Is agriculture still the backbone of the US economy? 

(Journal stock photo.)

If agriculture in this country is truly the backbone of our economy why are we bent on curtailing it and damaging its existence? It is very evident that down through our history the agriculture sector has been basically price takers and on rare occasions price setters. 

Therefore, we do rely on our government in a sense to look out for our industry. 

During the recent Republican debates there was only one question pertaining to agriculture and it went unanswered. If ag is so important why not more questions? Questions like, “Why did we allow a consolidation of railways that directly link Canada to Mexico, thus allowing direct shipments of commodities through our country?” 

This became apparent by a recent shipment of Canadian wheat directly through the United States to Mexico stopping only to fuel up, not to upload U.S. grain. 

Another question might be, “Why are we asking American agriculture to compete with Ukrainian ag when we as a country are subsidizing their farmer’s input costs?” Also, why do we purchase Ukrainian wheat with U.S. taxpayer money to be shipped to needy countries in Africa when our own government says we have plenty. Our government is asking a lot of our people in agriculture to allow the use of our own money to, in essence, compete against other countries that according to the World Trade Organization are illegally subsidizing their farmers and nothing is done about it even after they are found guilty as in the China case. 

The commentators could have asked how the candidates feel about a government entity that sends money directly to needy countries to purchase commodities whenever they prefer in lieu of sending the U.S. commodities to those countries? 

When it comes to foreign ownership of land it could have been asked, “Why do we allow foreign entities to own 12 million acres of land in this country?” For reference we plant between 8 to 9 million acres of wheat each year in Kansas. 

A burning question might be, “What is the plan for American energy?” Agriculture relies primarily on petroleum to operate, currently our farms will not function on alternative fuels alone. What is the plan going forward? 

When it comes to international shipments of grain why in some cases is the cost of transportation (specifically on U.S. flag ships) allowed to dictate the amount of total commodity to be shipped under a particular program? 

It would be very interesting to hear responses to these as well as other ag questions not only from Republican candidates but also Democratic candidates—if they ever have a debate. 

Ron Suppes is a Dighton, Kansas farmer.