A review of the failed farm bill

I was reading about the under-the-table tactics used to pass the House farm bill. Why, specifically, the usual tactic of ‘logrolling’ didn’t work as it has before. The best explanation comes from this quote.

The failure of the farm-bill charade, even if a temporary setback for the big spenders, is encouraging. Some 62 Republicans were willing to buck their leadership and reject business as usual, which must change. House leaders can start by coming back with two bills to be considered individually on their own merits. — The Washington Times.

Another problem is that some members of the House Agriculture committee have conflicts of interest. Some of those committee members, like our own Vicky Hartzler (R, MO-4), have family farms that would directly benefit from the crop subsidies. In any other endeavor, such a conflict would bar her from being a member on the committee.  But…we’re talking government, here, where peonage and corruption afflicts both parties equally.

The Washington Times article does point out one interesting facet of the maneuvering to pass the bill. Old, well used and familiar tactics failed.

The blame for out-of-control federal spending belongs mostly on logrolling, the practice of congressmen trading positions on controversial issues to pass a bill. Sometimes it doesn’t work. The farm bill crashed Thursday in the House by 195 votes for, 234 against.

Other than the fact that farmers grow food, it doesn’t make sense to have food stamps and related welfare programs lumped in with, for example, dairy subsidies. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, Indiana Republican and a fourth-generation farmer, tried unsuccessfully to sever the two components into separate bills, where each could get the legislative scrutiny it deserves.

Mr. Stutzman made his case to the House Rules Committee on Tuesday. “The American people deserve an open and honest debate about farm and nutrition policy in this country,” said the congressman. “The only way that will happen is if we separate farm policy from nutrition policy.”

The panel decided not to let the House vote whether to divide the bill, as the pairing of the farm and food stamp bills was thought to be the key to final passage. Republicans from rural districts would vote for the farm subsidies to benefit their constituents, and liberal Democrats would vote for more food stamps. Logrolling requires maintaining spending high to keep both sides happy, which is a very bad thing for the taxpayers who pay for the compromise, usually through the nose. — The Washington Times.

So the Ag Committee relied on ‘business-as-usual’ to pass the bloated monstrosity. They failed to consider the opposition of the real ‘Pub conservatives and of the rabid “Spend! Spend! Spend!” dems who want to bribe constituents to continue to vote for their party. Whether the committee members passed a bill that would line their own pockets or if they voted to pass a bill to continue and expand welfare dependency, none of the committee members had the best interest of the country in mind.

We can thank those 62 ‘Pub conservatives who were willing to buck their party leadership for the failure of this piece of legislative trash.

Good on ya!

Like Thieves in the Night.

First an update on yesterday’s post. The mediation talks between Hostess Brands and the Baker’s and Confectionery Worker’s union failed—as expected. Why? Because the union didn’t want a resolution. The union biggies who attended the mediation had no reason to agree to anything. Their jobs weren’t in danger. No, just those of the rank and file. Apparently the union…still…expects someone to bail them out and rehire all the union workers. They still don’t get it. Why would anyone pay to inherit someone else’s problems and troublemakers. Nope, not going to happen.


I was listening to Dave Ramsey this morning and one of his comments struck a cord. It was the revival of the federal Death Tax. The democrats are about to raise that tax from 35% to 55% and lower the $5M exemption to $1M.

Many aren’t concerned about this. Their estates aren’t that big and for them it’s true. No, the ones who are affected are small businesses and family farms.

Family FarmFor farmers, just the land, whether it’s tillable or not, is enough to kick them over the limit. It’s easier for farmers to reach that tax threshold when you add equipment, farm buildings and livestock.

For the small business, it doesn’t take long to reach that limit as well. A building, equipment, inventory, can reach that limit easily. For example, let’s say a businessman owned a small concrete business. He builds curbs and driveways, small business parking areas and the like. He also owns some concrete trucks that he uses to transport concrete to his and other sites.  Those concrete trucks with their supporting equipment and some raw material could kick his estate over the limit.

When it comes time to pay the death taxes, it usually means the farm or the business must be sold just to pay the tax. Another business gone. Another farm gone. The city, county and state loses a tax revenue stream. No one wins…except for the FedGov…one time.

The irony of this is that these assets, the business, the farm, has already been taxed. The money used to build or buy the land, the equipment, has already been taxed. The Death Tax taxes the family and the inheritors; stealing the birthright of those inheritors.

Like thieves in the night.

In this case, the thief strikes boldly in full daylight. No matter how you paint it, it’s still theft.

The Daily Caller has this column about the Death Tax.

The Senate Democrats’ outrageous death tax hike

There is no more vivid or offensive example of the “you didn’t build that” philosophy on the books than the federal death tax, which supposes that when you die a hefty portion of everything you built up over a lifetime ought to go to government. It’s a vestige of the feudal days when all property was owned by the king.

That’s probably why the death tax is the “worst tax — that is, the least fair” according to polling by the Tax Foundation. And it’s also why our founders thought the idea of seizing an estate at death so outrageous that they prohibited it as a penalty for treason in the U.S. Constitution (Article III, Section 3). And yet now, seizing more than half of it as a penalty for accomplishing the American dream is the preferred policy of Democrats in the United States Senate.

You’re born. You work hard. You pay your taxes all your life. Maybe, you build something along the way. But when you die the IRS can tax you again.

This year, they can take 35 percent of everything above $5 million. Senate Democrats announced yesterday that as of January 1, they want to raise that to 55 percent of everything above $1 million. And because the $1 million is not indexed to inflation, over time this confiscatory tax would hit almost everyone who achieves some success and wants to pass it on.

That means family farms and businesses will be forced to shut down when the founder dies just to pay the tax bill.

Former Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Holtz-Eakin estimates that the Democrats’ 55 percent death tax would destroy as many as 1.5 million small-business jobs, walloping an already weak economy. That’s the problem with taxing “the rich” — even after they die — the real pain is suffered by the people they employ, who lose their jobs.

Unfortunately, rather than seize the moral high ground by advocating full repeal of the death tax, Senate Republicans have included a compromise position in their alternative tax package: they want to keep the tax at its current 35 percent rate. The study from Holtz-Eakin found that would destroy 857,000 jobs — which can only be described as “less bad” than the economic damage Democrats are proposing.

Senate Republicans are compromising even though they know the right position is full repeal because they fear the political implications of advocating full repeal at a time when the media and left-wing agitators are even more obsessed than usual with class warfare and the politics of envy.

Continue reading here.

The column continues. It would be worth your time to read it all and then contact your US Representative and Senator. It may be too little and too late but perhaps we can minimize the damage.


Short takes…

Same ol’, same ol’. This is the heading from Drudge this morning.

Jobless claims surge...
REPORT: Foreclosure crisis hits older blacks, Hispanics hardest...
Factory activity contracts...
Home sales drop 5.4%, fewest since October...
Grocery bills on rise as corn prices near record highs...

The jobless claims continue around the 400.000 mark, “seasonally adjusted” says the Labor Department. There were 34,000 new claims last week.  All the while, Obama plays golf.

Manufacturing output continues to drop. The economy is just coasting waiting for the Fall elections.  If Obama is ousted, the economy will take off like a rocket on the expectation of a turn-around in government constraints, regulations and Executive Orders.

All the while, those suckered into the liberal scheme of buying a home without the wherewithal to actually meet the payments, continue to be forced into foreclosure and bankruptcy.

In addition to all this, the summer drought has destroyed over 30% of the crops across the county hitting the corn crop heavily. This will hit the ethanol market, the grocery market and the export market.  The eco-freaks blame global warming while ignoring the strong increase in solar sunspot activity this last year.

While all this goes on, the GOP establishment in Washington does…not much at all lest they offend the democrats. It’s getting to the point of asking whom is harming us more? The democrats or the establishment ‘Pubs who won’t do anything to oppose the democrats except talk.  Talk is cheap. Talk is worthless.  Action has value. Action is a commodity missing in the GOP establishment.

Spring on the Farm

It’s been Spring for over a month and the average temperature is now in the 60’s. I’ve been reading Frank James blog how he’s waiting for his fields to dry out and it brought forth several memories of life on our farm when I was still living at home.

Our farm was relatively small as compared to the farms of some of our neighbors. Our largest field was nineteen acres and bordered a small four acre woodlot. We normally planted wheat, soybeans or corn in this field on a rotating basis.

Smack in the middle of this field was a large, very large oak tree next to a well that contained clear, sweet water all year long. I suppose that a house stood there at some point in earlier years, but the only remains were the tree and the well.

Dad bought the farm in 1953 and we never had a clear understanding of the history of the place, who had lived there, when, nor of any structures that had stood on the property. There was ample evidence of habitation with many abandoned buildings, barns, old houses around us, but none on our farm.

It was Spring and Dad still worked days in the mines. That Spring, it was my job when I came home from school, to gas the tractor and begin prepping the fields for planting. I had finished discing a field where we had planted corn the previous year. Discing cut up the remaining stalks, turned the surface and readied the ground cover for plowing. Plowing turned under the vegetation and that vegetation provided nutrients for the coming crop.

On this day, I was to start plowing. The rains had been light for a couple of weeks and the ground had firmed enough to support the tractor and our 2-bottom plow. Like many teenagers, working on the farm after a full day of school was not my idea of a fun time.

I gassed the tractor and drove out to the field. Cutting straight farrows is almost an art form. You can start at the edges of the field and work your way to the center. This approach will leave a hump in the middle after a few years and will affect water drainage. Or, you can start in the middle of the field and plow a loop that shifts from one edge of the field until it reaches the initial farrow. If it’s done right, you’ll also reach the far edge of the field at the same time. That is much harder but it affects the topology and drainage of the field much less that the other method.

I drove to the spot were we’d previously marked for the center, took an eye-ball lock on a tree on the opposite end lowered the plow and started off. In road gear.

Tractors have multiple gears to provide power to the driving wheels as needed. The lower gears provided more power and were also slower. In road gear, the tractor would speed along at 25-35 miles an hour depending on the load. A tractor, even in road gear still provides much more power than a car or pickup. (We did have a neighbor that attached a plow to his WW2 era jeep and it worked well while his tractor was out of commission but that’s another story.)

With both eyes on the distant mark, I was tearing across the field at quite a clip. I was throwing dirt for several yards from the farrow. I’d do anything to get the job over. I started around 3:30 in the afternoon and by supper-time had about a third of the field plowed.

Everything was going well—until the plow hit the pipeline.

At some time past, a 6″ steel pipeline was laid across the field. No one knows who, nor what it carried. Dad later guessed that it was a private water line fed from the well in the field. In any case, I was tooling across the field in road gear, dirt clods and dust flying until I hit the pipeline and the tractor stopped dead. It stopped so suddenly, the engine died.

I was standing while steering the tractor. It was a common practice while moving over rough ground and allowed your knees to take up the shock of rugged surface. When the tractor hit, it stopped dead in place and I went flying. Over the steering wheel. Over the hood of the tractor. Over the freshly plowed ground from the previous circuit, flying through the air, not touching down until I’d traveled about twenty feet in front of the tractor. On landing, I did a little plowing of my own, scooping a farrow through the dirt for another yard after touchdown.

I had dirt on my face along with numerous scraps and scratches. Dirt in my hair. Dirt in my shirt, in my jeans, in my shorts. Dirt everywhere. After impact, I just laid there for a time while inhaling about a quart of dirt.

When I decided that I was still alive, I raised up to see Dad running across the field. He’d come out to call me in for supper and had seen the whole thing. “Are you all right?” he hollered.

I just nodded and probed with my tongue to see if I still had all my teeth.

Anyone who knew Dad also knew that he was a bit lacking of a sense of humor. He kept trying to ask if I was hurt while trying not to laugh at the same time. The two actions were not complimentary. Finally, he just gave up and laughed. He laughed so much he had to kneel down to keep from falling over.

Farmers have weird ideas on what is funny. I remembered how he laughed when I was charged by the sow and had jumped a 6′ 2×4 fence to get away. He also laughed when, during hay season, I missed a hay-bale thrown into the loft and had fallen out into 10″ of mud.

He told me, while I limped back to the house, how I’d traveled in a perfect parabolic arc over the front of the tractor, over the plowed ground and had plowed a rut into the fresh dirt. Later, he told our neighbor across the road, our neighbor down the road, and all his friends at the mine. Years later when I graduated from high-school, he told the same story to all our relatives.

But, I’m gonna get revenge. Someday, I’m going to tell the story about how Dad shot the car and blew out the windshield.

I’ll get even. Heh, heh!
(h/t to John Smith for the Ford Tractor photo.)

Never turn your back on a Hog!

Among the livestock on the farm, Dad raised hogs. Specifically, Yorkshires and Chester Whites. At any one time we’d have half a dozen or so sows and a couple of boars. We kept the two breeds segregated because they were all registered pure-breeds.

A full grown sow could measure six or seven feet long and weigh up to six or seven hundred pounds. Depending on the feed some could weigh more. The boars were larger. Chester Whites were, on average, longer than Yorkshires. Both breeds were white and looked very much alike unless you knew the differences. For instance, a Yorkshire’s back was more curved and the ears stood up. A Chester White was longer and the ears flopped forward as in the picture above.

Hogs cannot be trusted. They are omnivorous and cannibalistic. A sow will eat her young if too many are born. Sometimes just because the sow was hungry and a piglet was close. We built the birthing stalls with the corners boarded with slots to give the piglets a refuge from the sow.

Boars are worse. They will eat you if given half a chance. We always went armed with a club of some kind. Dad usually carried a piece of 2X4 with a handle on one end that he’d carved. I carried a small baseball bat. If a hog looked as if they were thinking of make a snap at your leg, we’d give them a whack across the nose.

Dad and I built the fences around the hog lots out of rail-road ties for the posts and 2X4s for the horizontal rails. The fences were six feet high around the barn and the pens. We still had to be careful because a hog can climb a board fence—not easily, but they can do it.

We had one Chester White boar that liked to get among the Yorkshire sows and have some fun. That messed up the breeding records and registered breed brought more at auction and at the market. We got rid of any mixed breeds quickly. More than one was kept for our table rather than being sold.

One day during the early Spring, I went out to tend the hogs. The weather had thawed and the sows were pregnant. We had four pens. One for Yorkshire sows, one for Chester White sows, one for the boars, and the fourth for neutered feeder pigs (that’s another story.) All four pens had a common central post with pipes to each pen’s water trough.

I had flushed out and filled the water troughs on the two sow pens but I couldn’t get the water to flow for the boars’ trough. The water outlet was clogged. There were no hogs nearby so I climbed the fence into the pen leaving my baseball bat behind. The water pipe had been filled with mud. The hogs liked to use the pipe to scratch themselves. I knelt next to the pipe and ran a welding rod up the pipe to break down the mud.

I’d been there for a few minutes, kneeling in the mud, when I heard “Whooff!” behind me. I looked around and our largest boar, over seven feet long and a thousand pounds, was running towards me. The next thing I know is that I’m in the sows’ pen and the boar had broken two of the 2X4 fence rails and had his head through the fence trying to get at me. I picked up the baseball bat and hit the boar flat across his forehead as hard as I could. He stopped, shook his head a bit and sorta staggered off toward the other end of his pen. I think it took at least a half hour for my heart rate to slow down.

Dad had seen the whole thing from the loft of the barn. He said that I’d jumped the six foot fence flat-footed when the boar charged me. I don’t know. I don’t remember at all how I got back into the sows’ pen. All I remember was picking up the bat and swinging at the boar. I would have killed it given a chance, but it backed off and went away.

I didn’t trust any of our hogs, but most specifically, I didn’t trust that boar. Thereafter, I never went into a pen without that baseball bat in my hand. For insurance, I drilled a 1″ hole six inches into the head of the bat and filled it with lead. If Dad would have let me carry a pistol, I’d have done that too. But, ammo was scare for Dad’s thirty-eight, and he was afraid, rightfully too, that I’d kill the boar if given any reason.

But, I didn’t. Livestock are farm assets and hogs were running about $0.20/lb at that time. I did get a form of revenge the following winter. That boar wandered out on our frozen pond, broke through the ice and drowned. We knew the boar was missing, but didn’t know what happened until the pond thawed. We weighed the carcase before we buried it. The boar weighed a little over 1200lbs.

Dad told the story of me jumping the fence for a number of years. He stopped after a sow knocked him down while he was working on the fence replacing a rail. He hit the sow in the head with his hammer and killed it.

Farming is dangerous. Raising livestock, especially hogs, is more so. We never had much trouble with cattle or horses, but we could never turn our back on a hog.