This Week in Washington Hudson: A healthy economy begins on the farm

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Posted: Sunday, February 3, 2013 10:21 am

One of my favorite songs by Johnny Cash is “The Farmer’s Almanac.” The message of the song is that everything a person needs to know in life can be found in two books: the Bible and the Farmer’s Almanac.

One of the best verses is:

“My father’s father was the wisest man I ever knew

Sixty years of education

Seven years of school

Farming kept his body strong

At night the only books he owned

Kepted his mind sharp as a tack

The family Bible and the Farmer’s Almanac.”

I was reminded of this song last week as I traveled throughout our district, visiting with local farmers to talk about the most important issues facing the agriculture community. As the grandson of a tobacco farmer with deep roots in rural North Carolina, I grew up with a strong appreciation for our farmers.

Many people overlook the importance of these creative entrepreneurs. Making a living as a farmer takes a lot more effort and skill than burying some seeds into the ground and hoping that nature will run its course. Successful farmers have to understand science, weather, chemistry, mechanics, economics, accounting and finance. They not only supply us with the world’s best food and fiber, their expertise and utilization of the land provides fiscal stability to local governments and boosts the economy.

According to Farm Aid, the food and agriculture sector employs around 14 percent of the U.S. workforce, and consumers spend over $1 trillion annually on food grown by U.S. farmers and ranchers. The effects of farming are especially felt in the community, as it is the top industry in our district and the state of North Carolina. Supporting local farmers is a powerful strategy for jumpstarting our fragile economy and revitalizing communities across America. Unfortunately, the very farmers who are best positioned to help invigorate our economy are being threatened by Washington’s overregulation and bureaucracy.

Our local farms are finding it nearly impossible to stay afloat because of out of control regulations and volatile product costs. The typical family farm is being forced to depend on off-farm employment to earn the bulk of its income. We need to implement common sense policies that help our farmers stay on the farm and encourage younger generations to continue the family business.

I heard a lot about Washington’s detrimental effects on the farming community last week as I held nine town-hall meetings with farmers across the district. Two of the biggest concerns among farmers are crop insurance reform and the death tax.

I am optimistic that we will work on Farm Bill legislation this spring and can reauthorize a five-year comprehensive bill that includes crop insurance so that our farmers have a strong safety net to lean back on when they fall on hard times. And like many, I agree that the death tax is immoral and terrible public policy. After hearing about it over and over again from farmers, I know that something must be done to repeal it once and for all.

While I am still reflecting on all that I heard during the farm tour, I am encouraged that we have begun an open and honest conversation about the needs of our community. I look forward to spending the next few years advocating for our shared agricultural interests and promoting policies that grow our local economy.

When farmers are successful, we are all successful.

— U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson represents the 8th Congressional District and is a member of the House Agriculture Committee. He can be reached at (704) 786-1612.