by Michael John Gray
Life on the farm is all about strength, perseverance, and faith. Just about every farm operation in just about every county in Arkansas deals with uncertainty and tough times. It comes with the territory.
Farmers know all about uncertainty and managing the cards we are dealt. We put our homes, our cars, our land, and many times everything our family owns up for mortgage, just to put a crop in the ground. Our farms often make just enough money to support our families. But with one bad crop or one bad hailstorm all that could be lost.
That’s the way it is on my farm in Woodruff County. We don’t begrudge it. That’s our way of life. We have faith that the crop will grow, and that we will make it through the next year.
But right now, Arkansas farmers are headed toward some tough times. This time it’s not from a flood, or a drought, or disease. The threat is coming from elected officials in Washington, D.C. who don’t know and don’t care what’s happening back on the farm. This trade war disaster is man-made; it’s a manufactured crisis.
Before the tariffs our farm economy was already struggling. Agriculture always goes through cycles, but the added burden of the trade war are making it unbearable. The Farm Bureau is warning that agriculture is in the middle of a “slow disaster.”
But instead of having fighters in Washington, we’re finding out that Arkansas farms on the brink of collapse isn’t that big of a deal to them. Our representatives are dismissing declining commodity prices and diminishing markets as a temporary sacrifice.
Maybe for someone who is financially stable, you could call it a “short-term” sacrifice. But for most Arkansas farmers, it is a year-to-year thing. If you’re up in Washington, and haven’t been on the farm, it might look short-term. But in the real world, it will mean the end of careers, the end of a way of life for entire families.
Our representatives in D.C. need to grow a backbone. They need to understand what’s happening on our farms and fight to preserve our way of life.
Because when our farms fail local grocery stores, local auto parts stores, and coffee shops and cafes from Union County to Fulton County feel the effect. Even big box stores like Walmart feel the effect of declining farms, and that means all of us have to pay more at the checkout line.
We’re past the point of rhetoric and political ideology. My farm and my neighbor’s farms can’t afford it.
Arkansas’s economy is slowing, our number one industry is being attacked by our own trade fight, and China is about to level more than $60 billion in new tariffs. That’ll be a tax paid not just by farmers, but by all consumers.
Let’s put ideology aside, and put Arkansas first.
Michael John Gray is the chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas.
(Each month, Arkansas Money & Politics will feature exclusive op-eds provided by members of the Democratic Party of Arkansas. The views in these op-eds are the opinions of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of Arkansas Money & Politics or Vowell Media Inc.)