Laugh Tracks in the Dust 11-1-10
Let’s get serious for a few minutes. Few farmers and ranchers realize that the there is a federal law in place and on the books (Section 7, U.S. Code, article 602) that gives the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture statutory authority to regulate markets – through non-recourse loans on about 12 basic storable ag commodities – to establish parity prices for farmers.
Parity prices are simply commodity prices that are indexed to the economy the same as the Consumer Price Index. The purpose of the law when passed was to allow farmers and ranchers to keep their incomes in line with the cost of living.
I won’t get into the politics of why that law has not been enforced since the 1940s and early 1950s, while the cost of living index has been maintained and enforced, but suffice it to say that incomes in rural America have not even come close to keeping up with incomes elsewhere in our nation.
However, USDA has complied with one mandate in the parity law. It does publish monthly a chart of what parity prices should be, what current ag commodity prices are, and the all-commodity percentage of parity.
Let’s just look at USDS Parity Chart for August 2010.
• Wheat/Bu: Parity Price, $14.50; Producer’s Market Price, $5.51.
• Corn/Bu: Parity, $9.03; Market, $3.61.
• Cotton/Lb: Parity, $2.04; Market, 63-cents.
• Milk/Cwt: $44.40; Market, $16.43.
• Dry Edible Beans/Cwt: Parity, $69.90; Market, $27.26.
• Potatoes/Cwt: Parity, $20.20; Market, $9.09.
• Soybeans/Bu: Parity, $22.20; Market, $9.99.
• Apples/lb (fresh): Parity, 80-cents; Market, 32-cents.
• Beef Cattle/Cwt: Parity, $248.00; Market, $94.24.
• Hogs/Cwt: Parity, $135.00; Market, $60.75
• Eggs/Doz: Parity, $2.21; Market, 84-cents.
The overall parity ratio to actual is 38 percent. By comparison, the lowest parity ratio during the Great Depression was 58 percent in 1932.
If you want to do an enlightening project, go to the Internet and find your state and county’s most recent statistics for commodity production and price. Or the 2007 Census of Agriculture provides approximately the same statistics. Just multiply your state or county’s ag production times the parity price per unit to get what the gross ag commodity income should be. Compare it to the actual commodity income. Be prepared for an economic shock. The total difference will be billions of dollars on a state level and millions on a county level.
Then imagine what that “lost” state or county income could do for revitalizing your state or rural community. The benefits from enforcing the parity law would far exceed any other type of rural development.
Well, so much for being serious. My good friend who runs a boot repair and leather bizness, ol’ Sol E. Mender, wuz recently traveling with family members from Kansas to Riverton, Wyo.
Somewhere in the Wyoming outback, their conversation turned to the various uses of whey – the useful liquid byproduct of producing cheese. Some of the family members were familiar with whey. Others weren’t.
That’s when Sol volunteered that whey is even mentioned in the Bible. When challenged on that fact, he pointed out that the Bible and a popular Christmas song both mention “a whey in the manger, no crib for a bed.”
Sol said that comment caused his mother to blow a mouthful of cola out her nose and all over the car seat.
This supposedly happened back in the olden days when ol’ geezers like me attended one-room country schools.
Well, it happened that the school had hired a young teacher fresh out of getting her teaching certificate from the big city.
On the first day of school during the third-grade arithmetic class, the teacher posed this question to a young farm lad in overalls.
“If there are 20 sheep in a field, and one gets out through a hole in the fence, how many sheep are left in the field?”
“None, teacher,” the farm lad replied.
“Now, Johnnie,” the teacher admonished. “There are still 19 sheep left in the field. Obviously you don’t know arithmetic.”
“Sorry, teacher, but I do know arithmetic. But it’s pretty clear that you don’t know sheep,” the youngster concluded with finality.
With the mid-term election upon us, I’ll close with this quote about sheep from the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale. He said, “Once we roared like lions for liberty; now we bleat like sheep for security! The solution for America’s problem is not in terms of big government, but it is in big men over whom nobody stands in control but God.”
Have a good ‘un.
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