Written by Paul Penner Tuesday, 21 July 2009 13:46
The subject of climate change and what America should do about it is a topic dearly loved by liberals these days. It’s equally hated by most conservatives, or perhaps even more so.
As for agriculture, I don’t know of any farmer who likes to discuss the topic—that is, unless it comes up as a response to the usual question, “How’s your day going?” After a smart remark or two, it’s long forgotten as more interesting topics come up.
For Kansans, losing last year’s presidential election to a Democrat, plus losing all chances of regaining a majority in one or both Houses in the near term, doesn’t help matters much, either.
Take away the Senate seat from Minnesota and hand it to the Democrats, giving them a filibuster-proof majority, and there’s little to no chance of having much political say about the national agenda, including the subject of climate change, especially if the Democrats or Republicans are in no mood for real bi-partisanship.
Throw in a 2007 Supreme Court decision giving the EPA authority to regulate all greenhouse gases, and you have the makings of a political conservative’s nightmare—a perfect storm, if you will.
But why do we have all this fuss about a topic that has been around for at least two years? “It has?” you say. I know I’ve been talking about it for that long.
Successful communication requires both parties engaging in meaningful discussion. Otherwise, the probability is good that one party is not listening nor participating in the discussion at all.
The sheriff in the movie “Cool Hand Luke” says to Luke during a standoff, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” That’s over-stating the obvious, as bullets were the primary tools of communication.
That’s like the time when my wife wore a new dress and I said, “Hey, I like that new dress!” My wife responded, “I bought it over a year ago, don’t you remember? I mentioned it several times before we attended that wedding. I even reminded you of it six months ago, last month, and last week, and yesterday….”
“You did? No. Can’t be that long ago! Really?”
The Kansas Association of Wheat Growers has discussed the topic at board meetings each year, perhaps not at every quarterly meeting. I also represent KAWG member growers on the National Association of Wheat Growers Environmental and Renewable Resources Committee and currently sit as its chair. We listened to many hours of testimony of experts and consultants, plus engaged in lengthy, sometimes heated debates between growers.
Yet only recently, farmers on the streets of rural-town USA are becoming concerned about the latest legislative initiative on climate change and becoming vocal about it. Where were they when we encouraged member participation in regional meetings and at our regular KAWG board meetings?
I believe, for most farmers, it comes down to this: We’re very busy people. Previously, any talk about a controversial issue is given a brief nod and one hopes it will never come to a vote. We ignore it in the same way we ignore a nagging feeling about a potential health problem. We hope it will just go away.
Politics, especially when one party loses a clear majority the election, rarely works that way. Our democratic system gives us not only the right to express our opinions without fear of retribution from government, but also gives us the responsibility to participate, to be well informed and to engage the political process so our representatives can represent us in the best way possible.
KAWG is also grassroots based. Its leaders follow the marching orders of its constituents as provided in the resolutions that were approved during the annual meeting of the membership.
The first requirement for farmers to get involved is this: Become a dues-paying member. Why? Representing farmers in D.C. and Topeka comes at a very small price. Think of it this way: A $1 investment returns five- to six-figure dollars of farm program benefits that are vital to your survival.
Plus, funds from the wheat check-off program are not allowed to be used for lobbying purposes; hence, all lobbying expenses must be paid for by membership dues.
The second requirement for a farmer/member is: Become well informed, participate and make sure your vote counts when it matters, and do this well ahead of time before the legislative vote so we can meet with legislators and work through the details.
Finally, attend the annual Kansas Wheat Conference, where our board and the membership discuss and vote on proposed resolutions. Climate change legislation is one of the topics scheduled for discussion.
In addition to board meetings, the conference highlights a number of seminars relevant to the wheat industry. The conference is coming up next week, July 30-31. Go to kswheat.org for details.
If you already are a member, you should have received a reminder in the mail.
See you there.