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The Future of the Family Farm

This morning as I write this, cash corn is at $2.15 per bushel. My grandson and I are out cutting hay, while his mother is at the hospital having her second baby–our first granddaughter. This all gets me to thinking about my grandchildren and their future in agriculture, if they desire it. Will they be farmers, or will they move to the suburbs? In 30 years will No. 2 yellow corn be at $2.15 per bushel?

When my Mom and Dad had their first grandson, Kenneth Michael Bolin in 1974, corn hit $4 for December 1974 delivery. My father and mother wanted all four of their boys to farm but knew their oldest, Roger, would be an attorney. The point is they believed there was a future for all their family.

By the mid 1990s, just 20 years later, my parents questioned what the future was for any of us in agriculture. This shocked me, as I had never heard this from either of my parents growing up. They were always quietly optimistic.

In the ’90s, they saw corn prices they had in the ’50s and ’60s when land was $300 an acre and living expenses were $2,000 per year, not three and four thousand per month. My point is about sustainability of our farms, families and rural communities.

Today many farmers do not want their children or grandchildren to farm in this economic and depressed market environment. We have taken away the hope of our old men. Had you told my father in 1974 that combines in 2006 will be $250,000, planters $50,000, living expense $40,000, and corn under $2, he would have said not possible and not sustainable no matter how many acres you farm.

Through the years, my parents were not closely involved in agriculture politics or policies. They were members of the Farm Bureau and carried their insurance. Like many farmers, they stayed home and left politics and policies to others. Before my parents passed away in 2002, they told me a story of two local farmers in 1965 that came on the farm to talk to Dad about ag politics, selling his hogs and grain with others, collective bargaining. They said that if we didn’t work together, the family farm and the rural community would be lost.

My father had no time or patience for any of this. He was proud, independent and busy raising a family. He told them to go home and just work harder, and it would all work out if they just managed better.

My final point is, Dad never told those two NFO (National Farmers Organization) men who came to his farm in 1965 that he regretted saying what he said, and more importantly, that they were right. He never told them he should have listened. He should have listened, not just for him and my mom, but for his children and grandchildrens’ future.

Take notice today, of who represents you politically … if not for your future, then for the future of your grandchildren.

KEITH BOLIN is president of the American Corn Grower’s Association.

 

 

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