Community Agriculture Alliance: Count your blessings |

Community Agriculture Alliance: Count your blessings

Dale McCall
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Thanksgiving is just days away. It is an American holiday, one that celebrates family and food. And, of course, our blessings.

We are blessed that America is home to thousands of families that make their living farming and ranching and being the economic and social cornerstones of rural communities. Indeed, America’s biggest cities are possible only because American farmers and ranchers produce food in abundance.

Yet, we do have people who go hungry in America for a variety of reasons, most of them pure economics. We also have food deserts in rural, urban and suburban communities, as local grocery stores struggle to stay in business.

Most alarming to me is that we know farmers and ranchers themselves are facing difficult times when it comes to making a living by feeding others. The uncertainty of the ongoing trade war has taken a toll on crop farmers and livestock producers. Markets that were a sure thing are suddenly shifting about like a carnival shell game.

The cost of planting and harvesting, calving and marketing, milking and making cheese all remain high. Through our marketing orders, farmers and ranchers paid to develop these overseas markets. It took decades of work to build them. In a short time, we have seen these markets upended. Time is short to restore them and return profitability to agriculture.

Farmers can’t raise prices on their crops. Ranchers can’t hold out hoping for a higher price on livestock. When these families don’t have cash to spend, it shows up quickly on Main Street. Rural communities are facing similar problems with relatively high fixed costs, yet too little revenue to keep even, let alone invest in future needs. 

Farm and ranch families have always survived. They haven’t always thrived. This is a time of figurative belt tightening. We are optimists. We are realists. We have invested our lives in the land. And, in the future. We pray this harvest has been safe and productive and encouraging for each one of our members. Equally so for farm and ranch families everywhere.

We must continue working together to be supportive of each other, there for each other and there for our own families. We can find answers to the challenges facing our operations and hometown communities using a team effort. As you look forward to Thanksgiving, do so with a measure of optimism.

Dale McCall is the president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.

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