Opportunity’s Knocks

Replacing road fence. On the north farm. It is a farm with a mile of road fence. We have to replace all but the fence along the building site. We don’t own the building site thanks to a brother that sold it off after he built a new house on it. The main reason my father would never sell me the building site here on the home place. We tried that with your older brother and it didn’t work. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard that growing up. You can’t go out for band, we tried that with your older brother and it didn’t work. It’s a wonder I was asked to farm. But I was. Two years before I started. My dad had a way I could get started without using much if any money. How often does that come along. Once if ever.

The only problem is I never took the offer. It was 1982 and Congress had just adopted Reagan’s new PIK program to help rid the US of it’s surplus corn stockpile. After Carter put the infamous great grain embargo on the Russians for invading Afghanistan we were getting quite a pile. It created a lot of knock on effects. America had been planting fence row to fence row corn in the Midwest to meet the Russian demand. Puling the rug out from under the (other) farmers, Carter reshuffled the whole world grain trading deck and America was losing out the most. Payment In Kind paid farmers in grain to not grow grain. A kind of genius way to let livestock producers have their cake and let their animals eat it too.

Dad wanted to bid the farm into the new program 100%. We would have to sow the whole farm program’s base acres down to oats and hay. Then the government would give us a PIK Certificate we could take to a delegated reserve elevator (one approved to store Commodity Credit Corporation crops) to trade it in for the number of bushels of the commodity grain we were eligible to receive. That figure was determined by how many acres of the commodity you had in your farm’s crop base. A number determined by your cropping history on that particular farm. All you had to pay for was the trip home with the corn. All we had to do was promise not to grow corn and they would give us corn for free.

According to Dad it was a no brainer. Sow down the farm to a non program crop. Buy a bunch of heifer calves to run on the sowed down farm. Fatten the cattle up on the corn the federal government doled out. Either sell the cattle as beef when done or, if they weren’t worth what we had into them by then we would keep them for breeding. There was only one catch. I would have to have faith in the federal government. After two years wrestling with the US Navy trying to get the degree they promised me I was no longer going to trust them crooked bastards in the federal government. I told Dad I didn’t trust them. I further told him if he did then I couldn’t trust him.

Needless to say we waited a couple of years before we started. The program had been modified by then to something that wasn’t workable in the sense Dad had designed his system. We still had Payment In Kind but the program was so successful at clearing out the surplus it was scaled way back and became a fraction of it’s original size and scope. So I got started the hard way. The only saving grace was my timing. I was going in when everybody in was going broke. I was able to buy farm machinery on the cheap. I’m still able to buy machinery from that era cheap. Over production of corn led to the over production of machinery.

Especially when the feds idled 30 million acres permanently into the Conservation Reserve Program at about that time. The number thirty million was significant. That was how many acres it took to feed the horses that used to power the farms and transport across rural America. Ever since the adoption of tractors, cars and trucks that 30 million acres had been excess production. Handy to have during the second world war but other than that, not needed. Twenty five million of that is still in reserve. Four dollar gas didn’t even make hardly a dent in it. 13 billion gallons of ethanol production hasn’t made too big of a dent in it.

World hunger ???




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