FSA official: Spending on agricultural programs pays off

Friday, March 1, 2002
Tim Kelley

The $1 billion spent on Missouri farmers more than pays for itself, Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director Tim Kelley told farmers, businesspeople and Rotary Club members during the club's annual Farmer Appreciation Luncheon held Thursday.

Speaking to guests gathered in Missouri Valley College's R. Wilson Brown Room, Kelley noted that although $43 billion has been spent on the farming industry across the country, lower food costs for consumers saves U.S. citizens considerably more.

"In the U.S. we spend 10.4 percent of (our) income for food. Most other countries pay 15 percent," said Kelley.

"That's a 4 percent difference between what we pay for food and the average most other countries pay," he added. "In our nation we paid $8.7 trillion in food bills in 2000, 4 percent of that is $331,000 billion. I'll take that (savings) in a heartbeat."

Kelley went on to note that the work U.S. farmers do should not be ignored as the value of what they produce is not likely to be forgotten. He listed a number of comments not likely to be heard from the American populace.

"'Ten percent's not really enough to pay for my food.' Are you going to hear that?" he asked. "I don't think so."

"You're not going to hear people say 'Our rural countryside is too pristine, we need to ugly it up a bit,' or a mother say 'We're spending too much on food safety,'" he added.

"We won't hear, 'Why should we always be number one, the most dominant food producer. It won't hurt to let other countries produce all our food.' 'The value of food is overrated,' or 'Farming's too easy, I need a more challenging job.'"

"My role today is to say thank you to you who produce the food," Kelley said. "I appreciate what you do, I know it's hard work and I know how bad the markets are and I hope you'll reach around and pat yourselves on the back."

"I really appreciate the opportunity to say thanks for what you do. I hope you know how important you are to the country, the state of Missouri and the heart of our economy."

But, Kelley noted, how money is spent in the industry will have to undergo changes so that farmers aren't dependent on subsidies, the money goes where it's needed most and the agricultural industry does not feel the need to move to South America - where 76 million acres are open for agriculture.

"It's important to America that we remain the world's most dominant food supplier, but our policies aren't going to do that," Kelley explained, adding that a large percentage of producers' income now comes from government subsidies.

"About 20 percent of total income farmers received was from government funds. That's not the way we want it, that's not the way the government wants it," said Kelley. "It's just the way we've gone."

The Marshall Rotary Club hosted the buffet meal and presentation in appreciation of area farmers and their contributions to the local economy and community.

"This is our way of showing our appreciation for what the farmers and agribusinesses do for us in this community," said Karl Caldwell, a Marshall Rotary Club member and the luncheon's emcee.

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