1985 Sept 8 – 23rd Sun Ord Time (Bulletin Letters)
On the reverse side of this letter is a rough draft of the “1986 Homestead Act.” This idea came out of the overnight we had at Fr. Tank’s camp last month. Twelve people came together to explore the possibilities of using direct non-violent means of intervention at forced farm sales. Four priests, four farmers and four rural and peace activists spent a night and a day telling their stories, listening and brainstorming. Our search leads us to conclude that for direct non-violent intervention to be effective, the human cost of the rural struggle must be raised. The proposed “1986 Homestead Act: is an effort to raise this needed perspective.
The greatest loss from the current economic crisis in rural Iowa is the constant exodus of the family farmer. Despite the slow death rural communities are experiencing because of this forced exodus, we have been unable to focus the farm debate to address this human tragedy. This year’s
bumper crop and expected farm legislation will insure a continued exodus. The complexities of modern farming and financing make every farm liquidation different. Yet in the end, the family gives up their land and their way of life.
We hope to circulate this proposal and gather signatures on petitions supporting the concept. We want to establish the widest base of support for the proposal. We also want to identify the farm families who may need the Homestead Act in order to continue farming.
At first our efforts to save these family farms will not be supported by our elected officials, nor will the established leadership in agriculture support such efforts. Government and agribusiness interests have a corporate model of farming in mind. The political will to save these family farmers must be created by rural people themselves.
Through the use of direct non-violent means of intervention, we can put our bodies in between the law that liquidates the farmers (and the farmers themselves.) The “1986 Homestead Act” will be enacted one farm at a time, each time pressuring the legal system a little more while making visible the human suffering behind the economic failure. At some point with enough public pressure the policy makers will get the message.