President Reagan, in last week's radio address, said the government has done everything it can for the farmer. It is now time for others to pitch in and do more, "from officials at the state level to banks, private groups and individuals in the community."
I wasn't quite sure what I, as an individual, could do to help the farmer, so I drove out to Culpeper, Va.
"Hi, Farmer Brown. President Reagan told me I should pitch in and help you. What exactly can I do?"
"You can buy my farm."
"I don't know much about farming."
"Shucks, there's nothing to it. All you have to do is get up at 5, milk the cows, feed the hogs and see how many chickens died in the night from the frost. Any fool can do that."
"When do you get to play golf or tennis?"
"After you till the soil, plant your seed, spread fertilizer, spray for bugs and dig furrows for irrigation."
"Don't you ever get into town?"
"Sure. You get to go once, maybe twice a week, to meet with your banker and explain to him why you can't meet the payments on your loan."
"Dave Stockman says the reason you farmers owe so much money to the banks is you keep speculating in land and buying new equipment to make windfall profits at the expense of the American taxpayer."
"Dave's a good old boy, but he knows as much about farming as he does about drawing up a balanced budget."
"It wasn't just Stockman. President Reagan said the same thing. The reason you're in so much trouble is you bet on inflation and you were wrong. Didn't you hear him Saturday morning?"
"I meant to. But since it was the weekend I decided to relax and dig fence holes, repair the barn, cut down timber, wash my horse and sit up with a sick calf. I'll let you have the farm real cheap."
"How much money can I make?"
"You can make a bundle--provided the bugs don't get your corn, the sub-zero temperatures don't freeze your tomatoes, your cows don't get pneumonia, the dollar gets weaker and the Russians are starving to death."
"You don't make it sound like much fun."
"It's a lot of fun, if you're a gambler. What other business offers you a chance to bet your house on the crap table once a year?"
"The people in Washington say the reason you farmers are living on the edge is that you're always producing too much food and the taxpayers are stuck with the bill."
"I can't quarrel with that. We're just dumb people who know how to grow things, but we don't know how to market them. The ideal situation for America is if we farmers didn't grow enough food and made everyone pay through the nose. Then instead of the taxpayer having to give us price supports we could charge him $15 for a pound of potatoes. I'm sure those smart fellows in Washington will be able to figure out a way of causing a food shortage in the country so we could get a fair price for our crops. You should buy my farm now while it's dirt cheap. Then when Washington works out a plan there will be so few farms left you can get $6 for a quart of raw milk on the open market."
"It sounds tempting. But I'm not sure I want to be a farmer. Even if you make a lot of money it doesn't sound like you have much time to enjoy it. Isn't there some other way I can help you?"
"Well, if you're going back to Washington you can take this corn cob with you and tell David Stockman to stick it in his ear."