Support our local farmers Print
Thursday, May. 18, 2017 -- 12:00 AM

On May 15, we celebrated the feast of St. Isidore the Farmer, so this is an appropriate time to reflect on issues involving farmers and their impact on all of us.

Farmers provide much of the food we eat, so we should all be concerned about the state of agriculture.

Farm industry in crisis

Unfortunately, things do not look good for the farm industry in many parts of the United States. A Catholic News Service (CNS) backgrounder article by Mark Pattison reports that family farmers are facing the worst financial stretch since the 1980s.

The article points to a fact sheet produced by the Washington-based National Farmers Union, which says that the 2017 debt-to-asset ratio is the highest the agriculture industry has seen in three decades.

Lenders are also hiking interest and collateral requirements for loan terms because of the heightened risk.

Both crop and dairy farmers are affected by what is happening. It didn’t help that Canada decided in April to stop milk imports from the United States.

These issues can’t be fixed overnight. They will be addressed in the next farm bill, a multiyear law that shapes federal agricultural policy.

A unique vocation

In the CNS article, James Ennis, executive director of Catholic Rural Life, pointed out that farming is a unique vocation because of our dependence upon food for life.

“Therefore, I think we do need to see farming and that culture as a unique industry. It’s not simply another industry that we let market forces control everything.”

Ennis has been traveling the country to make presentations on Catholic Rural Life’s new document, The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader (found on the organization’s website at The website includes many other resources on farm issues.

How to help

What can we do to help farmers? We can educate ourselves on the issues. And as Ennis suggested, “It’s important to support the industry in little ways and big ways.”

Individual Catholics, he said, should make “intentional decisions to support local farmers as much as possible. Support your local farmers market where you can.”

Farmers markets are available in many communities. I’ve always enjoyed strolling through the markets in Madison and picking up some wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables. There’s nothing like homegrown produce!

Many grocery stores also sell produce from local farmers, and more restaurants are serving locally-grown foods.

Let’s make an effort to learn more about issues facing farmers and support our local farmers.