OPINION — If I could say one thing to the clowns dressed up in camo and toting guns around the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, it would be: “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”
This whole business about the feds encroaching on your ranching rights and trying to put you out of business is a crock.
Look, I understand ranching is a tough job.
I understand calving season is a 24/7 thing, it can be tough to find feed for your livestock, to water them, to get a good price at market.
I understand it is getting tougher and tougher to make a buck when competing with the factory farmers who are fueled on the funding of corporate America who is out to bury you.
I realize Mother Nature can be cruel and wreck a promising year with a wicked twist of fate, whether she blows fire, drought or floods your way.
But, I don’t think the federal government is your enemy, and I don’t think, deep inside, you do either.
It’s tough to make a buck these days no matter what you do. In ranching, there are variables of market and disease that can be crippling. From the bad press about mad cow disease some time back to complaints about a hike in the federal grazing rates, it would seem it’s not easy.
But the mad cow thing, once the public realized was not as widespread as it was sensationalized, soon faded. And the grazing fee hike? Well, it went up last year from $1.35 a month to a whopping $1.69 a month. That fee, by the way, is for the use of public lands by one cow and her calf, one horse or five sheep or goats for a month. I’ve had dogs that ate $1.69 worth of food in a day.
But it must also be noted that your wannabe militiaman leader, Ammon Bundy, according to numerous reports, received a $530,000 Small Business Administration loan in 2010; the Hammond family, around whom this whole current bit of nonsense is centered, was on the receiving end of about $300,000 in federal disaster payments and subsidies from the mid-1990s until 2012; the federal government also spends millions each year to eradicate predators and maintain the public lands where the Hammonds graze their livestock, a point lost on those of you who are pointing any number and arrangement of fingers at the feds.
Your arguments about how the feds are out to get you are about as valid as those accusing undocumented aliens of sucking up all the Welfare benefits.
Besides, your behavior also does little to enhance the image of the rancher as the strong, silent cowboy who rides the range, works the earth and feeds the nation. Look, my heroes have always been cowboys, too. I’ve known cowboys, been around cowboys. You guys camping out in the Oregon woods are not cowboys.
While we’re at it, I’d also like to mention that I’m tired of hearing about how patriotic you are, how you’re defending the people’s land.
If you truly believe that the BLM land belongs to “the people,” you should review your civics lessons. One of the tenets of communism is the land of a country belongs to all of its citizens equally, not through direct mass share ownership but by ownership through the state that represents them. So, make up your mind about which flag you choose to wrap yourself up in.
Try doing a little homework, please, before you go spouting about rights and government “overreach,” a term we should retire because it has lost its mojo.
If you’ve got a beef, don’t arm yourself and take over a federal facility, direct your anger at the bankers and investors who have shored up the factory farms. Confront Congress, which continues to provide tax breaks and legislation benefiting the corporate ranchers and farmers.
Want to do something about it? Vote out the elected officials feeding at the public trough in Washington, D.C., and put some effort into helping Farm Aid, the group headed by Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews that was formed in 1985 to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise money to keep farm families on the land. Farm Aid, which Nelson thought would only be necessary for a year or two, has since raised $48 million to rebuild America’s family farms. In the grand scheme, it may not seem like a lot, but it helps.
If you are a rancher, you certainly have a right to be aggrieved but not by the actions of the feds.
The ranchers and farmers in the West have a history of disputes, from the cattle-sheep wars to the range wars between property owners. This latest skirmish is neither the first nor, sadly, the last with the federal government, the perennial enemy in the eyes of so many who work the earth. It is, however, a ratcheting of that sentiment.
I guess that’s what we’ve evolved into these days, though, a nation of people just looking for somebody or something we can pin our anger on, which explains why the Donald Trump message resonates with so many voters as the caucus and primary season inches ever closer.
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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