My late grandfather wrote the following letter in March of 1995. He sent it to President Bill Clinton, USDA Secretary Dan Glickman, all 435 members of the United States Congress, all 100 U.S. Senators, and all 50 state Governors. He received many letters of reply back, but very few had ideas on what to do to help the family farmer. Everything on the farm that wasn’t bolted down or set in concrete was sold, but all the bills were paid. Grandma and Grandpa did what they had to do to keep from selling any ground, and eventually they rented that ground out to some nearby farmers so they would have retirement income. My father now farms 640 acres of the original 800 they owned through a rental agreement between him and seven of his siblings. Unfortunately, commodity prices are still low, and there is no real relief in sight. -Nick Levendofsky WFU Gov. Relations Associate
Dear U.S. Senator/Member of Congress,
I’m Francis J. Levendofsky of Belleville, Kansas and I’ve been farming for 51 years. My wife, Iolene, and I ran a dairy for 30 years until 1988. We have farmed 600-800 acres the last 46 years, and every year we feed 100 head of cattle. We were also in the hog business and have been in the sheep business for a number of years, but, as you can see, enclosed in this letter is a sale bill. My wife and I have decided to retire from farming, before we lose all of our land.
In the 51 years I have been farming, this past year, I had the best crops I ever raised in my life. For example, I had 45-bushel wheat, 100-bushel dry land corn, and 80-100-bushel milo to the acre. We sold our wheat at harvest for $3.00 per bushel, and some for $3.40 per bushel.
We took a government loan on our bins of corn and milo. When it was time to pay bills (seed, fertilizer, chemicals, fuel, and repairs) we discovered we didn’t have enough money to pay all of our bills.
I’m 69 years old and in good health. I also receive Social Security benefits at $767 a month, while my wife receives $297 a month. It takes the $297 my wife receives just to pay for medicine and medical bills each month. You see, she has Parkinson’s disease. At the present time, we owe the bank $200,000.00, so tell me, how can we stay in business?
The sale will bring in some money, but then we will have to pay taxes on the sale. Next, we will have to sell land, and we’ll have to pay capital gains taxes on what we sell. By that time, we will be out of business, and we won’t have enough left to live on for the rest of our lives.
The problem with agriculture is we aren’t getting enough money for our crops in comparison to the inflated cost of seed, fertilizer, chemicals, fuel, repairs, and the cost of new machinery. By the way, we have not purchased any new machinery since the mid-1970s.
In 1951, wheat was $2.40 a bushel. I bought a new Massey Harris combine, 14-foot model, Super 27 for $4,350. This harvest, wheat was $3.00 per bushel, and if I wanted to buy a new combine, it would cost $120,000. It might be a little bigger and more comfortable, but they both do the same job.
Back in 1951, it took 2,000 bushels of wheat to buy a new combine, and in 1995, it would take 40,000 bushels at $3.00 a bushel. Now, you don’t need a college education to figure out why American agriculture is in the shape it’s in!
All we need is a price for our crops and livestock. Sure, we need a balanced budget, but our Senators and Representatives need to cut back their salary to what it used to be in the ‘50s. Then you would be on our level!
If you want to stimulate our economy, get agriculture prices up to standards with the things we have to buy. Then we could make a profit and pay income tax to the government, which would help pay down the national debt.
I believe that if something doesn’t happen in the next five years, there will be less than 1/3 of the farmers left in business.
I have a next door neighbor who’s 50 years old. He has farmed 1,800 acres for many years. He is completely broke, and will no longer be farming in 1995. Thanks to cheap food policies, American agriculture will be in the same shape: broke.
The politicians and the American people haven’t been hungry, yet. If American agriculture doesn’t get a price for their products so they can survive, then I’m sure that in the 1996 elections, things will change in our government offices. Then that could affect your income!
I’ve been a Republican and a Democrat. You, in politics, need to forget your differences and act on behalf of our country. Please wake up and do something for agriculture, before it is too late.
Francis J. Levendofsky