The first of four John F. Kennedy-Richard Nixon presidential debates was held Sept. 26, 1960, in Chicago. One of the panelists, Charles Warren of Mutual News, asked this of the two: “presidential candidates traditionally make promises to farmers. .. Why this constant courting of the farmer?”
Flash-forward to 2016: Transcripts of presidential debates since 2000 “show that farm policy hasn’t come up even once during a presidential debate for the past 16 years,” writes A. Hope Jahren in a Nov. 27 New York Times column, “The Farmers We Forgot.”
Jahren, a scientist who was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” for 2016, adds, “For more than a hundred years before (the year 2000) … the hyperbolic praise of farmers was a campaign mainstay. … How did we get from there to here?”
Consider some possibilities.
Farmers and farm population has plummeted
“Early 20th-century agriculture … took place on many small, diversified farms in rural areas where more than half the population lived,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.
The Nov. 30, 2016, USDA article “Farming and Farm Income” continues: “Agricultural production in the 21st century … is concentrated on a small number of large, specialized farms in rural areas where less than a fourth of the U.S. population lives.”
Heir to British throne weighs in
In the November 2015 edition of Britain’s Country Life magazine, Prince Charles, who had just turned 65, writes in his annual Birthday Message to readers, “it is all too easy to overlook, or perhaps merely to forget, just how much we depend on our family farmers … it is clear to me that the rural economy is largely invisible to many people.”
Whatever the reason, members of the non-farming public are paying far less attention to the people who grow their food.
What do you think? Are farmers being forgotten due to significant population shifts? Because they’ve become “largely invisible”? Or is it due to some other reason — or even a variety of reasons?
Florida Food & Farm wants to know. Please post your comments. Thanks.