We Blue Virginians – as well as liberals and progressives everywhere – may be missing the chance to line up some important allies in our political fights: Virginia’s and America’s farmers.
Consider this. Every Republican member of the VA Congressional delegation voted for the Paul Ryan (R, WI) Path to Poverty Budget. We all know the Ryan budget is a recipe to destroy the middle class and to transfer vast amounts of wealth from low- and middle-income wage earners to the wealthiest Americans. We also know how the Ryan budget shreds the social safety net. However, when we dig a bit deeper we find the Ryan budget is a train wreck for farmers because their safety net is shredded, also.
How many farmers know what their Republican “representatives” voted to do to them?
Follow below the fold.
One example of the Ryan budget impact on farmers is the proposed cuts in federal subsidies for crop insurance. I know you city folk aren’t familiar with crop insurance, so, listen up.
You know how car insurance works, don’t you? You pay the insurance company some money every month or so. Then, when your car is damaged, they pay for the repairs. Crop insurance does for farmers what car insurance does for you.
A farmer’s livelihood depends on his being able to grow, harvest, and sell a crop – corn, beans, strawberries, wheat, whatever. Crops can be destroyed by many kinds of disasters – drought, insects, hail. If a farmer’s crop is destroyed, he has little or no income until the next crop is planted, tended, harvested and sold – a process that takes at least a year and that requires a lot of money for seed, fertilizer, fuel, insecticides, and the like. What’s a farm family to do when – not if – their crop fails because of a natural disaster?
That’s where crop insurance comes in. Certain insurance companies sell policies that insure crops against loss from drought, hail, insects, and other risks. The farmer pays a premium to the insurance company and, if the crop fails, the insurance company pays the farmer a loss payment, usually calculated as a portion of his income over the past few years of normal crops versus the income lost from the failed crop.
Crop insurance is a lot more complicated than my explanation, but, it’s a life-line for farmers.
The Ryan budget – which was supported by every Republican member of the VA Congressional delegation – dramatically reduces the federal subsidy for crop insurance. As it stands now, the feds pay 60 percent of a farmer’s crop insurance premium while the farmer pays 40 percent. Under the Ryan budget, the federal subsidy would be greatly reduced, requiring farmers to pay two, three, or four times what they now pay for crop insurance premiums.
The Ryan budget also kills or greatly reduces other federal subsidies important to farmers. One of these is federal assistance to farmers who export food. Food exports are a huge money-maker for American farmers and the federal subsidies help keep profits up. Without these subsidies, some farmers would not be in the export business and, therefore, would see their incomes drop.
Finally, don’t think for a minute that farmer’s are not affected by cuts in such social programs as food stamps. Sixteen percent of every dollar spent on food goes to the farmer. Reduce food stamps, you reduce money spent on food, and you cut farm income.
So – you say – what’s the point? It’s time we Blue Virginians look beyond the GOP threat to Medicare, Medicaid, and what we consider to be safety net programs. We need to let Virginia farmers know that their Republican representatives voted en masse to dramatically cut farm income by killing or reducing important federal subsidies – to shred their safety net. After all, our rural brothers may not need food stamps and WIC – but they need crop insurance and they need people to spend money on food.
It’s time for our rural brothers to hear what their Congressmen did to them.