Tuesday, September 22, 2020

OPINION: Let's build agriculture back better together, say former ag aides from opposite parties, endorsing Biden

The Rural Blog welcomes short opinion pieces on current issues of interest to rural Americans.

By Larry Elworth and Dawn R. Riley

Throughout our careers in farming and public service, having worked in Republican and Democratic administrations, we have seen that when it comes to doing what’s best for agriculture, one’s political affiliation does not matter as much as a steady and serious commitment to farmers and their communities. We know that the well-being of the farm community depends on stable leadership that takes responsibility for its actions, gives credit to all who have contributed, and shares benefits with those who have need. We believe that Vice President Biden can best provide that leadership for America.

The past six months have shown more clearly than ever that farmers and farm communities are critical to America’s well-being. Unfortunately, the impacts of the pandemic, as well as failures in national leadership, have exacerbated problems farmers have faced for some time: low prices, high debt, record bankruptcies, and suicide rates. Even as farmers have been called upon as essential workers, the mishandling of the crisis at the national level has increased risk to farm families, crippled supply chains, and resulted in lost jobs and access to health care in their communities.

Farm families and communities have always been resilient and enterprising. They have invested their own money in conserving natural resources and growing crops that produce renewable fuels to create economic opportunities and meet our nation’s energy needs. They have invested their resources in cooperatives that bring economic benefits to rural communities across the country and market value-added products around the world. For many decades, agricultural exports have been the bright spot in our country’s balance of trade, thanks to the hard work and dollars that farmers and their communities have invested in developing reliable markets and trading relationships.

Farm communities have a legitimate reason to expect that their work and that of everyone involved in the food production chain will be valued. They have reason to expect that the nation will recognize how important a vital farm economy is to our society and reason to expect that markets will be expanded, not decimated. Farmers also have every reason to expect leadership at the national level that does not jeopardize years of investment in production capacity and critical markets by acting recklessly, heedless of the consequences and costs borne by our country.

Just as importantly, they have reason to expect leadership that values civility, human decency, and mutual respect; leadership with a record of personal commitment to working across the political spectrum in the best interests of agriculture and farm communities. Leadership, in other words, that values the work of those who have made our agricultural bounty possible.

Vice President Biden clearly embodies these values. No one is better suited to further the interests of American agriculture and preserve the immense value that farmers and ranchers provide to our country as a whole.

Dawn R. Riley of Louisville served in the office of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the George W. Bush administration. Larry Elworth of Burnsville, N.C., served at USDA and the White House in the Clinton administration and EPA in the Obama administration. They both continue to work on agricultural, food and sustainability issues.

1 comment:

Cat said...

A wise and articulate point of view. Thank you!