Usually articles have one topic as their focus. This is a ‘combo article’ which hopefully will connect two extremely important and seemingly unrelated topics. It is about the critical need for folks over 50 to maintain a proactive civic example, and the need to elect local officials that actually have some track record of involvement and experience in understanding federal land issues and public process.
Who or what you might ask needs either of these? Our young aspiring agriculturalists and our nation is the answer.
Trade and industry publications across this nation are filled with articles about the loss of agricultural lands to other uses and the prohibitive costs for younger folks to get into or continue the businesses of farming and ranching. Various organizational efforts around the country are certainly attempting to mitigate this growing problem.
Costs, however, are not the only deterrent to young folks either entering or continuing in these agricultural arenas . An equally serious deterrent is the perceived life long hassle of having to conduct business with federal land agencies and their ever changing rules and regulations which can make strategic planning an irrelevant term. If we are honest with ourselves, we all know fine young people who have grown up in households where the constant tension and stress on their parents and grandparents in dealing with the ‘feds’ has colored their life choices.
For many, as much as they love the business, the prospect of spending the next 40 years of their working lives within a seemingly contentious framework has little appeal. To them negative court rulings, and the constant change and misinterpretation of policies and regulations seem to out weigh the financial, personal and spiritual satisfaction of working with land, livestock and crops.
Too many are discouraged and see farming and ranching as a career choice for which urban America has little understanding or respect. Too many feel that the voice of rural America has been almost silenced in our nation’s courts of law, the court of public opinion and certainly drowned out in the political decision making arenas. The current political realities of government expansion can only be deepening these discouraging perceptions.
Here’s where we over 50 folks come into the picture. I submit to you that we have both a moral and a civic obligation to encourage and guide these younger Americans through these exceptionally discouraging times by staying civicly active. This can mean staying informed and involved in at least one issue important to farming or ranching. This provides continuity, eases the pressure on younger families of feeling over whelmed and provides an example to them that ‘cutting back’ doesn’t mean ‘cutting out’ altogether. It can also mean that you now run or run again for an elected office and that you have more time to do so. Your years of working on and being faced with ag related issues is an excellent background to bring to public office. It is much better to have people elected to office that don’t have to spend their first term figuring out the basics of federal land policies and processes.
If you yourself do not want to run for office, an equally valuable civic effort is the recruitment and mentoring of candidates who have a track record of working on some ag related issue. Your recruitment or vetting of such candidates will help set the community standards for what skill sets the voters need in candidates. The cumulative effect of this approach is recruitment of better qualified candidates who deliver more to the voting public than a blank slate of needed qualifications and no public track record of their philosophies. Let’s recognize that such lengthy ‘on the job training’ is a luxury our nation can no longer afford.
All of the value systems with which these younger Americans have been raised are under attack and they deserve our help by us taking a leadership role in fielding a defense. This means we don’t indulge ourselves in civic retirement.
As appealing as the ‘civic backseat’ may be it is our wisdom, experience, and insights which both our young aspiring agriculturalists and nation need and deserve.
Kathleen Jachowski is a free lance writer and public speaker on natural resources and cultural issues. She also serves as Ex. Director for Guardians of the Range. Opinions expressed are her own. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.