If Farmville had a Farm Bill

Research would tell us that most people are a few generations removed from the farm. This means that it can be more difficult for us to explain what’s happening out here, just because we’re not talking the same language.

What if that were to change?

Research would also tell us that a vast majority of our society enjoys playing online games, one of which happens to be a farming-based game called, “Farmville.” If you’re reading a blog post, or an email, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of it.

So I’m going to make an attempt to combine the two, so that I can use a little of what I know, and a little of what society can relate to, and see if we can get a basic understanding of what the Farm Bill can accomplish. (Wish me luck.)

Let’s start with the basics of how it should work…in theory (I’ll throw in some of the contingencies later):

In Farmville, you start your game and are given opportunities to earn some coins, so that you can start to play the real game, then you pay to “break ground,” and then pay some more to plant seed. The cost of the seed is in direct correlation to how much you can make, the higher the cost, the higher the return.

Then you water your crop, make sure it’s taken care of, (maybe even check on a neighbors crop), and when the time is right, you harvest, reaping the benefits of your work.

The game follows the basic principles of farming, for the most part. But the game already has a farm bill built into it.

What?

Yes, Farmville does, indeed, have a farm bill.

Look at the set up of the game. You know your costs going in, you know your benefits coming out, you still have risk (you may come to harvest too late), but the risk is minimal if you play by the rules.

Imagine the game without those safety nets? It would look more like this:

You would come back from planting, putting most of your coins into the new crop, then find out that the crop is no longer worth anything. Losing all your coins and having to start from scratch, hoping you could find a way to scrape together enough to begin again.

You may go to help a neighbor and find everything gone, in the blink of an eye…and have no recourse to recoup your losses.

Developers would factor Mother Nature into the game, randomly setting players back at the beginning, where they have a choice to start the game over, or pick a new game to play.

And imagine, just about getting the gist of what was going on, and getting to be somewhat successful in playing the game, just to find out that the rules have been changed, the game has a bug and the developers no longer want to fix it.

Does that sound like a game that would be fun to play? How many complaints would the developers get over the wildly fluctuating rules and obstacles? Would there be anyone left to play at all?

In real life, the farm bill can provide a safety net that allows farmers to keep playing the game…but in this case, the game is keeping our plates full, our backs covered and our vehicles on the road. And it shouldn’t be a game at all.

Mother Nature can wipe out a crop in the blink of an eye.

Mother Nature can wipe out a crop in the blink of an eye.

In real life, the farm bill may not guarantee that every crop is successful, but at least one crop failing wouldn’t kick you out of the game. Instead of paying 6 coins for a crop that should be worth 16 when harvested, you may be guaranteed at least 4 coins if Mother Nature got in the way. Not what you were hoping for, but better than nothing in the end.

No, the real farm bill isn’t a game. And those in Congress shouldn’t treat it as one. They have real work to do and short amount of time to get it done.

Every single one of us has a stake in getting a farm bill passed. Yes, there are places that can be cut from existing programs and ways to save money from a bulging budget…but that doesn’t change the importance of passing safeguards for the people that provide so much, for so many, yet number so few.

Great use of advertising!

Using toy tractors and farming the paper isn’t the only farming I want our children to be able to enjoy. But their future is at stake as well!

They estimate that 80 million people play Farmville. Imagine if just 10 percent would contact their elected officials about the importance of the farm bill?

Perhaps we should give them extra coins for submitting an email?

Please realize that this simplified version comes nowhere near explaining the true complexity of the bill…I realize that as well. But we need to act and we need to think, and I’m not sure our elected officials are doing either of those things very efficiently right now.

Advertisements

A Matter of Fact

Last week, a question was asked by a local news station for people to comment on. I was going to let the question slide, but then some of the comments got out of hand, and I felt the strong desire to say something. Actually, I felt the strong desire to hit someone, but common sense took over and I used my brain, not my brawn.

This was the question:

If you’re receiving federal crop insurance payments or government money as a farmer, are you a hypocrite if you’re against government subsidies?

Nice one, eh?

The funny thing is, I have no problem with the conversation taking place. And I have no problem with trying to brainstorm for better solutions. But I DO have a problem with people accusing farmers of wrong-doing, when they haven’t a clue as to how the system works to begin with.

To begin with, if you aren’t familiar with crop insurance, perhaps you should check out this link and read up on it. But to give you a quick, few-word synopsis, it boils down to this: you cannot be eligible for disaster payments if you don’t have crop insurance. That’s right, they’re intermingled. One comes with another.

So, that being said, I don’t necessarily favor government payments…but I’m not stupid. We have to protect our farm and our family from disasters, because contrary to what some say, you can’t just walk away from a natural disaster and wait for the weather to get nice and start farming again. You can lose everything in an instant.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “But Val, no one would ever think that.” Wrong.

This is a direct quote from the conversation on facebook, “As a wife of a carpenter, when the weather gets bad and he can’t work he doesn’t get paid..period…sorry if the crop was ruined due to weather, but why should you get help and us nothing? We grew up in farming families also, so we know alittle of what we are talking about.” (Name withheld to protect the…well, uneducated? I guess?)

My response was a little sharp-tongued, but served the purpose:

“Dear carpenter’s wife, I believe a more appropriate analogy would be your husband building a two-story, $300,000 house. Paying all of the inputs, including electrical work, lumber and labor, and then watching as the house burns down in a fire caused by lightning and then being told that he could try again next year. We’re not talking about being out of work for a day or two, we’re talking about losing a whole year’s worth of costs…and those bills get paid, whether the crop makes it or not. There are fewer farmers feeding more people every year. Yes, there are problems with the system and we need to make changes, and yes, there are cases of abuse, just like any industry. But we need to work together, not criticize and point fingers.”

So why am I writing this? Read the last line. We need to work together, and work towards a future that makes sure that farmers can do what they do best, and lawmakers and constituents and interest groups can all work together and make sure that there is a future to be had.

Do you understand the power that you have? Do you understand the strength of your voice? Your vote?

Please, don’t misjudge how important you are…and please, don’t shrug off such serious issues as disasters and insurance without putting some thought and time into it. Our future…all of our future…is needing some change.

And don’t be mistaken. The only one who can provide that is us.