Farm and Food File: Readers respond in year-end column


As we slip into the sweet week between Christmas and New Year’s there’s only one task to complete before clearing the desk and brain of all things 2011: readers having the last word in the last column of the year.

First, though, thanks to all who offered me what I offered them — facts, opinions, ideas and memories.

Reader responses arrived in record numbers from nearly 30 states this year to note how the column still inspires and infuriates. At least I hope so because, after 18 years of this weekly effort, the goal remains the same: to stir you, not the pot.

And, for the 500th time and once more for Auld Lang Syne’s sake, I do not write columns “to sell newspapers.” I write what I believe.

‘Course, if you don’t believe that you can always drop me a line and tell me what you believe. Like “Neal” did two week ago when he sent an email disagreeing with a mid-December column that questioned the enormous impact America’s ethanol program has on almost every aspect of our national farm and food policy.


After listing ethanol’s benefits, this “corn and soybean farmer who also raises cattle” urged that I “… stop the madness of telling people that ethanol takes corn away from feeding people.”

That wasn’t true, he said, noting that “I am surprised you grew up on a farm.”

Another reader, this one with “43 years in the grain business” objected to the same column and ended his lengthy email with similar cautionary thoughts: “Remember who brung you to this dance” and to “not forget where you come from.”

Always good advice — even for the forgetful of us who can’t dance.

Several emailers complained about an early November column that questioned the possible expansion of crop insurance in the 2012 farm bill.

One, who explained that he raised cattle and sold crop insurance, wrote to wonder why, if crop insurance was “so well connected in Washington,” his “commissions were cut by 40 percent” this year.


“Please do some homework before you write another article such as this,” he suggested. “Not everyone involved in crop insurance is a Washington insider.”

One of my favorite letters this year arrived as an attachment to an email from a college professor. The working sentence in it read: “Your editorial … was excellent. It is actually one of the few you have written with which I agree.”

Thanks. I guess.

Other emailers sent equally mixed messages. “I do not always agree with you or even understand what you write sometimes,” noted Charles in Illinois, “but I find it interesting that some can’t take a joke or the truth. Please keep up the good work.”

Job offer

An emailer from central Ohio echoed that inverted compliment by suggesting “Perhaps we could get (Guebert) to run for office.”

Thanks, but I already have two offices: chairman and trustee of the local church. One more office, even if it’s one of those cushy, 125 days-per-year gigs on Capitol Hill, would take time from what truly matters to my fellow congregants — knowing both Robert’s Rules of Order and toilet repair.

Few topics generate reader mail like the three or four columns each year that step back from today’s political and economic hustle bustle to revisit the farm and community of my youth. Letters from those efforts are affectionate, generous and usually include memories of their writers.


Like Reece from Cedar Falls, Iowa, who emailed in October to say that my story-telling columns “helped us know where agriculture has been and where it’s going. And,” he added, “I especially like it when you drop the hammer on those that so deserve it.”

Dropped hammers? I think you’re confusing me with my delightful but deadly great Uncle Honey. Did I ever tell you of the time Honey was on a ladder and …

2011 ag comm

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Alan Guebert was raised on an 800-acre, 100-cow southern Illinois dairy farm. After graduation from the University of Illinois in 1980, he served as a writer and editor at Professional Farmers of America, Successful Farming magazine and Farm Journal magazine. His syndicated agricultural column, The Farm and Food File, began in June, 1993, and now appears weekly in more than 70 publications throughout the U.S. and Canada. He and spouse Catherine, a social worker, have two adult children.



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