NE WAY to judge a candidate is on his past words. Here is the election speech I gave at the 2012 NYFB Annual Meeting, as well as the speeches I gave at Annual Meetings in my runs for NYFB President in 2002, 2006, 2008, and 2010, and NYFB Vice President in 2004.
Nancy Weber, President of Otsego County Farm Bureau, nominated me for president of NYFB with a thoughtful three-minute speech.
First, I’d like to thank Delaware County Farm Bureau for granting me the privilege of representing it as a Voting Delegate for the past 15 years. Second, I’d like to thank Eric Ooms for conducting a fabulous and fair Delegate Session as we reviewed policy. Third, I’d like to thank Dean Norton and Jeff Kirby for giving me the idea for this speech, which I call Why.
(The day before, Norton and Kirby said NYFB membership was falling because NYFB was focusing on what we do for Membership, and not why we do it.
Why does Mark Dunau want to be New York Farm Bureau president? Because Mark Dunau wants the farmers of New York State, 90% of whom are self-employed, to stand behind him when he asks the following questions.
First, if the purpose of democratic elections is to hold leadership accountable, why don’t we announce the vote tally with the name of the winner of this election? By common consent, I ask that the vote tally be given when the winner is declared, so that this body better understands its will.
Why is the United States of America becoming the United States of Amnesia?
Why do politicians of both parties claim to support small business, but never mention the self-employed or the draconian Self-Employment Tax?
Why in 1980 was the Self-Employment Tax rate 8.1%, and by 1990 it was 15.3%?
Why in 1980 was the maximum Self-Employment Tax $2,100, and today a self-employed person pays about $7,500 in Self-Employment Tax on $50,000 in income, and $15,000 in Self-Employment Tax on $100,000 in income?
Why don’t politicians talk about the horrendous impact this flat tax has on rural America and small business in general?
Why can’t sole proprietors, partnerships, S corporations, and LLCs deduct their health insurance as a business expense, as can publicly traded corporations?
Why do we allow one size fits all regulations that succeed in driving the self-employed out of business?
Why in 1980 did we have over 300,000 dairy farms in the United States, and today there are just over 60,000 dairy farmers in the United States?
Why in 1980 did dairy farmers receive a parity price for their milk, and today only about one third of parity?
Why are some dairy cooperatives using the strong arm tactics of monopolies, but retaining their antitrust exemptions?
Why are commodity farmers in New York State going out of business, but business for farmers in direct sales is booming?
Why were their six farmers’ markets in New York State in 1962, and today over 500 farmers’ markets?
Why can’t NYFB take part of its $18,000,000 in assets and have our own office in Washington, D.C. to promote our policies and the regional agriculture of the Northeast?
Why do we need free trade to make a living when New York farmers are unable to supply even 25% of the food needs of New Yorkers?
Why aren’t we focusing instead on tearing down local and regional trade barriers?
Why doesn’t NYFB fess up to the fact that its current membership is less than half of what it was in 2004?
Why is NYFB keeping the leadership that has led it into this debacle?
Why, when Dean Norton was elected in 2008, did he promise that membership would rise to over 40,000 by 2012?
I’ll conclude with these words from a song I recently wrote:
In this world take a stand,
Thanks for your attention; hang onto your heart.
(Following Mark Dunau, Dean Norton gave his speech. He corrected Dunau by stating he had predicted that by 2018, not 2012, membership would be over 40,000. Following Norton’s speech, the Executive Director, Jeff Kirby, asked for a vote from the Delegates as to whether or not they wanted a complete tally when the winner was elected. The Delegates voted unanimously for a complete tally. The tally was 89 votes for Norton, 12 for Dunau.)
As you all know, I do not believe democracy is served by elections that include only one candidate. Consequently, every two years I have taken the opportunity to give a ten minute speech to this delegate body, which it has been my privilege to participate in since 1998.
First, I’d like to thank Dean Norton for his brilliant leadership in defeating the Omnibus Agricultural Labor Bill, which would have been a disaster for big and small farms alike in New York State. Accordingly, it will come as no surprise to me that following this election, Dean will still be President. So, take this speech as some advice to grow agriculture and membership in NYFB.
Many of you see me as a raging leftist, but, in reality, unlike the majority of the delegates gathered here today, I have never taken a dollar from the USDA. What I have been fighting for over the past 13 years is not government handouts, but the opportunities that direct and local sales offer family farmers to make a living. NYFB is in the business of growing New York agriculture, and I believe our best opportunities lie in our own backyard, not on the world market. The buy local food movement is a huge opportunity for New York agriculture, and I now support the creation of a membership level in NYFB for those people that buy our food. NYFB should represent itself not only as the protector of New York State’s food supply, but its water supply as well.
Half of New York agriculture is still dairy, but it is not an industry that is thriving. It is an industry that is at best hanging on, and in western Delaware County, where dairy farms used to do the landscape, we are now down to three. So, as relates to milk-marketing orders, and the inexplicable way prices are set in this country for milk, let me offer some wisdom from the Dakota Indians; when you find yourself riding a dead horse, get off. Unfortunately, in the world of modern business and government, because of the heavy investment factors to be taken into consideration, other strategies besides dismounting the dead horse have been applied. These strategies include:
The dead horse is not milk, it’s how it’s sold. New York Farm Bureau should boldly declare that fat is good, and that whole fluid milk is the healthiest milk. Attack the nutritionists whose false science has killed demand for your product, and enabled some people to declare that milk is poison. Face up to the fact that AFBF has let the dairy industry down. As concerns getting a fair price for your milk, AFBF is a dead horse.
I could go on, but I’m nearly out of time. So, let me share with you this thought concerning what most farmers have in common: we get dirty for a living. Not because we are getting rich from this activity, but because we share the spirit of the earth insofar as we like working outside. I believe that lies make the soul sick, and that lies include not only what is said, but what is not said. So when you see me rise over and over again at this delegate session, it is my way of staying healthy.
In conclusion, I will sing unaccompanied a song that I recently wrote. It’s called Truck Driving Dog. I will limit myself to four of the eight verses. If you see my son run to the door, it is because he is too young to have learned that most of what we regret in life is not what we do, but what we don’t do.
When the simple things in life are true,
Cause I’m a truck, truck, truck,
When my master says hup,
Cause I’m a truck, truck, truck,
When I’m riding,
Cause I’m a truck, truck, truck,
When I die,
Truck driving dog.
To all you truck and tractor driving dogs out there, thanks for your attention, hang onto your heart.
It is an honor to stand before you today as a candidate for President of New York Farm Bureau. Today, I have a chance to win, because the champ, John Lincoln, is stepping down. John’s great legacy to this organization is his integrity and the NYFB staff that shares that integrity. When we fight for policy on this Delegate floor, we know it’s worth fighting for because NYFB has the people to make policy a reality.
This is the 11th year in a row that it has been my privilege to serve Delaware County as a Voting Delegate. Most of the resolutions that I have put forward have related to the self-employed, and the right of the self-employed to make a living without being crushed by mandated regulations. 90% of New York farmers are self-employed, as are 90% of American farmers, and the self-employed should not be the highest taxed, most regulatory burdened, least protected New Yorker. Of the candidates that stand before you today, only one is self-employed, and that is me. I understand the self-employed because it is the business and private life I have chosen and fought for. Yesterday you heard Eric Massa, Congressman-elect from the 29th CD, champion the rights of the self-employed. It was also music to my ears to hear Massa declare that one of his first acts in Washington would be to sponsor a Chemical Sovereignty Act that would prohibit the import of food produced with chemicals banned in the USA, an idea that I first put forward to this Delegation in 1998.
One of the criticisms of my candidacy is that I have never served on the NYFB Board of Directors, while each of the other candidates has. So let me point this fact out: Dean and Paul were on the Board when the NYFB decided to push the disastrous legislation which mandated the pasteurization of cider in New York State, and put many self-employed cider producers out of business. In so doing, NYFB also created a dangerous precedent for food safety mandates for vegetable and fruit growers, despite the fact that NYFB policy already existed in opposition to processing mandates for produce. If I am on the NYFB Board of Directors as President, this will never happen under my watch, because the business of New York Farm Bureau should be to keep farmers in business, not put them out of business.
Today a huge opportunity for New York farmers lies before us. Local, regional, and sustainable have become buzz words. New York farmers are in a unique position to profit by it, whether it’s a small dairy farmer like John Radliff in Scholharie County picking up extra cash in the farmers’ market with his sideline of vegetables, or a much larger producer like Lyle Wells from Long Island getting a great price for his produce because of local demand. New Yorkers want our product because we are New York farmers. And because we can’t meet demand, our prices are going up. We don’t need to tear down international trade barriers to make a living; we need to tear down local trade barriers. When New Yorkers can buy New York milk, when New York dairy farmers can plug into regional demand, that will be the end of the New York dairy crisis.
NYFB is the voice of New York agriculture, but the face of New York agriculture is in the farmers’ markets, which have grown from six in 1960 to over three hundred in New York State today. The voice of New York agriculture must reflect that face in the farmers’ market by championing the message of buy local, regional, and sustainable. That future is now, and because I have made my living for nineteen years in direct sales, I am the uniquely qualified candidate that has not only talked the talk, but raised two children on the income of local and regional direct sales.
To the bright future of New York agriculture is a dark cloud rolling out from California, being considered by FDA as we speak, in the form of food safety mandates for leafy greens. Now, if a farmer wants to wash his produce in disinfectant wash water, that’s his right, as it is his right to UV it, but that’s very different from mandating that all farmers disinfect their produce before selling it, or legislate that my neighbor’s livestock or the wildlife in my woods is a food safety threat to the public. This is madness not grounded in any science, and must be fought by NYFB to preserve the local future of New York agriculture.
In closing, I have two very different points to make. Eric, Dean and Paul would make much better Executive Directors of New York Farm Bureau than me. But we are not running for Executive Director, we are running for President, a position that takes vision for the future of this organization, and the ability to stand and deliver before an audience. I can do that, and, as the son of two great lawyers, it has been drummed into me that when you have a client, you don’t represent yourself, you represent the client, and my client will not be the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, or the Green Party, it will be New York Farm Bureau and this Policy Book.
So, let me close with these words. It is no secret to most of you that I have a Jewish background. The only part of that background that is relevant to this election is that on my father’s side of the family, I am the first male in over a thousand years to be conceived in a nation where a Jew has the right to own land. Now, coming from a family that has fought for over a millennium to gain the right to own land, I am not going to let it go without a fight. And if you do me the honor of electing me President, I promise to fight with that same passion for the rights of New York farmers big and small to make a living off of their land.
Thanks for your attention. Hang onto your heart.
I am standing before you today as a candidate for President of New York Farm Bureau for two reasons: One, democratic processes are not served by uncontested elections, and two, the Board of Directors of NYFB desperately need new leadership and vision to reverse the nearly 20% slide in membership in the last two years that has seen this organization run like a chicken with its head cut off to try to save itself.
The future of NYFB, however, does not lie in more membership drives but in mobilizing its brilliant staff and 18 million dollars in cash to champion New York farming as the heart of security for all New Yorkers, and the vital engine of rural prosperity. When this organization recommits to the survival of farming, not of itself, membership will follow.
The elephant in the living room of NYFB is that milk prices are not simply bad, they are catastrophic. We must take the initiative with our resources now to work with the new Spitzer Administration to create a regional dairy compact that will support over-order pricing. Any other issue before NYFB pales in comparison. If we fail now, not only the future of dairy farming in New York, but all agriculture in this state is bleak. Although I am an organic vegetable farmer, I know when yet another dairy farm in Delaware County is auctioned off, the bell tolls for me as well because the agricultural infrastructure on which I depend is collapsing.
Last night Bob Stalman (President of American Farm Bureau Federation) spoke of New York farmers’ contribution to the American victory in the Revolutionary War. Well, it is not only the Revolutionary War in which the farmers of New York have served; it’s the Civil War, the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and now the Iraq War. If after over two hundred years of service and sacrifice we accept that for lack of $5 a hundred weight in the marketplace New York agriculture should die, we have truly drunk deeply of some spiked Kool-Aid. New York farmers are not failing because they can’t compete, they are failing because the market is rigged by monopolistic collusion and subsidized regional disparities, particularly federally subsidized water to the arid regions of the West. This fight is here and now, and all other issues are secondary. Stand up if you want to fight—stand up, stand up, stand up. (90% of the voting delegates stand.) That’s the message you must deliver to your Board.
Push has come to shove, and our first move must be to take this crisis out of the agricultural community and lay it before New Yorkers by publicizing it through editorials, op eds and paid advertising— Got New York milk? Not for long. My mother and father gave me the gift of being able to stand and deliver; I want to use this gift on behalf of New York farmers.
The fight to save New York agriculture is deeply philosophical insofar as we are all in this together. We can not win if we pit big farmers against small farmers, organic farmers against conventional farmers, East against West. Since I’ve been in NYFB, we’ve tried to walk this walk by invoking the principle that what is good for big farmers is good for small farmers. I want to reverse this equation by adopting the principle that what is good for small farms is good for big farms. And let’s face it, big New York farms are only big compared to New York farms, not national ones, where a 1,500 hundred cow dairy farm in Arizona is only the median size. New York agriculture is the agriculture of small farms, period.
Through our involvement with the American Farm Bureau Federation we’ve put a lot of effort into promoting and expanding New York exports. But in 2000, New York exported about 500 million dollars in agricultural products, and by 2005 our exports had risen to just 565 million dollars. That’s an increase of 65 million dollars, or less than $3 a New Yorker, which is pathetic.
Is there room for New York agriculture to grow? You bet there is, but it’s in the markets of New York and the Northeast, where the consumer is coming to understand the meaning of buy fresh, buy local, and where a regional dairy compact will have the body politic and consumer base to survive. Vegetables, fruits and all the diverse products of New York need go no further than our own population and the Northeast to grow and prosper. There are about 35,000 farms in New York, but only 10,000 gross more than $40,000 in sales. There’s plenty of room to expand the number of New York farms and the operations that already exist. We need to focus on serving our communities and our regional markets. Buy fresh, buy local, buy regionally and buy New York. And for God’s sake—hang onto your heart.
I am honored to stand here today as a candidate for vice-president of New York Farm Bureau. On many occasions, I have described the Delegate Session as the most democratic process in which I have ever had the privilege to take part.
My wife and I have made our living as vegetable farmers in Delaware County since 1990. In 1998, we joined Delaware County Farm Bureau, and that same year I had the privilege of serving as a Voting Delegate.
Within the first minute I joined the Delegate Session, I was confronted with these words on the screen, as a proposed affirmation of American Farm Bureau Policy, “We oppose the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”
I went to the microphone, and my first words to this body were, “Are we crazy? Are we completely out of our minds? Do you know what the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is? Do you know how many people died for it? Do you know it is the heart of our voting rights protections in this county?”
My outburst was met with stunned silence, until Sheila Powers from Albany County rose and said, “He’s right. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed poll taxes and literacy tests. It is as much a protection of New Yorkers as it is blacks in Mississippi.” The Delegate Session then unanimously resolved to delete.
Most of you know me as an articulate pain in the ass. However, in that role I believe I have made our policy book stronger, and thereby this organization.
The reason I am running for vice-president is because there is a monster in the living room of New York Farm Bureau that we are ignoring. It looks like an X. On one side of the X we have declining farmers, from about 150,000 farmers in 1950 to 38,000 today. On the other side of the X we have rising NYFB membership, to about 37,000 today. We are at a crossroads, and personally, I am not interested in being a member of a future NYFB with 100,000 members but only 2,000 farmers. I no longer want to celebrate rising NYFB membership unless it is accompanied with rising numbers of farmers. I want to be vice-president of New York Farm Bureau, because I have ideas as to how to grow the numbers of both members and farmers.
According to AFBF, nearly 90% of farmers are self-employed. I believe New York Farm Bureau should be the voice not only of agriculture, but of the self-employed. There are 1.5 million self-employed New Yorkers; yet neither Republicans nor Democrats know their name. By virtue of the Self-Employment Tax, we know who we are; the highest taxed, most regulatory burdened, least protected New Yorkers. A 15.3% flat tax on all our profits under $88,000, without even health insurance allowed as a business deduction. 1.5 million self-employed New Yorkers need a voice, and I believe that voice should be New York Farm Bureau.
Now, how do we grow farmers? I make my living in direct sales. Direct sales is one of the few parts of New York agriculture that has grown over the past few decades. In 1964, there were only six farmers’ markets in New York, today there are over 200. New York Farm Bureau may be the voice of agriculture, but the farmers’ markets are now their face. People want to know their farmer both for quality and security, because the consumer’s best protection is knowing the farmer, and for most customers in the farmers’ markets, their closest connection to the soil. Food is a craft, and increasingly, people want contact with the crafts people that produce it.
Most of my sales are directly to restaurants. However, I also have a small CSA, Community Supported Agriculture. This is another quickly expanding market in New York. In the spring, consumers buy a share of a farmer’s harvest. By paying the farmer upfront, the consumer shares the risk of that farmer’s season, but is usually rewarded with an overflowing box of vegetables every week for about 20 weeks. Ten years ago there were only a couple of dozen CSAs in New York, now there are over 200. This is risk management without the government.
Lastly, I believe I can help grow New York farmers through my experience in organic agriculture, a part of New York agriculture that has grown 20% a year over the last dozen years. The Board of Directors of New York Farm Bureau needs a member from the organic community.
Many of you think I am a raving Socialist. In fact, I am a Libertarian, with this one large exception: I do not believe large corporations are human beings; therefore they should not have the same rights as human beings, and certainly not more. My farm has never taken a dime in subsidies from the federal government, and agriculturally, it is run without any government oversight or intervention.
Now, I believe that New York Farm Bureau has a fabulous staff, but no matter how good that staff is, it will never reverse the decline of farmers in New York until we have a voice in Washington, D.C. that truly reflects New York and New York agriculture. New York Farm Bureau has over $19,000,000 dollars in assets, of which over $17,000,000 is liquid. Tomorrow, we could take out a million dollars to open an office in Washington. Our mission statement is to “serve and strengthen New York agriculture”, not simply New York Farm Bureau. We need to invest part of our assets in Washington in order to serve our mission, which is to grow New York agriculture. Until we do, we will continue to be buried.
I am not proposing to start a war with American Farm Bureau Federation; we must continue to speak with one voice. But we need to go to Washington to emphasize those parts of policy that American Farm Bureau and New York Farm Bureau have in common, but which American Farm Bureau Federation has chosen not to emphasize. We must be in Washington as the voice of agriculture, the voice of the self-employed, and the voice of justice.
We need a Chemical Sovereignty Act that would prohibit the import of food produced with chemicals banned in the USA. That Act would cut straight to the heart of NAFTA and GATT, which treats environmental standards as unfair trade barriers. It is absolutely nuts to have a Food Quality and Protection Act which takes chemicals out of the hands of American farmers, but leaves them in the hands of our foreign competitors to enter the American market.
We need to be in Washington to demand that the self-employed be allowed to deduct their health insurance premiums as a business expense. If corporations have the right to this deduction, so must the unincorporated businesses of the self-employed. Health insurance is the single biggest crisis facing the self-employed because they face the highest health insurance premiums in this country; they need this deduction, and New York Farm Bureau should be their voice in Washington, D.C. fighting for it.
Lastly, we must be in Washington to fight for Country of Origin Labeling. That is good for all American farmers, big and small. Americans want to buy American; buy American, buy American—but they can’t do it if food is not labeled with the country of origin. COOL was a tremendous victory for farmers over processors. The language of the bill clearly puts the burden on processors and handlers to label, but USDA has mucked it all up for the purpose not of protecting farmers, but the transnational corporate oligopolies that dominate so much of agriculture. There is a word for the failure of County of Origin Labeling to be implemented: betrayal. New York Farm Bureau must be in Washington to fight for the most important of our American markets; produced by Americans, bought by Americans.
All the people running for this office have abundant ability. What separates them from me is that I will not put up with the status quo. If you believe that NAFTA and GATT are good for agriculture, don’t vote for me. If you believe that small farmers must become big farmers in order to survive, don’t vote for me. If you believe that tens of thousands of producers and only a hand full of buyers represents a free market, don’t vote for me. If you believe that New York Farm Bureau should not have an office in Washington, don’t vote fore me.
Truth to power, that’s why I ask for your vote. Truth to power, truth to power, truth to power. Burn down the cities and suburbs, but leave our farms alone, and the cities will rise again. But destroy our farms, and this nation will be destroyed.
Thanks for your attention. Hang onto your heart.
As many of you know, I participate in elections that I have nearly no hope of winning. This is not because I am a glutton for punishment, but because I believe that elections are not only about leadership, but are an affirmation and expansion of the marketplace of ideas. It is more than likely that John Lincoln, a strong leader and a man of impeccable integrity, will continue to lead New York Farm Bureau, but this organization and the democracy it represents is not served by elections with only one candidate. As most of you are members are the party of Lincoln, let me quote Abraham Lincoln on this subject, “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards out of men.”
On Tuesday, we celebrated the expansion of New York Farm Bureau membership to a number that exceeded over 33,000. There is much to be proud of in this statistic, but I believe it behooves us as the voice of New York agriculture to acknowledge that while we have grown as an organization, the number of farms in New York has drastically declined. According to New York Agricultural Statistics, in 1964, when New York Farm Bureau membership was about 10,000, there were about 66,000 farms in New York with over 1,200,000 acres in production. By 1997, when New York Farm Bureau membership approached 30,000, the number of farms in New York had declined to about 31,000 with only about 750,000 acres in production.
Do I believe that the decline of New York farms is a function of the growth of New York Farm Bureau? Absolutely not. But for every step forward New York Farm Bureau’s fabulous staff has taken in Albany, we have taken two or three steps backwards in Washington, D.C. On many critical topics, ranging from NAFTA to the Farm Bill, the interests and policies of the American Farm Bureau Federation and New York Farm Bureau are very different. It is my opinion that the voice of New York agriculture should be heard in Washington not solely through the AFBF, but through New York Farm Bureau’s own office and staff in Washington, D.C. If I were President, creating New York Farm Bureau’s own office in Washington would be my priority, because I believe it is the best hope of stemming the decline of New York farms and enabling New York agriculture to prosper.
Currently, New York Farm Bureau has approximately $17,000,000 in liquid assets that are being invested to perpetuate this organization. It is my deep belief, however, that $3,000,000 of this money should be used to capitalize a New York Farm Bureau office and staff in Washington, D.C. to perpetuate farming in New York.
So what should New York Farm Bureau do in Washington, D.C.? I believe it should push the following four issues in our policy book that are critical to the future of New York agriculture:
New York Farm Bureau must now officially dissent from AFBF’s support of NAFTA, GATT and the Free Trade Area of the Americas, and actively voice our own strong opposition to these trade Agreements. Not because we oppose international trade, but because we oppose trade Agreements that undermine American living, labor, and environmental standards. The first resolution I ever placed in New York Farm Bureau’s policy book was support of a Chemical Sovereignty Act that would prohibit the import of food produced with chemicals banned in the USA. How much sense does it make to take pesticides away from American farmers under the Food Quality Protection Act, and yet have these same chemicals come in every day on foods produced in other nations by America’s competitors? I believe much that is wrong with NAFTA and GATT would be exposed and corrected with passage of the Chemical Sovereignty Act.
New York farms were in decline long before NAFTA and GATT. I believe that much of this decline tracks with the non enforcement of anti-trust laws. Currently, all the agricultural commodities are dominated by a handful of processors. When there are thousands of producers, but only a handful of buyers, there is no free market and no hope for farmers. The economics of monopolies and the economics of oligopolies are the same. It is the corporate processors of these oligopolies that are primarily responsible for the 190 billion dollar Farm Bill, and they are the primary beneficiaries as this scandalous subsidy crushes world wide prices. In my part of Delaware County, the surviving dairy farmers believe that the new Farm Bill guarantees only one thing—that they will never see a fair price for their milk. They would rather there be no Farm Bill than the current one. If they are going to go out of business, they would rather die by the free market than die by the dole.
We need to tell Congress that the backbone of rural economies are the self-employed and that 90% of farmers are self-employed. As self-employed farmers, we need to stand up and state clearly and unequivocally that the interests of the self-employed and the interests of corporate agribusiness are not the same. In particular, we must fight to cut the oppressive self-employment tax in half so that it equals only the employer’s share of the Social Security Tax. This was the original structure of the Self-Employment Tax when in 1950 the self-employed were compulsory included in the Social Security System. In 1950, the Social Security Tax was 3% and the Self-employment Tax was 1.5%. Today, the self-employment tax is 15.3%, a 1,000% increase, and this flat tax with no deductions is breaking the backs of America’s self-employed. If a migrant farm worker manages to earn $10,000 in a year, what justice is there in that migrant worker paying $1,500 of this money to the federal government? If a dairy farmer manages to eke out $30,000 in a year, what justice is there in a self-employment tax that requires that farmer to hand over $4,500 to the federal government before he or she even sneezes. Abraham Lincoln valued the money earned by labor over the money earned by capital, and you as farmers and laborers are being killed by this tax.
We need to tell Congress that it makes no sense for the production of industrial hemp to be illegal in the United States, while it is legal in most of the world, including Canada, the European Union, Russia, China, Japan, Australia. In the last ten years the market for this plant has grown from one valued at only $5,000,000 to a market that is now approaching a billion dollars. Whatever the pulp from trees can produce, the pulp from industrial hemp can produce. Whatever cotton can produce, industrial hemp can produce but with a stronger fiber. Whatever ethanol can power, the oil from industrial hemp can power. There are over 25,000 uses for industrial hemp. This plant requires no insecticides or herbicides to grow; its greatest demand is water. The future of rural New York should not be in prisons, garbage dumps, or casino gambling—it should be in sustenance. The legalization of industrial hemp would enable New York farmers and their communities to participate not only in the sustenance embodied in food, but in the foundations of our society that are as diverse as building materials, paper, fuel and clothing. For the first three hundred years of this nation’s history, industrial hemp was a large player in its prosperity; from the canvas of our ships, to the hemp paper the Declaration of Independence was drafted on. We must join the international community and put this plant back to work now.
Two years ago, I engaged President Stallman of the AFBF in an articulate discussion about the Chemical Sovereignty Act. At the end of our conversation, he asked me why as an organic farmer I cared about the import of food produced with pesticides banned in the USA. I had two answers for him. The first was that my family and I eat conventional food too. My second answer was that I believe that conventional farmers and organic farmers have far more in common than they have differences. When half the farms in my part of Delaware County go out of business in two years, I don’t have to ask for whom the bell tolls.
Thanks for your attention. Hang onto your heart.