Monday, October 03, 2005

Farmers: The Last Grown Ups?

This is from Robert Plamondon's Poultry Newsletter. (I don't think he's related to the Plamondons of Lake Leelanau, but he could be. He's from Oregon.)

The Last Grown Ups

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina brought home to me the degree to which farmers are treated differently from other people.

You see it every day. Farming is dangerous, but you don't need a license. Everyone assumes that you can make your own decisions. I can go down to the feed store and buy hypodermic needles and an eight-ounce bottle of pennicillin anytime. At the pharmacy, I'd be considered to be a mere citizen and likely to hurt myself, so I'd need a note from a grown-up (in the form of a doctor's prescription).

A few years ago, when the Tillamook River flooded any number of dairy farms, the news was mostly about the risk to livestock, not to farmers. Afterwards, no one warned the farmers to stay away because they might come into contact with feces or agricultural chemicals!

The assumption was, "They're farmers. They can cope." No matter what the devastation, the reporters were confident that the farmers would roll up their sleeves and rebuild. The concern was all over the dairy cattle who were cut off from rescue by the floodwaters.

Of course, no sane person would assume differently with New Orleans. The mouth of the Mississippi River is one of the most important commercial locations in the world, with the entire produce of the American Midwest needing to be taken off barges and put on ships. Having a city at the mouth of the Mississipp is not optional! And there are plenty of determined people in New Orleans; farmers have no monopoly on toughness. Far from it! Yet with Katrina, the news always seemed to assume that the people in New Orleans were helpless and stupid, and needed to be kept from their own homes until everything was made nice and safe by the grown-ups from the government.

(No doubt a lot of this was fake; just bad reporting by city-slicker journalists and knee-jerk answers of "We're a lot more comfortable if we drag things out forever" from government officials who were not, in fact, in charge.)

I was surprised (but pleased) that the mayor of New Orleans reopened the city. He, at least, recognized that there's a difference between an evacuee and a prisoner, and that the citizens would mutiny and reopen the city on their if he didn't get a move on.

It's not that New Orleans is necessarily safe right now, it's just that grown-ups are allowed to take risks if they want to, and it's nobody's business but theirs. A lot of people seem to have forgotten this.

You get a lot less of this nonsense on the farm, but since our legislators are mostly city slickers, it's creeping up on us. It's been a long time since you could buy dynamite through the mail from Sears!

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