difficult because there is lower priced food out there (that is a huge can of worms I'm not opening) competing with direct marketed food sold directly to the consumer and processed at local facilities that pay a living wage to their employees (the one we use is a great family business that has a wonderful impact on the entire small community that it is in).

6.) And so I don't forget ... Blair, I'm not sure where I found out a about it, but I do enjoy it. There may be a dairy bent to the publication, but really it includes all aspects of grazing and has been encouraging and informational. Also, I'm glad Matt has been enjoying "Graze"!

Thaddeus said...

What form would a union of small farmers take? I haven't read the article you mentioned in "Graze", so I don't know if this was answered there.

I can think of two types of unions. One type gathers in force to lobby the government together. I imagine that is what is being recommended.

The other type of union is the kind that allows the members to strike in order to prevent abuses. I can't imagine a bunch of small farmers going on strike.

Perhaps you could delve more deeply into this on one of your posts. I enjoy your blog.

Rich said...

Thaddeus - there a book from 1920 available online that talks about organizing a Farmers Union at:


I have only scanned through it and it was written in the era of the dawn of Marxism, so it is possible that is a pro-Soviet collectivism endorsement. But, it might help the reader gain a better understanding of the pros and cons or the hows and whys of unionizing farmers.

Mellifera said...

I thought PFI was a farmers' union. : )

Putting aside questions of how (or why, or if) some kind of universal health care provisions could be made, this hit me the other day:

Whether or not there's health insurance has made a big difference in whether or not I take a job.

With the tax/incentive structure the way it is, large corporations are in a much better position to offer health insurance to their employees. (The current health care system is most certifiably NOT the result of "the guvmint keeping their hands off.")

This places small businesses at an immense competitive disadvantage when it comes to hiring quality people.

Since when is sticking it to entrepeneurs what America is all about?

(I might add that the US is losing manufacturing jobs to Canada, of all places, because companies don't have to shell out megabucks for their employees' health care. So if we're serious about stopping outsourcing, health care is something we need to consider.)

Again I have to wonder- if peoples' only chance for health care wasn't working for a huge corporation, how many people wouldn't be starting their own businesses. How many farmers aren't able to devote themselves to it full-time because they need an in-town job for health insurance (aside from just the extra income)? How many more people do you suppose would be able to leave the rat race and start farming if it weren't for that health insurance trump-card that city jobs hold?

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