A Letter to Senator Harkin

Editor's note - This is the letter that I sent to Senator Harkin on behalf of my family. John

Senator Harkin,

We farm 400 acres of corn and soybeans near Dougherty, Iowa. We used to raise hogs but were driven from that endeavor long ago by the consolidation and vertical integration of pork production. Sheffield, where I attended high school, has about 1,000 people; a consolidated K-12 school (Sheffield, Chapin, Meservey and Thornton); and Sheffield’s main street, which has struggled, like most, to hold onto enough economic activity to remain viable. So far, they have done so. Many others have not.

The consolidation in farming that has resulted from unlimited farm program payments is hollowing out my part of the country. We farm land in Franklin and Cerro Gordo counties, and both have experienced a virtual exodus from our rural communities.

Senator Harkin, no one will ever farm our farm again after we leave, not if things remain the way they are now. Of course, someone will till the soil, plant and harvest. But no one will farm here, no one will live here. If a beginning farmer wanted to farm our land, we would likely do whatever we could to help. But he would not be able to afford to add onto our small farm. The current farm bill has driven up land costs to the point where young farmers have no chance. The only so-called “farmers” that are still buying land are mostly speculators or very large operators that do not even live around here.

We are selling 80 acres to a local banker, not the bank, but the banker – purely a speculative purchase on his part – because we need the cash to keep my mother in the care center where she now resides. But the transaction confirms what I suspected. No one will farm here when we are gone, unless you do something about all of this.

We farm some of the best land anywhere. There should be lots of farms with kids and with livestock and lots of building for the future. The November elections made you the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. No one will play a bigger role in writing the next farm bill than you. I urge you to stand up to the Southerners and tell them we will no longer write nor tolerate farm bills that destroy family farms. If they want to destroy their family farms, let them have their way with cotton and rice, and may God have mercy on their souls.

But let us have a farm bill here in Iowa, the Midwest and the rest of the nation that supports family farmers, especially beginning farmers, and the communities that have grown up around them. Let us have a farm bill with real payment limits. No more tricks, no more loopholes, no more multiple entities – but real farm payment limits that level the playing field and bring young families back to our communities.

I have heard many farmers say that they would rather have no farm bill than one without payment caps, and perhaps they are right. I will say this, there is nothing in the current farm bill, nothing, not… one… single… thing… that is worth trading away payment limits. Any farm bill without payment limits is doomed to fail. And the people who will suffer that failure the most are the family farmers and rural people living in and around places like Sheffield, Iowa.


John Crabtree
Crabtree Farms
2238 Thrush Ave
Sheffield, Iowa 50475

Post a question or comment here or contact John Crabtree, johnc@cfra.org

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