1995

1985 Farm Struggle Writings: (words 6, 089)

1985 Farm Struggle Writings: (words 6, 089)

85 08 25 – Sullivans in Fed Bankruptcy Court

August 24-25, 1985

SAD NEWS:

Tuesday I was in Council Bluffs with Bob and Theresa Sullivan at the Federal Court House.  Bob is a deacon in our Church and a life long farmer from Earling, Iowa.  They were in court officially declaring bankruptcy.  All they own is now being held in trust by the U.S. Government.  I could not help but feel we were witnessing the start of the public waking of yet another family farm.  Their debtors were there to pick over the carcass to make sure nothing was missing.  It was all done in a very cold and calculating manner.  There was little human warmth at this wake.  The government will hold onto their farm for several weeks before the Sullivan Farm is legally and officially buried.  It was not easy to sit next to Theresa as tears came to her eyes while she dug in her purse for a Kleenex tissue to wipe the perspiration from her hands before she took the witness stand.  Despite her own troubles, Theresa was mindful enough to give comfort to another woman who was in court that day with her husband for bankruptcy also.  We are going to need to come together at such events and devise acts of faith that turn the wakes and funerals of the family farm into occasions of hope and resurrection.

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85 09 08 –

1986 Homestead Act missing …

Dear Friends:

 

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 themselv

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.

Peace

Fr. Frank

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85 09 08

1986 Homestead Act – A New Beginning for American Agriculture

Homestead + 40  – Fair Rent of Land – Option to Buy

WE ARE THE HEARTLAND:

For over five years we have witnessed the destruction of our rural communities.  Our businesses are closing, our banks are failing, our schools are consolidating and our families are being driven from the land. We are today seeing the death of the heart of our communities.

As we survey this specter of human dislocation and suffering we ask, “Where is the wisdom of this?”

We are determined not to be victimized by economic forces that lack both wisdom and logic.  We must not and will not allow our communities to be abandoned to these impersonal forces.  Of first importance is that no more people be forced to leave the land.  This human tragedy can be stopped if we have but the will to stop it.  The time to act is NOW.

Our long term goals include parity price supports, supply management and fair laws governing exports.  But first we must stop the forced and massive exodus of our best producers from the land.  We must not allow the backbone of rural America to be snapped.

Therefore, on behalf of all American family farmers threatened by the loss of their way of life, we call for a New Homestead Act.  These farmers should be allowed to keep their homesteads plus forty acres.  They should have the opportunity to rent at an equitable rate the land lost to credit institutions.  These farmers should also receive an opportunity to buy back the land that was theirs.

We believe that the wisdom of the New Homestead Act  far out-weighs any economic considerations.  We are prepared to do everything in our power to bring this wisdom to bear in our communities, state legislatures and federal government.

 

WHY THE “1986 HOMESTEAD ACT”?

Our greatest loss from the economic crisis in rural America is the constant exodus of the family farmer.  Each farm that is lost is another nail in the coffin for our rural communities.  The bumper crop of 1985 and the expected farm legislation will insure this continued exodus.  The complexities of modern farming make every farm liquidation different.  Yet in the end, the family gives up its land and way of life.  The “1986 Homestead Act” is an effort to raise this human tragedy in the public conscience and help focus the rural debate in human terms.

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE?

*Reproduce and circulate this proposal and gather as many signatures in support of it as you can. We want to  establish the widest base of support for this proposal.

*Help us find and network farm families who need the “1986 Homestead Act” in order to continue farming.

HOW WILL IT HAPPEN?

At first our efforts to save individual 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 between the farmer and the system that liquidates them.  The “1986 Homestead Act” will be enacted one farm at a time.  Regardless of the outcomes, each time we non-violently put our bodies on the line we make visible the human suffering behind the economic failure.  We focus the rural debate in its human terms.  At some point with enough public pressure the policy makers will get the message and farmers themselves will take back control of their lives.

Fr. Frank Cordaro

St. Anne’s Catholic Church Logan, Iowa

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85 09 15 – News Release – Priest  support Sullivans

– FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: —

Time: Tuesday, September 24 – 11 A.M.

Place: Federal Court House – Council Bluffs, Iowa

THE SHARED STATEMENT OF FATHER TOM COENEN, MON”SIGNOR PAUL CONNELLY, FATHER FRANK CORDARO, AND FATHER TOM DECARLO.

We are four rural pastors who are deeply grieved by the current economic crisis our rural people are experiencing. If things continue as they are, we believe we are seeing the last days of a way of life in rural Iowa built upon the family farm. The systematic liquidation of the family farm has been happening over the last twenty years.

 

Our Bishop, Maurice Dingman, claims this liquidation was a planned effort by a select group of big business and government interest. Our Bishop has made a strong case of the intentional and systematic way in which the family farm unit has been replaced by a corporate model of farming. He documents that in the early 1960’s this anti-family farm sentiment became corporate~rid governmental dogma. From then on our nation’s food production moved from a family based industry to a corporate based industry. Yet this corporate take over was not implemented without the cooperation and willingness of many farmers themselves.

In our rural communities where a strong traditional spirit of interdependence and neighborliness exist, an ethic of ‘dog eat dog’ was allowed to take control of our rural farm economies. The current economic crisis of the ’80’s has only accelerated this family farmer exodus. This exodus is taking a tragic toll in human suffering and misery. Our rural families are under a great deal of stress.  Violence within farm families and the number of suicides have increased dramatically over the last couple of years. Whole communities have taken on a spirit of silence and depression. We are here today to break that silence. We are here today to do with our bodies what our political and economic structures are unwilling to do – stop the liquidation of a family farm!

Bob and Teresa Sullivan have been farming for over 30 years.  They are a deacon couple in our Church and have reared 15 children.  They are excellent farmers. The Sullivan’s mistake was to have five sons who wanted to get into farming at the wrong time. They are cattle people who pyramided their farming assets based on the inflated rural equity of the late 1970’s. They are just one of thousands of innocent though willing victims who took the expansion gamble with the full blessings of the agricultural industry and banking system. They are now in bankruptcy court with the prospect of losing everything they have lived for including their original homestead.

Today we are going on record that we intend to put our bodies in between the Sullivan’s farm homestead and the law that would take it away from them. By homestead we included their original farm home, the farm buildings~ the basic farming equipment needed to stay in farming and the immediate 40 acres upon which their buildings rest.

 

We declare our efforts of intervention will be non-violent in nature; love based and faith motivated. We are acting on our own accord; neither Bob or Teresa Sullivan have asked us to intervene nor have they been involved in any of the planning of our intended acts of intervention.

It’s the 11th hour for the family farm in America. It’s time to break the silence and act for a future, which has hope. Today when a rural family farm or a rural business is lost we all lose. By struggling to keep the Sullivan’s on their land we are saying that every family farmer and rural business is vital for our survival. We are exposing the farming ethic, which upholds constant expansion, and maximization of profits as supreme. This ethic is immoral. It has been the ethic used to divide our communities and insure the demise of the family farmer.

We are men of faith who feel called to act out of the desperate need of our people. God bless us and use our witness in the services of Thy Kingdom.

Father Tom Coenen – Dunlap, Iowa

Monsignor Paul Connelly – Missouri Valley, Iowa

Father Frank Cordaro – Logan, Iowa

Father Tom DeCarlo – St. Thomas More Center Lake Panorama, Iowa

 

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85 09 22 – 25th Sun Ord Time.2

September 22, 1985

Dear Friends:

The next week will be a very busy one for those working on the rural crisis in Harrison County.  There are three events I want to draw your attention to and ask for your prayers and support:

1) Press Conference Announcing Intended Direct Non-violent Intervention on behalf of Bob and Teresa Sullivan

On Tuesday, September 24th, Fr. Tom Coenen, Msgr. Paul Connelly, Fr. Frank Cordaro and Fr. Tom “Tank” DeCarlo will hold a press conference in front of the Federal Court House in Council Bluffs at 6th and Broadway at 11 a.m. to announce their intention to “put our bodies in between the Sullivan’s Farm homestead and the law that would take it away.”  The entire statement by the priests is attached to this week’s bulletin.  I ask you to read it carefully so that you will be informed of what and why we are taking this drastic measure.  Your prayers, support and feedback are most welcome.

2) Overnight to Explore Means of Direct Action at Force Farm Sales

Starting Wednesday, September 25th at 5 p.m. at the St. Thomas More Center for All Seasons there will be an overnight for those interested in exploring love based, faith centered direct non-violent means of intervention at forced farm and farm equipment sales.  This gathering will continue until 5 p.m. the next day, Thursday, September 26th.

3) Prayer Vigil at Harrison County Court House before Sheriff Farm Sales

On Friday, September 27th at 8:30 a.m. on the east side of the Harrison County Court House in Logan, there will be a prayer vigil for those suffering in Harrison County from the Rural Crisis.  The Harrison County Farm Crisis Committee is organizing the vigil.  Crosses will be placed in the lawn for each farm and business that has been lost in Harrison County over the last five years.  At 9 a.m. there will be a Sheriff’s Farm Sale.  The Heistand Family Farm in Woodbine is scheduled to be sold.  The Harrison County Farm Crisis Committee plans to hold a vigil at the Court House when Sheriff sales are scheduled.  There are three more scheduled for the month of October.

Lay the prayers on heavy this week.  We’re taking bold stands to save our communities.

Love,

Fr. Frank

 

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85 09 29 – 26th Sun Ord Time

Dear Friends:

 

The Farm Struggle/The Week in Review:

As you might have guessed, the press conference for the Sullivan’s was canceled.  The Court hearing was postponed.  We decided not to proceed with the press conference in order to give the Sullivan’s as much time as they can to work with their creditors.

Of course, calling off a press conference hours before it was scheduled was no small feat for the ‘organizer’.  Fr. Frank was really hopping Monday afternoon!  The prepared statement did not go to waste.  It was in all the bulletins in the county and served as a good educational tool for our people.  At the Regional Priest meeting this week in Harlan, it was suggested that I write up a brief explanation of some key concepts that have to do with direct non-violent means of intervention, like civil disobedience and non-violence.  I’ll be working on them this coming week and try them out on you next week in the bulletins.

The overnight at St. Thomas More brought together a small but significant group of people.  It was a unique experience.  There were twelve people who participated, including Bishop Dingman.  We had farmers, clergy, rural lay advocates and seasoned veterans of non-violence and civil disobedience campaigns.  The best thing about the small number of participants was the full participation in the discussion by everyone present.  We all had a chance to listen and hear each ones perspective.  I want to especially thank Floyd Neilsen and George Barry for being with us.  Their input was most important.

An idea sprang from our efforts.  Admitting there are many facets and sides to the current rural crisis, we believe there is a need to raise the human side of the issue. With each family farming unit and rural business closing, our greatest fear is that a corporate model of farming will take over our lands.  We are proposing to start a Minimum Loss Campaign, a 1985 Homestead Movement.  Every family farming unit who is losing everything should be given a second chance to stay in farming.  Allow them to keep their homestead – their home, farm buildings and the immediate 40 acres on which their home rests.  They should be allowed to rent the farmland they owned with the first option to buy.  If this were allowed, intact family farming units would be able to stay on their land.  By giving them first option to buy the land back, this would safeguard against the corporate takeover of our land.  Most farmers in trouble these days are in trouble because of their debt load and low farm prices.  Most are good farmers and would be the best folks to keep farming their own land.  It’s an idea that deserves looking into.  We can’t expect the folks in Washington to accept it until we accept it ourselves.

The prayer vigil at the Court House this Friday was good.  About 25 folks were on hand.  We planted 74 crosses in the lawn to symbolize the 74 sheriff sales in Harrison County over the last five years.  These crosses represent farms, homes, properties and businesses lost over the last five years.  Channel 7 from Omaha covered the event.  There are three more sheriff sales scheduled for the month of October.  The next one will be Friday, October 4th.  We plan to be there with our crosses and prayers at 8:30 a.m.  Reverend Jonathan Chadwick of the Methodist Church in Logan will lead the prayer service.  Please consider being with us – your presence is needed.

Peace,

Fr. Frank

———————

85 10 06 –

Part 1 of 4 part article for NCRL mag

Dear Friends:

At the last Priest Regional Meeting I was asked to write up brief descriptions and explanations of some key concepts to help explain why some of us priests are ready to use direct non-violent means of intervention to help keep family farmers on their land. This week’s segment is on Civil Disobedience. The following weeks will deal with Divine Obedience, Love Based/Faith Centered Non-Violent Direct Action and Rights/Property/Persons.  I welcome any feedback you might have.

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE:

One of the best-kept secrets in American History is the key role that civil disobedience has played in making us who we are today. Few Americans stop to think of our founding parents as lawbreakers, yet that is what they were. The Boston Tea Party was anything but a party. One of the best known and well thought out proponents of civil disobedience in American History was Henry David Thoreau. He spent a night in jail for refusing to pay a war tax in protest of the Mexican American War. His essay “On Civil Disobedience” is considered a classic.

A person who practices civil disobedience chooses to break a law that is either unjust in itself, or is a just law being used to foster an unjust situation. The law is broken in a civil manner. The lawbreaker makes no attempt to avoid being prosecuted and is willing to take the consequences for their actions. Far from being disrespectful of the law, people who have practiced civil disobedience show the highest respect for the law. They are appealing to the ‘spirit’ of the law to see the rightness of their cause. They are asking society and the law to evolve to embrace the truth they seek.  Civil disobedience has played an important role in such issues as slavery, women, labor and civil rights. Civil disobedience has also played an important role in past struggles to preserve the family farm.

The use of civil disobedience is reserved for serious matters and only after all other channels have been tried and failed.

 

Peace,

Fr. Frank

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85 10 13

Part 2 of 4 part article for NCRL mag

Dear Friends:

This is the second in a series of four segments of key concepts to help explain why some of us priests are ready to use direct non-violent means of intervention to help keep family farmers on their land. Last week we dealt with Civil Disobedience. This week we are dealing with Divine Obedience. The next two weeks we will be dealing with Love Based/Faith Centered Nonviolent Direct Action and Rights/Property/Persons. I welcome any feedback you might have.

DIVINE OBEDIENCE:

Divine obedience is a religious equivalent to civil disobedience. Of course we are to be obedient to God at all times. However, this phrase was coined by people who have broken civil laws because of a higher law of God. Religiously motivated lawbreakers can be found throughout the whole history of Christianity. Christian lawbreakers go back all the way to scriptural times. Tradition has it, that every writer in the New Testament, except for John, died at the hands of the state a martyr’s death and therefore law breakers every one of them. More important was Jesus’ relationship to the laws of his time. In his curing and feeding of people Jesus demonstrated his disregard for many human made laws. Jesus repeatedly put in practice the principle of persons over law. The strongest statement of Jesus’ disregard for law was the Resurrection. The Resurrection, the act that changed the direction of history forever, was an act of civil disobedience. When Rome condemns a person to death – especially an enemy of the State – that person is to remain dead. The Resurrected Person of Christ was a lawbreaker and the law has been after Him ever since. Maybe that’s why we Christians throughout the ages have never really been at home with any political power. Dorothy Day said it best, “When you render unto God the things that are God’s, there is darn little left for Caesar.”

 

Peace,

Fr. Frank

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85 10 20

Part 3 of 4 part article for NCRL mag

Dear Friends:

This is the third in a series of four segments of key concepts to help explain why some of us priests are ready to use direct non-violent means of intervention to help keep family farmers on their land. The last two weeks we dealt with Civil Disobedience and Divine Obedience. This week we are dealing with Love Based/Faith Centered Non-violent Direct Action. Next week we will be dealing with Rights/Property/Persons. I welcome any feedback you might have.

LOVE BASED/FAITH CENTERED NON-VIOLENT DIRECT ACTION:

Non-violent direct action is the use of power to change a given situation without the use of violence. History is filled with examples of people using non-violent tactics to force social change. Strikes, boycotts and different forms of non-cooperation are examples of non-violent tactics used to bring about change.

Non-violence can be viewed in two different ways: as a tactic for social change or as a way of life. The best-known proponents century are Mohandas K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King.   Both of these men used non-violence as a tactic for social change and embraced non-violence as a way of life. Love based/faith centered non-violent direct action combines the two under-standings of non-violence.

At the heart of love based/faith centered non-violence is the belief in the sacredness of all life. When confronting an injustice, even an injustice that destroys human life, this form of non-violent struggle will not respond in kind. If all life is sacred there can be no division between rich and poor, worker and owner, farmer and banker, protester and police. When put in action this type of non-violence refuses to accept a we/them split. To the advocates of love based/ faith centered, non-violence true changes come from the heart; it is a matter of conversion.

The risk and consequences of their actions fall back on them and not the people caught up in the processes and structures protecting the given unjust situation. For example, in a non-violent witness that involves a confrontation with the law, the non-violent advocate would not see an arresting police officer as an enemy. Often times the individual police officer is only fulfilling the duties of their job. They may even be sympathetic with the cause. The non-violent advocate would not want to pose a threat to the police officer personally and would act accordingly. The confrontation is with the unjust situation and structures, not persons caught up in the process.

Peace,

Fr. Frank

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85 10 27

Part 4 of 4 part article for NCRL mag

Dear Friends:

This is the last in a series of four segments ‘of key concepts to help explain why some of us priests are ready to use direct non-violent means of intervention to help keep family farmers on their land. The last three weeks we dealt with Civil Disobedience, Divine Obedience, and Love Based/ Faith Centered Non-violent Direct Action. This week we are dealing with Rights/Property/Persons. I welcome any feedback you might have.

RIGHTS/PROPERTY/PERSONS: 

The greatest design flaw in our economic, political and social institutions is the way in which the rights of property are insured, over the rights of people. My experience with the Catholic Worker has been a real education in this regard. In countless and systematic ways our nations: economic, political and social structures favor the rights of property over the rights of people – especially the poor. We are in a society in which the rich and the poor are increasingly experiencing two types of justice, two types of medical care, two types of education and two types of opportunities. It is alarming to note that during this “Pro-Life” administration one out of every two Black and Hispanic children born in this country have been born into poverty. An increasing percentage of poverty families are headed by women. The very abuses upon which the prophets chastised Israel are being repeated in this day and age in America.

The current rural crisis is a good example of how the system protects the rights of property over the rights of people. Most farm families in trouble today are there because of high debts, decreasing farmland and equipment values and low market prices. Many of these farmers are good and efficient food producers. They are often the best stewards of the land they farm. Yet, in an economic crisis in which everyone has played a part, the government, agribusiness, lending institutions and the farmers themselves, it’s the individual family farmer who stands to lose. They are being kicked off their land by economic and political forces more concerned with recovering an unrecoverable debt than helping to keep our family farming system afloat.

The Church teaches that the rights of property are conditional. Property rights are valid only to the extent that they serve the common good. It is not in the interest of the common good to let the family farming system go down the drain in an effort to preserve a credit system that is unjust. This must be stopped!

In the weeks and months ahead it may be necessary to practice civil disobedience in the rural struggle. As a people of faith, we may well respond with Divine Obedience in our efforts to save the family farm. When the rights of property are held above the rights of people, some of us may use Love Based/Faith Centered Non-violent Direct Means of intervention to keep our friends and neighbors on their land. The above descriptions and explanations are not meant to be the last word but a starter in helping our people come to understand what’s at stake in the rural struggle and whey we feel called to act.

Peace,

Fr. Frank

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85 11 03  Catholic Mirror article on Rural Crisis

Nov 3, 1985

Dear Friends;

Chuck Ryan from the Rural Life Office has asked me to write something about the farm crisis for the CATHOLIC MIRROR.  I thought I would try it out on you first.  If it will fly at St. Anne’s and Holy Family, I’ll pass it on to the Mirror.  I welcome your feedback.

Peace,

Fr. Frank

 

In the Iowa Catholic Bishops Statement on the Farm Crisis last year, the Bishops counseled “present trends must be reversed if Iowa’s traditional rural economy is to survive…what is needed beyond changes in the law is a conversion of minds and hearts.” What do the Bishops mean by a conversion of minds and hearts?  What is in the hearts and minds of Rural Iowans that is the major stumbling block to reversing the current trends that are destroying the family farm and our rural economics?

I believe ‘greed’ is the stumbling block in the minds and hearts of Rural Iowans; an institutionalized, completely legalized and economically accepted greed.  Fr. Fred Reischl, a twenty-five year veteran of rural ministry says it best, “The only thing a farmer wants is the property adjacent his!” At the end of WW II there were close to 7 million family farmers in the USA.

Today there are less than 2.5 million farmers.  In the pursuit of modernization and efficiency farmers have been eating each other off the land for the past forty years.  Under the banner of good old American Competition we have allowed the ethic of social Darwinism to design and control our rural way of life.

The greatest irony in all this is that the traditional rural spirit of interdependency and neighborliness has lived side by side with this ‘dog eat dog’ ethic.  It is in the rural communities that one can find the greatest concern for neighbor.  Rural Iowa communities are the most supportive and loving communities in times of tragedies.  If there is a death in the neighborhood these communities mobilize within hours to comfort the grieving family.  Should an accident or sickness befall a neighbor everyone pitches in to make sure their farm chores get done, their crops are planted and harvested.  In a real and tangible way there is a closeness and interdependency in rural communities that just doesn’t exist in the city.

Yet when it comes to economics, those systems that preserve and decide the way that farming is done, rural people have allowed an outside corporate ethic to make up the rules and decide who will and who will not farm.  Since WW II our food system has moved to a global scale.  This system has taken on a corporate multinational character, a structure based on the division of capital, management and labor.

To farming this has meant a movement towards capital intense, petroleum based, high tech-cash crop farming.  It has necessitated a constant expansion and maximization of profits over all other values.  Today’s family farming unit in Iowa farms the land that four to five family farms made a living off just a few years ago.  The family farmer today must deal with this corporate structure on both sides of its cycle.  Whatever the farmer buys or whenever the farmer sells it’s done on the terms of the corporate needs.  With each passing year the farmer lost more and more control of their way of life.

The original independence of the farmer was based on their ability to sustain themselves on the land.  This independency has eroded to a point in which rural people are just as dependent on the global consumer grid as any city dweller.

Farm Crisis

Bishop Dingman has called this corporate takeover of the family farming system a conspiracy between big government and big business.  Perhaps…but not without the willingness of most farmers themselves.  With each boom and bust period in the rural economy a certain percentage of family farmers were lost.  An image of winners and losers was sanctified within the rural communities.  The winners were the ones that survived, the smart farmer, the good manager and sound businessperson.  The losers are the ones who are gone, who just couldn’t cut it in the modern and efficient farming of today.

The unquestioning faith in statistics proved the rightness of this corporate model.  The amount of cattle raised and bushels per acres increased and the number of people fed per farmer continues to climb.  Yet something is wrong.  Merle Hansen, a farmer and President of the North American Farm Alliance said it best before crossing the line at SAC on August 6th, 1985, when he said we have a “Farm policy that has farmers going out of business for producing too much food in a world full of starving people.”

There are three good reasons to move away from the mega corporate structure of our present food system.

First:  A global food market poses a greater national security problem than any new weapons system that might come out of the Pentagon.  When nations must depend on other nations for their food, food becomes a weapon and a most basic reason for war in a starving world.

Second:  Nature does not run itself on a corporate model.  Constant expansion and maximization of profits has given us an immediate and abundant supply of cheap food but this will be short lived.  The soil and water are not unlimited.  Our farming practices continue to show a real lack of concern for these fragile resources.  Today’s farming practices are more akin to mining where we keep taking out of the land but never giving back.  We need to move towards more regenerative practices if we are going to preserve our land base for future generations.

Thirdly: American democracy has rested upon the belief that the widest distribution and ownership of land is its greatest guarantee.

The next few months will be crucial for the future of farming in Iowa.  Decisions are being made in Des Moines and Washington, D.C. that will either solidify and complete the total corporate take over of our farming system or farmers will come together at this eleventh hour and fight to stop and reverse this corporate takeover.  It is imperative that farmers themselves reject the image of winners and losers.  There are too few farmers and rural businesses now!  When we lose a farm family or a rural business we all lose.  A moratorium on anyone leaving our rural communities must be proclaimed.  Farmers and rural businesses that are on the ‘liquidation block’ and want to fight to stay alive deserve our active support.  It’s late in the process; we’ve been silent too long.  There aren’t a lot of farmers and rural people left, but there are enough of us to stop this thing and turn it around if we all stick together.

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85 12 27 –

(DM Reg Article “Few farmers accept clinic’s offer of help”, Thurs. Dec. 26, 1985)

December 27, 1985

Dear Friends:

This article from the Register  exposes a major obstacle to efforts to help rural folks help themselves.  It is a fact that rural communities are in the midst of a major economic crisis not equaled since the Great Depression.  Farmers are quitting in record numbers.  Rural businesses are disappearing up and down main streets.  Alcohol abuse, family violence and suicides have increased drastically over the last four years.  Almost daily, our local, regional and national news media tell us about the crisis.  YET efforts to meet the needs of those suffering the most are often ignored and poorly attended.

WHY?

Our modern society breeds a spirit of denial in epidemic proportions.  People feel helpless to change any of the major systems or structures that control their lives.  This malaise of spirit can be found in every social and economic level of society.  It is easier to deny the truth than to” take on” the system.  In our rural communities this spirit of denial has taken on the character of blaming oneself wholly for economic problems.  This is a variation of one of the cruelest sides of oppression in which the victims blame themselves.  It wasn’t until blacks refused to let themselves believe they were inferior to whites that they won their freedom.  It wasn’t until women believed they were equal to men that they won the vote.

Farmers are going to need to come to the same realization that they are not the sole cause of their economic problems.  The rural crisis is first and foremost a community problem and it is going to take a communal effort.  Everyone needs to get in the act, show concern and be with the folks who are suffering!

There are two very important announcements on the back of this letter.  Take a look at them and pass the information on to others.

Along with the January Sheriff Sale there are two more Sheriff Sales scheduled for January 10 and 17 – same place and same time.  When answers aren’t always clear, prayer can help.

On the lighter side, Great Christmas services!  And thank you for your generous gifts.  I have $ for my vacation.

 

Peace,

Fr. Frank

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