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David Gaul
Shelby County Democratic Party Co-Chair


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David Gaul
Donna Clothier
Kathleen Cue

JUST A SMALL CONSEQUENCE

Allow me to vent... yet again.  What follows is entirely selfish and self-centered.  Cue the violins.

We all remember the recent government shutdown caused by Ted Cruz and his tea-bagger acolytes like Steve King, Mark Meadows, Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert.  He and they embody all that is bad in America and nothing which is good.  Their recent actions intentionally harmed the nation and the nation's people--you and me.  Nothing good came out of what they did.  Here's where it gets selfish, but bear with me.

Okay.  I'm a farmer, and as a farmer, I am aware of and appreciate the role of the federal government in the lives of farmers.   Way back before Roosevelt and the New Deal, the farmer's life was like walking across a high wire suspended over a gorge.  He either stayed on the wire and eked out a living, or he slipped off and tumbled into the abyss.  There was no safety net other than the limited charity of others, and that more often than not was hit and miss.

The New Deal changed farming when the federal government finally took a role as a partner in the lives of farmers.  The New Deal established a variety of farm programs that have for the most part enabled our country to become the leading agricultural power in the world.  One of these programs, the Commodity Credit Corporation, has been around since the dawn of the New Deal.  Today, the Commodity Credit Corporation, or CCC, is part of the Farm Service Agency, a division of the USDA.  It performs a variety of functions, but none is more useful than the government's commodity loan program. 

Here's how that works:  Once a farmer has harvested his crop and has it stored on the premises, he can take out a low-interest loan through the CCC using the stored crop as his collateral.   Each commodity, such as corn or soybeans, has a base price set by the CCC.  For soybeans and corn it's $4.91 and $1.89 per bushel respectively.  Both values are far below current market prices.  Nevertheless, in the fall of the year after harvest, the program enables farmers to raise revenue to meet expenses that have acrued over the course of a long summer without being forced to sell the crop at a time when it's typically not ideal to do so.  Market prices are usually at their lowest during the harvest season. 

The CCC program provides a farmer with needed cash while at the same time extending the marketing window during which he or she can take advantage of price increases that often occur in the succeeding months.  This is not a handout.  It's a loan that has to be paid back when the farmer sells his crops.  The government always gets its repayment before the farmer gets his or her share of the crop sale.  The loan rate, however, is extremely attractive, usually no more than 1.35%.  This makes it an invaluable tool.

I have used the CCC loan program for over twenty years.  My dad used it frequently during his time on the farm.  In 1952, for instance, he sealed--the old term used for getting a commodity loan--2000 bushels of corn.  With that money and with an old tractor to boot, he was able to buy a brand new tractor, one larger than the one he traded.  (Something not possible with the prices of today's new tractors.)  Later, during the following spring, he was able to sell the corn on the open market for a good deal more than what it was worth in the fall.  All this was made possible by the CCC loan program.

It functions the same way today, or at least it did until the tea baggers messed it up.  I use the CCC program in my farming operation to pay year-end expenses.  There are a lot of them.  (The violins are swelling!)  There's hail insurance, building insurance, farm liability insurance, rent, federal crop insurance, leftover crop production expenses, harvest fuel expenses, harvest machinery repair expenses, bull dozer expense for repair of terraces and waterways and on and on and on.  These are all private entities waiting for their money.  It they don't receive it on time, they charge interest as well.  So, getting the crop harvested and under loan is critical for a farmer like myself who chooses or has chosen to take advantage of this excellent farm program by setting up his farming operation to incorporate it.

The government shutdown has shut down this program for the time being.  It may be mid November before it's back up and running again.  Furthermore, because of the sequester, cuts will be made to this year's CCC program whereby 5-7% will be lopped off one's loan amount automatically.  As we all know, the sequester only came about because the tea baggers threatened to send us to default back in 2011, much like they did recently.  Thank you again, Steve King.

So, here I am like many other farmers across the country.  We're waiting in limbo.  Now, we're not helpless.  We can actually sell crop and raise revenue.  However, many who are in this program have established a routine of selling all of a year's crop in the succeeding calendar year; meaning that crop harvested in 2011 was sold in 2012, and crop harvested in 2012 was sold in 2013.  By being forced to sell a good portion of the 2013 crop in 2013 when a farmer has already marketed his entire 2012 crop, the participating farmer incurs a much greater tax liability. It can even put a farmer, especially a small farmer like myself, in another tax bracket, which can be extremely costly.  The other option we have is to borrow money from one's friendly, neighborhood banker and pay much higher interest rates.  Whatever option we choose, it means more money out of our pockets thanks again to the tea baggers.  We can also choose to ride it out and make people wait for their money, but that in turn affects their financial routines.

Now, I'm not looking for sympathy.  I and farmers who use the CCC are merely inconvenienced. The government shutdown and the sequester cuts have had and continue to  have far greater and graver consequences for so many other people across the nation.  I merely wish to illustrate by using a real-world example from my own small sphere of how the tea baggers do nothing that is good for our country.  Indeed, they specialize in doing harm and causing damage.  They create chaos and uncertainty.  They are a menance to the smooth functioning of this great country, and what they are continuing to do through their relentless sabotage needs to be stopped by any democratic means that we can muster.




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