A New Road to Farm, Food and Climate Progress

Let’s build public support for fundamental democratic change in America’s food direction and climate progress.

Arkansas Traveler” is an old-time song of folk humor that tells of a well-heeled dandy who gets lost while traveling across the Ozark Mountains. He comes upon a backwoods farmer and shouts out: “Hey farmer, where does this road go?” Not missing a beat, the farmer says: “I’ve lived here all my life, stranger, and it ain’t gone nowhere, yet.”

A corny joke, yet the current U.S. Congress has traveled that same nowhere road all year long in a fruitless attempt to reach agreement on a rewrite of America’s basic Farm Bill. This failure is a very big deal and wholly irresponsible. The bill is a five-year, $700 billion package that not only doles out federal crop subsidies (which have largely gone to huge agribusiness operations), but it also provides food stamps for millions of poor families, money for vital ag conservation programs, and economic development work in thousands of rural counties.

So why the dead end? It’s caused by the same plutocratic/theocratic nuttiness of Republican lawmakers who put their extremist right-wing ideology and corporate servitude above all the other needs of regular people and our country. Because of their internal chaos and political grandstanding, the old status quo Farm Bill had to be extended for another year. Yet, that’s not all bad news, for a whole new constituency has begun rallying to write a truly innovative, forward-looking farm-food-labor climate bill that fosters the common good above the exploitative greed of today’s monopolistic, narrow-minded agribusiness complex.

Let’s turn the dead-end year into a positive opportunity to build public support in 2024 for fundamental democratic change in America’s food direction and climate progress. The way to get there is not through more backroom Washington deals, but by going straight to the people, mobilizing family farmers, food workers, consumers, climate activists and others behind a revitalized system that works for us.

My New Year’s Resolutions for Some Powerful People

I made a few New Year’s resolutions this week — not for me, but as self-improvement ideas for some of the people running our country. No need for them to thank me — happy to help.

I drafted one for the GOP’s whole ultra-rightist gaggle of lawmakers who keep blocking passage of health coverage for poor people. “Resolved: We will forgo the gold-plated socialized health care we now take from taxpayers, because it’s only right that we be in the same leaky boat as our constituents.”

Then there are America’s 735 narcissistic billionaires who obviously need to find a moral compass. They’re so self-absorbed they keep wasting their money and “genius” on phantasmagoric plutocratic schemes to separate their fortunes from the well-being of the rest of us. Then they wonder why they are not beloved. So, rich ones, let me help. Resolve in 2024 to demonstrate a little less hubris and a little more humanity, less strut and more sharing. Practice in front of a mirror; try seeing beyond you to the common good. It’s a beautiful and deeply rewarding place if you can find it.

And I didn’t overlook you Washington operatives and Big Money donors of the Democratic Party. Please resolve to camp out in grassroots America this year — where everyday little-d democrats want and need your attention and support. Not just in safe blue districts, but especially in rural, purple and even in red areas. You’ve abandoned them in recent years, but they still yearn to build a progressive governing majority for America’s future.

Of course, the problem with New Year’s resolutions is keeping them, and my honorees can’t be counted on. So, we have to keep pushing them to do what’s right.

Jim Hightower