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The Tyrade – Ag: A pawn star

By Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Net

Just over a month ago, I wrote about the relevance of Agriculture. That blog came on the heels of Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack commenting that Rural America’s pull in Washington was waning simply because there are fewer and fewer people in rural parts of the country to speak up and be heard about the issues that affect us the most. He blamed that philosophy on why there was not a full 5-year Farm Bill passed before the end of 2012.

With all of the hype around it, we will never forget the fiscal cliff debacle that was narrowly saved by some last minute heroics by our trusted politicians. For the most part, people really didn’t pay attention to the issue until the last minute, both inside and outside of the beltway. After all, it was the Holiday season and there were gifts to be given and meals to be enjoyed with family. It wasn’t until talk around the Christmas dinner table became about $7 milk that the worry began to grow. With that, the “Dairy Cliff” was born and DC switchboards lit up. Congressmen and women flew back into the Nation’s Capitol, cutting short their Holiday and they finally got something done.

It may not have been a long-term fix, but averting the fiscal cliff did stop what could have been a bad scenario for all Americans…for awhile.

Here we are again just 2 months later and sequestration is once again a part of our everyday vocabulary. The new deadline is March 1st and if the Senate and House can’t get their act together the country will once again be faced with big cuts to many important parts of our government.

And again we American’s are not really paying attention yet. We were busy buying cards and flowers and watching a rodent predict when the weather will break. Spoiler alert, spring starts on March 21st.

What could possibly get everyone’s attention this time around? How about throwing out the idea that the food supply may be at risk if a deal is not reached? Maybe call it the “Meat Cliff”. I should probably trademark that phrase after remarks from our Ag Secretary last week that thousands of meat inspectors may have to be furloughed if the March 1st deadline comes and goes without reaching a deal.

That has indeed sparked outrage, especially with the disturbing news out of Europe that some meat served as hamburger should have been glue. It didn’t do any favors to the livestock sector, though, as this outcome will nearly shut down any movement along the supply chain and cause prices to soar, which by the way is another selling point for urging Congress to reach a deal.

You know what this tells me? Something all of us in the Ag industry already knew. We are relevant. Agriculture has become a political pawn star, if you will. If all else fails, threaten with food. High prices, low supply or safety…it will work. We all want it, we all need it and we all love it. Our food is safe, affordable and abundant and any threat to that will cause one heck of a ruckus.

If our members of Congress hear about it from constituents every time a “Dairy Cliff” or a “Meat Cliff” comes around, you would think that the importance of what farmers do every day would resonate into a full-fledged Farm Bill. If not, a “Food Cliff” may not be unimaginable and it certainly wouldn’t only be a threat.

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