Who is going to feed us?
What started as a jaunt to find warm weather the first week in January, ended up as a question of: "Who is going to feed us in the future?"
Bringing this subject to the forefront were conversations with the folks further south who were responsible in years past for providing the produce that many folks in these parts had grown accustomed to enjoying.
A year ago at a produce firm in Gulf Port, Miss., we purchased good, pink tomatoes for $20 for a 25-pound box. This year, they were $35, which prompted a call to south Florida to see what the market price might run. The response hit us like a bombshell, when we learned the going price to the grower was $4 a box. And, growers were going several days at a time not picking any produce at all.
At the same time, we learned that bush beans were being plowed up, since there was no market for this crop either.
Checking at grocery outlets on the Gulf Coast, we found tomatoes selling for $1.30 a pound, meaning someone was obviously taking a big chunk of profit away from the growers.
There is no way on God's green Earth that the growers can hold land, cultivate, buy plants, put them in the ground, fertilize, water, harvest, buy boxes and pack and come out even, let alone make a profit under these circumstances.
Thus comes the question: "Who is going to feed us one of these days?"
Obviously, our system is out of whack when it comes to the point that Americans growing food for this or any other nation are being squeezed out by government regulations or the practice of catering to other nations. If some of our negotiations with neighbors has caused this problem, the time has come to review these agreements and see how we have been outsmarted at the table where agreements were fashioned.
Make a living
In this case, while the growers of tomatoes in south Florida were getting $4 for 25 pounds of the crop, people selling them up the line were marking them up to $31, and they weren't willing to reveal what the box of veggies were costing them. Someone between the grower and the produce company must have been pocketing a handsome profit for just handling the item.
Those folks doing the growing are good people -- well established in their communities and contributing to the welfare of their own and the lives of others. In some cases, they are long-time friends of family residing in virtually the southern-most points of this country. They have a long history of helping feed their region and -- in some cases -- the nation.
Could this be a case of this government being outsmarted several years ago in making agreements and concessions that are now beginning to cause great harm to a segment of our agricultural community? If this is the case, those situations need to be corrected and promptly changed before much more damage to the practice of farming is further harmed.
Growers tell us they are operating under a different set of rules than those across our borders. Many of these regulations were designed to protect our citizens, but were not required by growers in foreign areas, some of whom do not follow rules and regulations for protection of the consumer or the general public.
This alone results in American growers being placed in a situation of extra expense both in growing and harvesting costs.
More recently, the transporting of goods out of Mexico has been made much easier heading north. The possibility of going the other direction is small, resulting from lower labor cost and the many factors placed these days on American goods.
The fact is, few people in our part of the country are aware of why these advantages that make it so difficult for Americans to provide food for their tables have to exist. Perhaps Congress, supposedly seated in Washington, is so involved with other problems that they have overlooked their own people. Or, maybe they have benefitted themselves so heavily with the damaging agreements that they are content to continue situations that harm America.
We wonder where their elected representatives are while this situation exists. They could be part of the problem, benefitting their own pockets while those who send them to Washington suffer.
On a lighter note, 11 days from now comes one of the most anticipated dates on the calendar, March 1 -- the opening of Rainbow Trout season at Roaring River State Park. On the first day of March, no matter what the weather might be, the 2015 opening gun will sound, and the waters running through the hollow will be whipped by anglers from near and far.
Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.