A professional baseball player goes up to the plate. A hulking six foot man goes up on a little mound and hurls a stitched horsehide sphere at him, ideally around ninety miles an hour, hoping to throw it past him three times, or, failing that, coming close enough to his head that he forfeits the next two. If the baseball guy swings his hitty-stick at the ball and smacks it into the field in a place where nobody can catch it three out of every ten times, that man will soon be a millionaire if he isn’t one before swinging the hitty stick for the first time.
As a public school teacher it was my job to teach kids how to read and write. It is a lot harder thing to do when you consider how teachers are expected to do that job. You are in a classroom of up to thirty kids, no more than ten per cent of whom are self-starting and self-maintaining. The rest are problem-filled haters of reading and wordless when it comes to writing. You have to lead them into the land of joyous literacy. And when you step up to that plate, if you are getting a hit only three times in every ten at-bats (as measured by beloved state tests that are inherently biased in a multitude of ways) you will lose that lovely teaching job. You are expected to hit 8 out of 10 or higher. And that is just to keep your job year to year even though you make less money per year than a city garbage man. No chance you will ever be a millionaire. And they don’t even let you use a hitty stick to do your job.
But I promised you this rant was about farming and farmers.
My roots are in the farmlands of Iowa. I am the result of the union of the Beyer family farm and the Aldrich family farm. I know what farming is all about. And we do the job of feeding the nation, and possibly the world. But it is not an easy job. You gamble each year that you will be able to produce corn and soybeans and possibly beef or pork, and when the harvest comes, you have to hope you can sell it for more than it cost to produce it. Tornadoes, hail, floods, and droughts get more than their fair say in the outcome.
So, why isn’t what the farmer does worth more?
The answer is simple. People with money and power are the ones who control who makes money and who doesn’t. Through speculation and commodity trading they control the price of corn and beans, and they control who makes the profit.
We do the majority of the work and take the majority of the risk. We don’t get the majority of the rewards. Other people than farmers decide who does, and only rarely do they decide those matters fairly. But thus the world is. Or rather, thus we have let it become.