Archive for Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Agriculture is part of our heritage

June 25, 2003

Sometimes it takes a visit with local farmers to bring America's agricultural crisis to our own level. We learned this week that family-owned dairies in Leavenworth County are losing money each day, long before they bring the first cows in for milking.

The price they're paid for every 100 pounds of milk is about $2 less than it costs them to produce it.

As Americans, we're a curious group of consumers.

We'll fork over $3.50 for a pack of cigarettes, $1.50 for a soft drink, or $1 for a candy bar without ever uttering a groan. We'll continue to buy gasoline at the pump even when it edges toward the $2 mark. We'll pay $7 to get into a movie and we'll gladly supersize our fast food meal for 30 cents. But let the retail price of a gallon of milk go up 10 cents and we'll squeal like a pig caught under a gate.

Four area dairy farmers we talked to this week don't know how long they can hold out. One has downsized his herd in hopes that labor and other expenses will decrease enough that he can see a profit. The others, brothers who work at a century-old dairy, hope they can hang on at least until the youngest reaches retirement age.

They're not asking for handouts. They're not complaining about their work shifts which usually last from 15 to 18 hours. They just would like to see a little profit at the end or the day.

Agricultural producers deserve to be paid a fair market value for their products. As the month of June, which is National Dairy Month, winds to a close, think about these dairy farmers, and about all agricultural producers. Where would we be without them? What can we do to help them? A multitude of voices speaking in their behalf couldn't hurt.

And at the very least, we could always stop and say thank you. Thanks for all the work you've done, thanks for long being a part of the backbone of American agriculture.

I recently ran into Jerry Coleman and asked him about his son, Nick Hoegler, who is serving in Iraq. Coleman said that because Nick works on computers, he spends his days in an air-conditioned tent. While that sounds fairly safe, his father added: He hears gunshots every day.

Because the major part of the war in Iraq has ended, it's easy to forget we still have our soldiers over there. But from news reports, it almost seems more dangerous now for the ones who are left. They do not have the protection of the large masses of forces that were over there earlier this year. From the Tonganoxie area, we probably have about a dozen young men and women still serving in Iraq. Let's remember them in our thoughts and pray for their swift and safe return.

As my boss, Caroline Trowbridge, hauls her French horn to work on Tuesdays to participate in band practice for next Tuesday's concert in VFW Park, I'm impressed with her talent. In fact, many of the band members are like Caroline in that they hadn't picked up their musical instrument in years. But last year when the community band's first performance began, it sounded great.

Leave it to band director Charles VanMiddlesworth II to put together a community band. Last year's concert was a first. Let's hope two years make a tradition.

As we all know, it's doubtful this event would have been such a success without the perfect place to hold it. Tonganoxie's VFW Park, established by members of VFW Post 9271, is just that. Its use proves more and more as the years go by, just how valuable the VFW's gift is to the citizens of Tonganoxie.

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