Once more on the Farm Bureau
Ted Grossardt (THGROS00@ukcc.uky.edu)
Thu, 07 Dec 95 00:34:20 EST
There is a good supply of historical documentation of the right-wing, nationali
st origins of the American Farm Bureau Federation. I would suggest "Agricultur
al Discontent" by Saloutos, published way back in 1951. It is surely the case
that the first agricultural extension agents were largely ignored by farmers
who understood that their problem was not insufficient production, but insuffic
ient price. It was fear of a unified labor front--or worse--a farmer-labor par
ty, that drove the effort to ally all of the Commercial Club-sponsored Farm
Bureaus across the country after WWI. Remember that this period marked the
beginning of the American Legion, as well. Military intelligence officers of
the day made state-by-state assessments of how many 'friends' and 'enemies'
they had, counting American Legion members explicitly as friends, and 'radical
union members' as enemies. Farm Bureau's first national president, James Howar
d said in 1920 "the Bureau is unqualifiedly in sympathy with the government's
determination to suppress radicalism" and offered to help "rid the country of
Bolshevism and other anarchistic tendencies" The Bureau also hailed the
American Legion as "one of the most important factors in the life of America"
One year later, in 1921, Howard warned "There is too much radicalism, or going
off half-cocked, among farmers of this country".
My opinion of the role of the Farm Bureau was to a;) help institutionalize
the county extension agents, endorsed by the Commercial Clubs and ignored by th
e farmers; b.) pre-empt efforts by other, more radical farm organizations to
offer a -different- interpretation of farmer's problems, and thus solutions,
and c.) deliver and preach the reductionist and productionist line to the farme
rs so they would blame each other and "labor" for their poverty instead of the
political-economic system designed to lower the cost of grain so that urban
workers could be paid less and still survive.
And yes, it is true, one must purchase a -membership- in the local Farm
Bureau to buy their insurance. I'm thinking maybe State Farm should try this
scam and see how many "farmers' they could claim! Wonder what kind of farm
policy they would advocate? Probably no more damaging to small farmers than
what FArm Bureau does now.
FYI, I am a recovering farmer--after 20 years of it I decided to quit
listening to the Farm Bureau and the county agents and find out where their
information comes from. Pretty scary.
End of soapbox (which, appropriately enough, figured prominently in the
free-speech fights waged in that time period)
OK, really end of my soapbox. :-)
Ted Grossardt Dept of Geography
THGROS00@UKCC.UKY.EDU 1457 Patterson Office Tower
U. of Kentucky
"Haunted places are the only ones Lexington, KY 40505
people can live in" ..de Certeau