This week was a long one at work, but walking home after dark tonight I remembered why I (and the great people that I work with here at the Center) do it. It was a peaceful walk on a calm spring night. As I walked first down our sleepy rural Main Street, past our small public library and onto a dark residential street, I thought about the farm bill. Farm and rural policy could do something for my town. I really believe that, but for too long conscious policy decisions made in Washington have hurt my community rather than help it.
So we fought to make this farm bill better. We fought to limit commodity subsides to the biggest farms who do little good and much harm in the Heartland. We fought for real and meaningful investment in rural development, money to help foster small businesses in rural communities. We fought to limit corporate control over our family livestock farmers and ranchers. And, well, folks, we came up short. And that can be frustrating and mentally draining.
But my town is worth it, and rural America is worth it. And that is why the effort to bring fundamental reform to the farm bill is not wasted effort.
The message from many on this farm bill is that the wins (and there are wins) were not as great as we would have liked, but we should support the bill anyway because it is better than an extension of the current bill. Wait till next time, the argument goes, next time we will be able to build on these wins and maybe achieve some more meaningful reform. I'm not all that old, but I am old enough to know that wait almost always means never.
I reflected on all of this as I walked home. Past houses with lights on, and houses without lights on, and past houses where no one lives anymore. There are too many of those last kind on the walk between my house and our office. And that is precisely why my town can't wait. Can't wait five more years that turns into 10 more years. Because in 10 years there will be fewer farmers in my county, fewer jobs in my town and more empty houses.
We can do better for farmers and rural people, and I rest well tonight knowing we are standing up for a right and just cause. We -- and many readers of this blog should count themselves as part of that we -- stood up for what was right. And we gave them a hell of a fight. In the end that is the only way we will win.
Six short blocks later, and a third of the way across town, I was home.