When I was my son John Major's age, I would take the school bus 12 miles from Augusta to my family's farm. Along the way, I would pass 12 family farms. I can still name those families and the crops they grew from memory.
Now, all but three of those farms are gone.
Just about every farm operation in just about every county in Arkansas deals with uncertainty and tough times. Farming isn't easy work; it never has been. It requires strength, perseverance, and faith. One bad hailstorm can roll in and spell ruin for a farm and a family in a matter of minutes.
Now the farms that have managed to survive face a crisis that is man-made. Our farms are on the verge of succumbing to a trade war that is misguided and unplanned.
We have leaders in Washington, D.C., who ignore the reality back on our farms. Sen. Tom Cotton and our congressmen support continuing the tariffs at a time when our commodity prices are at all-time lows.
Life on the farm makes you tough. You manage the cards you are dealt and find a way to feed your family. But we shouldn't have to deal with leaders who refuse to fight for us.
After all, agriculture is our state's No. 1 industry.
The consequences of this trade fight aren't just a short-term or temporary sacrifice. One bad year is enough to put a lot of farms and a lot of people under for good. When prices fall and markets are cut off, farmers can't get back what they put into their crops. That could mean there won't be enough money to put back into the farm for the next year.
Even when things do go right, it doesn't necessarily come with a big payoff. Many of us have to mortgage just about all we own. We put up the houses that our families live in, our cars, our land, all just to put a crop in the ground with the hope of making enough to provide for another year.
We cannot afford to keep electing leaders who don't understand our way of life. When a leader becomes focused only on political rhetoric and besting the other side, Arkansans lose. And when they spend all their time in Washington, it's no wonder they think this problem is only "short-term."
But this trade fight doesn't just destroy our farms. It can destroy entire communities.
Without healthy farms, there's less money going into our local grocery stores, our local auto-parts shops, and our local coffee shops. These small towns and rural communities, like Augusta--the town I grew up in and still live in--define Arkansas.
They're what make this state great.
When our farms fail, we all fail. When our farms succeed, we all succeed.
All the evidence shows that this is an avoidable crisis. But the time to act is now. Soon, these tariffs will have us all paying for it at the store. In fact, Walmart is already saying it will have to raise prices on customers. And Farm Bureau warns that we are in the middle of "slow disaster."
I can't explain why Senator Cotton and all the other politicians in Washington refuse to accept that they are at odds with our farmers. Maybe they are focused on their careers and pleasing their party bosses.
I'm focused on making sure that John Major won't have to leave Augusta in order to live a good life. I'm focused on making sure my farm and my neighbors' farms aren't forced to shutter.
I'm focused on putting Arkansas first.
Michael John Gray is chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party.
Editorial on 05/30/2019
Print Headline: Support farmers