Potential Poultry Grower:
'No Life Guards on Duty'

In light of everything going on in this old world nowadays, I have a few things I want to say that don't mean a whole lot to very many folks but I'm going to say it anyway. I'm a poultry farmer and that sure doesn't carry any weight at all but I want to share some facts and thoughts to any "would be, wanna be or may be" future poultry growers. I have written a commentary in the past and I don't want to rehash it so I will get straight to the facts. In 1997, I grew five flocks of chicken for ConAgra. I grossed $77,972. Doesn't sound too bad, does it? Well, my note on four broiler houses, plus all the expenses, including utilities, property taxes, insurance, maintenance, and upkeep totaled $64,671. In 1998, I grew six batches of chickens and grossed $89,514. My notes and expenses just on these chickens were $75,565.

Now, if you want to know my net income for working seven days a neck, every week, all you need to do is a little subtraction. When all is said and done, I'm ranked at average or above in the ranking system.

It is not my intent to encourage or discourage anyone from getting into this business, but there is a lot of different information going around and you need to check everything out very carefully. No one held a gun to my head or forced me in anyway to get into the broiler growing business. I did this on my own and I am set on seeing this through and getting my farm debt paid off. But keep one thing in mind -- once you are in it, you are in it.

When we were youngsters, we were taught how to swim and we were taught not to get in over our heads until we could swim real good. Well let me tell you right now, if you dive off in the deep end of this business and you don't know enough about it, you might sink. There is no one to pull you to safety, no local or state government agency. The only federal agency who governs anything about the poultry business is the Packers & Stockyards [Administration] and they are limited. There is no one to call about complaints or concerns you may have regarding settlements or contract language, just you and the poultry company. In other words, there is no life guard on duty for a poultry farmer.

I'm sure some of you have read these magazines while sifting around the barber shop, doctor's office, etc. that always depict as country folks as not having hardly a care in the world and they always show pictures of the "prettiest place in the country" or some picture of a farmer riding off into the sunset on his tractor or combine. I have surely been fortunate enough to see some beautiful sunsets from a tractor seat, and I thank our Creator each and every day for sunrises and sunsets.

The reality of this business is such that those pictures may sell magazines, but they do not pay for equipment to farm with or put food on a farmer's table. In this business, remember the consumer wants the cheapest chicken that he can buy, the poultry company wants to pay you the least amount it can pay, and you are stuck in the middle. I know a lot of poultry farmers who are overworked, underpaid and stressed out to the limit.

So, if you know a farmer or see one today, he could use a kind word or a handshake. That may be all he gets some days for helping to feed us all. Before you go to bed tonight, pray for our country and the farmers and thank God for His many blessings.

Junction City, Arkansas

What are you for?

I would like to take exception with some of [Jim] Cullen's editorial [5/99 Progressive Populist] on "Stop 'Humanitarian Bombing'" by NATO. First, Yugoslavia really doesn't exist. What is left is primarily one small province of Serbia and a semi-neutral Montenegro. This is not the Yugoslavia of WWII. Hitler never considered Yugoslavia to be anything but a sideshow. He was quite upset when Italy invaded the Balkans and drug him in. This meant that the quality of the 40 divisions mentioned was low. They were not first string and were undermanned. Counting divisions never works, you have to count actual strengths. By the end of the war many German divisions were really battalions. Most of these "40" divisions were stripped to feed the Eastern Front.

Also, recently the Serbian Army has failed to defeat any of its neighbors in its conflicts. Bottom line: this is not your grandfather's Yugoslavia, it's Serbia. A Serbia that went to Dayton only after military pressure. Also, NATO has never taken the position that the KLA should be put in power.

Lastly and most importantly, Mr. Cullen tells us what he is against in dealing with Serbia, but offers no ideas on what he is for with any specificity. Building up nations may work in the long term, but we are faced with a short term problem in Kosovo. I doubt that foreign aid to Germany in 1938 would have stopped Hitler. HR 1454 [The Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill] won't influence Serbia one wit.

Leavenworth, Kansas
Email RDFran@aol.com

What Happened to Liberalism?

When following opinion on the Yugoslav war, in the media and on the street, one wonders whatever happened to liberalism -- the twentieth century's defining faith in progress and justice. As noted by Alexander Cockburn in The Nation (May 10), the American-led NATO assault on Yugoslavia is par excellence a liberals' war. That is so, even though the assault is the most brutal case of a first-world military action against a lesser nation since the beginning of World War II.

During most of the twentieth century liberalism has been almost tantamount to reason. It was wont to reject dogmas and view issues and problems dispassionately. Instead of jumping directly from foul deeds to punishment it examined every intricate thread of cause and effect before passing judgment.

The attack on Yugoslavia turned political thought topsy-turvy. Conservatives became subtle in assigning blame and sensitive to the unfavorable consequences of military intervention. But liberals, both political leaders and media pundits, adopted a simplistic and ragged rationale in support of the war. They accepted uncritically the illusory charge of "ethnic cleansing" by Yugoslavia in Kosovo and ignored the historical complexity of ethnic relations in the Balkans. They cast aspersions on those who urged stopping the war, and even the contraindicative bombing, for creating disunity, for prolonging the war, and for undermining the assumed inviolable aims of NATO.

Much of the turnabout in liberals' thinking is caused by their obsession with "human rights" as a determinant of foreign policy. Not only have liberals endowed "human rights" with an excessive priority, but they have made their realization an urgency, in contrast to the more deliberate resolution accorded other problems that confront mankind. Violation of human rights must be resolved so quickly that the slaughter and destruction resulting from this urgency are unimportant. With such a state of mind liberals have gravitated to a barbarism that formerly characterized only the most misanthropic and cynical military aggressors. Consequently, liberals have effectively transferred their souls to militarism and perhaps can no longer be regarded as the main bearers of progress in the future.

Lewes, Delaware

Fun in New Jersey

Want to hear a political howler? Here in New Jersey the Whitman administration devised a bizarre procedure for homeowners to claim their homestead rebates, to wit: All 1.9 million homeowners must place a phone call to the state answering a series of questions, all to be done by June 15.

The State expected 800,000 to call in the first 2 weeks of the program, an average of 57,143 per day. The lines clogged immediately and the public went crazy dialing for hours at a time -- frustration to the max!

The state Treasurer's response? "I've been around here for 28 years. I've never seen a response to a program like this. I think this is just testimony that people love the program"

Public response was less enthusiastic "They are saying, 'Here's your money -- try to get it.' "

Guttenberg, NJ

Growers Need Help

The USDA's Packers and Stockyard Administration published a proposed rule amending its scales and weighing regulations to include the weighing of feed whenever it is a factor in determining payment or settlement to a contract livestock grower or poultry grower.

Companies say they have no problem with this regulation and have already implemented these changes in our area. Does this mean the P&SA has already run their regulations by the companies to see if it is all right with them?

The quality of the feed and delivery of split-loads of feed to a farm should fall under a regulation. The P&SA is wasting its time without these issues being addressed. Contract poultry growers have written numerous letters to the USDA's P&SA seeking assistance with this problem. P&SA could solve the whole problem by doing away with the ranking system as an unfair trade practice.

It looks like the Federal Register is a waste of time to me, but we would appreciate anyone who will write a letter to P&SA to help us. Address the letters to James Baker, GIPSA, P&SA, Stop 3601, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-3601. Phone 1-800-998-3447.

Broiler Grower
El Dorado, Ark.

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