Although most farmers prefer farming to politics, they know that the political process affects them directly so they try to keep an eye on it. What they are detecting currently is a noticeable drift, particularly in California.
The current legislature has saddled farmers-employers with stringent new requirements in the way they treat and pay their employees which has made it more difficult, even perilous, to operate some farm enterprises. Record keeping and awareness, along with compliance deadlines, require constant attention.
Specialists in human resource management find strategic and well-paid positions among agricultural employers. Those who direct farm operations, large or small, are learning to depend heavily on such specialists, and appreciate and marvel at their patience in dealing with often complicated and hard to understand government-originated rules and regulations.
When farmers step back from these day-to-day frustrations and look at the big picture, they see an alarming drift by legislators, regulators, and rule makers toward governmental management of individual business operations (farms).
More and more the trend takes decisions out of the hands of farm operators and transfers it to a governmental agency, regulator, agency, board, you name it.
With this trend the influence of the market economy on day-to-day business decisions is diminished. It might be more economically sound to continue to operate with a particular piece of equipment, but regulators have decided that a newer model must be used to protect the environment, provide a safer work place, and eliminate any number of imagined dangers.
To farm operators, the trend toward government intervention deals a serious blow to free enterprise. Farmers wonder if the legislators and rule makers have even heard of free enterprise and the market driven economy, so cherished as a pillar of American greatness.
As government-imposed rules proliferate, farmers also wonder if some of them might be imposed by those in the power structure who don’t like the free enterprise system and prefer to replace it with something more liberal (socialistic). But they have learned that expressing that doubt only results in ridicule, often by their own millennial offspring.
A new opportunity to achieve further drifting was offered by California’s governor last month. He announced “Climatic Agriculture” with a $45 million allotment to the state’s Department of Food & Agriculture. It offers rewards to those who conduct their on-farm affairs in a manner that does not disrupt the elements that affect the climate.
Under that broad umbrella, skeptical farmers see hundreds of opportunities for control measures to be imposed - each diminishing their ability to make self-sustaining business decisions.
Few outside the circle of farmers and farm operators seem to notice when regulations are enacted that restrict or seriously alter farm practices. It is easy, and even politically expedient, for lawmakers from urban California to recommend actions or submit legislation that benefits their constituents without noting the detrimental effects they might have on farming.
The political imbalance is a way of life. Farmers know that, and they don’t expect it to change. Their expectation that it might be counterbalanced at the top is slim.
They are left with the hope that an aware citizenry will realize the peril of – as the old song title suggests – drifting and dreaming.
The outmigration of other businesses by the thousands indicates that the owners and operators are “getting the drift” of the state’s policy makers. But moving 160 acres of a sensitive farm crop to South Dakota requires more than a business decision - it takes insanity.
The farm community is beginning to “get the drift” that the biggest supply of insanity is not in the farming community, but in the legislature.