Auctioning our Future

For too long we have romanticized the family farm. We have romanticized farmers and their rural American lifestyles. And now, when the family farm is nearing extinction, farm families are suffering immeasurable pain and loss, and rural America is going the way of many a mining-turned-ghost town, many Americans are unable to see the suffering.

But there has never been anything romantic about getting up at 4 a.m. to milk the cows. There is nothing romantic about watching a long-nurtured crop be destroyed by drought. And, melodramatic movies and televised benefit concerts aside, there is nothing romantic, nothing at all inspiring, about a four-generation farm family struggling desperately against the political, financial, and corporate powers-that-be--and losing. There is certainly nothing romantic about suicide prompted by despair and financial desperation.

There is a profound crisis in American agriculture, and the time has come to stop romanticizing it, to stop ignoring it, to stop thinking that next year's crop will take care of it. American farmers are reaping a harvest of debt and pain that threatens to destroy not only their families and their livelihoods but an entire way of life. And, as always, what happens on the farm will be felt in the cities.

The foreclosure of American farms portends the erosion of basic social and moral values, the further monopolization of our economic and social institutions, and the greater abuse of our environment. Sitting on the auction block, offered for sale by corporate America to the most "efficient" bidder, is nothing less than the economic future of our country.

The bankers, the government, and the corporate giants would have us believe that struggling farmers have been irresponsible. But it is time to acknowledge that our short-sighted farm policies have long manipulated farmers for the sake of trade balances, diplomatic leverage, and profits for the few.

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