NATIVE SON/Mark Datema Lipscomb

Cure may be Worse than Illness

The other night I fell asleep watching the world according to General Electric and had the weirdest dream since I can't remember when. Dr. Greg Nelson, former head of the Idaho State Ag department now working for the Idaho Farm Bureau, came on the tube and said, dolefully, "Farmers I want to talk frankly about a problem thousands of men just like you are facing across this state.

"That's right, income dysfunction.

"For years now, thousands of farmers just like you have been too ashamed to talk about their flaccid income. For years you've gotten bigger, but without any real satisfaction, because your profit stayed limp. Fortunately, there is a cure.

"That's right, ConAgra.

"Now, you can join the millions of farmers who have turned to ConAgra for relief.

"ConAgra. It's just what the banker ordered."

Then, the camera pulled back on Dr. Nelson's serious face and cut away to a guy, must have been 60 -- 65, tricked out in ConAgra colors, striding powerfully down a furrow.

I've seen New Hollands that couldn't pull a moldboard as well as this guy.

Clearly, ConAgra was powerful stuff. The guy wasn't just moldboarding, he was towing the farm's new owner and the owner's air-conditioned office complete with a 20-story glass and steel building.

Now, despite what you might be thinking, the commercial itself wasn't that odd. It was the pitchman. The self-proclaimed voice of Idaho Agriculture.

What a truly weird idea. Have the same folks that put salt-peter in the farm economy in the first place give us all advice one more time. And pretty much the same advice that got us into this mess.

Don't worry about domestic markets. Just follow Wall Street into NAFTA.

So what if Idaho school kids don't eat Idaho beef. If you don't support our million-dollar trade mission to Mexico, why you're anti-farmer, by God..

So what if the voice of Idaho Ag is a giant insurance company. Trust them, they support family farms one hundred percent.

That's why since 1991 Idaho lost half our dairy families and got twice as many cows.

The voice of Idaho Ag supports family farms. That's why they convinced the legislature to change our right to farm law so that the Meadowgold Processing Plant in downtown Boise could call itself a farm too, just like the Sugar Beet refineries.

On the other hand, maybe it's not so strange. Heck, as long as all my friends and neighbors are willing to pretend a giant insurance company really cares about protecting family farms and ranches, Idaho's going to be nothing but confined animal feeding operations, corruption and correctional facilities.

But just in case I'm not the only one who thinks that the real stink around here is coming out of the boardroom and not the barnyard, here's how I see it.

We're being herded into an age of Corporate Feudalism. And if we don't act soon, the only folks with legal and political rights will be giant corporations while the rest of us pay homage to Duke Simplot, Prince Cargill and the rest of the world's inbred corporate royalty.

From that perspective, it's not surprising that we have an insurance company telling us peasants out in the country-side that we'd better get inside the castle walls. It's not surprising they tell us, but it's odd that we listen to them.

But hey, things are looking up. I hear Monsanto's giving up on genetically engineered crops. Instead, they're going to genetically engineer actual farmers. Seems these Franken-farmers will come with self-tightening belts, built-in resistance to independent thought and a terminator gene that kills off the memory of anything they learned during the previous harvest season.

Mark Datema Lipscomb works out of Boise as an organizer for the Idaho Rural Council.

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