Wasting too much money on redundant programs

Jim Suber

By A Contributor

Kansas Senator Pat Roberts was right the other day when he came out lambasting redundancies in government where nine agencies are funding programs along the lines of “know your food, know your farmer.”

As is Pat’s wont, he soon zoomed off into the humorous zone, mentioning that folks aren’t going to church next Sunday and shake the hands of the coconut farmer or the banana farmer. Obviously, that’s because we don’t grow those things commercially in the United States.

The senator’s point was that we are wasting huge amounts of taxpayers’ dollars running these kinds of programs in triple triplicate.

The trendy thinking that was (past tense is used here, because by the time nine government agencies have created bureaucracies to sell an idea, chances are that idea is passé) thought that pushing ways to lead consumers to knowing farmers and knowing food would somehow benefit all involved.

Think about it. Are you going to Chile to visit your grower of those sweet big seedless grapes? Are you going to western Kansas to visit an 8,000-acre wheat farm whereupon the owner-operator is going to hand out cute little sacks of flour?

Of course, we realize what the federal workers are trying to do, but that horse left the barn decades ago. Back in 1949, we had a lot more farmers and it was easier to know your farmer and know your food then. People actually gathered, cleaned and cooked their food a lot more often then. You really did get to know your food. Sometimes it was no treat to know your farmer, believe me. Some of them were as sour and nasty as the days were long.

One year several us in an after-school group used to gather at a home on edge of a truck farm. We used to watch through binoculars from an upstairs window the owner scream and curse and swing a rope at his hapless helpers. We boys were properly offended, and plotted ways to get back at that mean farmer, although nothing ever really came of it. I bet the USDA would be shocked to go back in time and see this fellow act out his frustrations on his hired hands.

Most farmers I know have enough problems without having to be a tour guide. Some of them don’t enjoy particularly working with other people in group breakout sessions. Some of them are jaundiced and cynical and worry about being sued by persons who actually go looking for situations to generate a lawsuit. What better place than a farm or ranch to wrench a back, take a fall, breathe some chemical, become infected by a pathogen or be bitten by a dog or rattlesnake?

That is not to say that most farmers I know and have known are not generous, thoughtful, smart, courageous, because for the most part they are. They live in today’s world, though, and I just bet they’re not inviting trouble out to their places without a great deal of forethought. One agency handling a boutique idea might be okay. But nine? No.

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