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Uncle Chuck wants you

by Richard R. Oswald
(Friday, Feb. 7, 2003 -- CropChoice guest commentary) -- I have a vision. It is a vision of green hills and valleys interspersed with grazing livestock and thriving crops. Clean water flows through streams and rivers while homes filled with growing families lay like playing pieces resting on a huge green checkerboard.

Standing atop the tallest hill is a lone figure. Behind him, the American flag ripples in the breeze as he surveys his domain. If he were dressed in stars and stripes he might pass for Uncle Sam, and my vision might be nothing more than an old WWII ‘Buy Bonds’ poster, but it’s more than that. It is a vision of the future as it could be.

Who is the larger than life figure who resides in my vision?

He is the last American family farmer to hold a Senate seat in the USA; Senator Charles Grassley.

Senator Charles Grassley is fighting the battle of our lives as he tries to bring about legislation that could save for us our way of life as family farmers and ranchers in America. He is standing up for reasonable payment limits, for assistance targeted to the real victims of disaster, and standing up to big agribusinesses like IBP and Excel as they continue to force consolidation and the retreat of American livestock producers.

Chuck Grassley is not alone in all this. He has strong allies in the US Senate. Tom Harkin has rejoined the fray after giving ground on the matter of payment limits in the last farm bill debate. Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Mike Enzi of Wyoming have united in the conflict over packer ownership of livestock. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin is cosponsoring a bill to end forced arbitration of livestock contracts.

We are not so well represented in the House where controversial family farm issues seem to disappear into committee never to be seen or heard from again. One would expect grassroots support to begin in the House rather than end there but, thankfully, grassroots have found fertile soil elsewhere.

Leading grassroots producers in their battle against packers through pending lawsuits is Omaha attorney David Domina. I recently heard Mr. Domina speak to a group of cattlemen. He inspires confidence and hope that producers will soon prevail. Another attorney from Omaha, Michael Stumo, provides council to the pro-producer group, Organization for Competitive Markets. His leadership is appreciated by those of us who dream of better days.

The list goes on. Mike Callicrate, Fred Stokes, H.J. Sanner; organizations like R-Calf, OCM, American Corn Growers, Soybean Producers of America, Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment, and the National Farmers Union are all doing something in their own way to help with farm issues they have chosen to define as important to them and their producer constituents. It is a battle royal of the common good over corporate interest and control, and standing at the front of it all is the one man who has the courage to speak up for you and I even as the large corporate interests he opposes target him as their opponent. Without him and his allies, we would be lost in the mad scramble for control of the nations food budget and the wealth of dollars it represents. If not for Senator Grassley and some others we might indeed wonder if anyone wanted us at all. Perhaps the rallying cry of all family farmers and ranchers should be “Uncle Chuck Wants You!”

I think Uncle Sam would be proud.

Richard R. Oswald is a Missouri farmer who wrote this editorial for DTN, which published it on Feb. 3.