Why Should We Subsidize the Local Farmer?

Despite a strong effort on the part of the Loudon Agriculture Commission, of which I am president, our warrant article to pass an addendum allowing a 90% discount on the land portion of agricultural buildings was voted down.

Sadly, even some of the farmers voted against it, which mimics a fear and distrust of anything governmental.

To be fair, the addendum would have helped probably only a handful of farmers and we have no idea what the cost impact to the town would be until those people came forward to apply for the discount, but considering they raised the town budget by over $7000 to save the full time job of one resident, it seems odd that they wouldn’t vote for the same funds to help the local farmers.

In the words of one of the local residents, “Why should we subsidize the farmers?”

Whether he was just trying to make a point or is truly that ignorant, I am not sure. However, I understand that even today people still do not understand how vital local farmers are to our overall survival.

I know I have written about this before, but I believe it bares discussion again. Let’s start with recent history.

A little over a year ago, a local grocery store chain went on strike. It went on for several months. Dealers refused to deliver food, shelves were empty and the other two major chains struggled to make up the demand. Even the politicians became involved. It was pandemonium.

That was one chain in one little corner of the world…our corner. What happens if truck drivers go on strike? Did you know that if the trucks stop rolling (for whatever reason) grocery stores would run out of food in three days? Then what?

Let’s go back a few more years, shall we? The headlines in 2006 read, “1 Dead, 50+ sick from tainted spinach” http://www.cbsnews.com/news/1-dead-50-plus-sick-from-tainted-spinach/

Many people today forget that less than ten years ago, spinach was making people very sick. But not local spinach…bagged spinach you buy at the grocery store.

How about this?

“Four-State, 11-Person E. coli Outbreak Prompts 1.8 Million-Pound Meat Recall http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2014/05/4-state-11-person-e-coli-outbreak-prompts-1-8m-pound-meat-recall/#.VQWYrGTF-Ks

You may think this was something that happened a long time ago. But read again and click the link. This was in 2014. Sadly, Ecoli outbreaks in meat are common enough that they don’t always make the news.

Don’t believe me?

“CDC counted at least 75 outbreaks associated with beef over the five-year period between 2009 and 2013. Of those, 35 percent were caused by E. coli O157:H7 and 23 percent by Salmonella…” http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2014/10/cdc-shares-mass-of-data-on-e-coli-and-salmonella-in-beef/#.VQWZNmTF-Ks

This is from the website Food Safety News. Seventy-Five outbreaks. That’s an average of fifteen per year!!! That’s more than one per month. How many of those did you hear about? I suppose if planes fell out of the sky at that rate, we’d stop hearing about that in the news, too.

Despite the health issues, and I’ll post more on that in the coming days, the other side to not supporting farms includes a different cost. What happens when farmers can no longer support themselves farming? Typically, they sell their land to developers who chop the land into little parcels and build lots of houses.

Now you have more people moving into town, paying less taxes per person, but adding to the need for more amenities like schools, road repairs and overall town help.

So why should we subsidize local farmers?  Maybe a better question is why wouldn’t we.

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