the farmer's wife

Letter from U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey

Dear Friends:

Family-based agriculture faces an economic threat similar in scope to the one we endured in the 1980s. "The Farmer's Wife" makes that painfully clear. What is most troubling to me about the crisis in rural America is not so much the loss of revenue but the threat to a much more vital resource. When family farms are threatened, the danger is not just to the food they produce. The danger is to the people they produce as well.

Family farms are unlike any other businesses. There is no time clock that decides when the work day begins and ends. They manufacture their product out-of-doors, exposed to risks that no other business faces. I am sure many people wonder why, with all those risks, farmers do what they do. Why do they work from sunrise to sunset, why do they brave both the sweltering heat and the bone-chilling cold? Why? Simply said, because to farmers their farms are not jobs, they are not deadlines, they are not businesses--what they are is a part of them. This year farmers are battling not only their old adversary, Mother Nature, but other challenges too. Grain and livestock prices are at their lowest levels in more than a decade. Rail system problems make it difficult simply to get grain from farm to market. Land rental prices have increased by an average of 37%. The cost of living, especially for health insurance, keeps going up, even as commodity prices keep falling.

This all adds up without even mentioning the event over which farmers have the least control--the economies of foreign countries. Nebraska sends a third of its agricultural exports to Asia. Those markets are rapidly eroding. A bleak picture? Maybe. But the enduring spirit of the men and women who farm our land is up to the challenge. We must be there--as neighbors, as consumers of their product and, most importantly, as writers of laws--to help.

There are avenues we can take. We can expand export markets. We can lift the cap on loan rates. Whatever the steps, they must be grounded in the recognition that agriculture plays a unique role in our economy--because it is the only industry that manufactures its product out-of-doors--but, more importantly, agriculture plays a unique role in our national spirit.

We can fix this problem, which is so eloquently portrayed in "The Farmer's Wife." To do so, we must recognize both the problem and the national treasure that is the people who farm our land. This documentary is an important step toward both.

Bob Kerrey


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