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The Texas OBSERVER The Texas Observer Publishing Co., 1977 Ronnie Dugger, Publisher” Vol. 69, No. 13 July 1, 1977 Incorporating the State Observer and the East Texas Democrat, which in turn incorporated the Austin ForumAdvocate. EDITOR Jim Hightower MANAGING EDITOR Lawrence Walsh EDITOR AT LARGE Ronnie Dugger 0 ASSISTANT EDITORS: Luther Sperberg, Ray Reece PRODUCTION MANAGER: Colin Hunter STAFF ASSISTANTS: Laura Eisenhour, Susan Reid, John Gjedde, Bruce Selcraig CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Kaye Northcott, Jo Clifton, Dave McNeely, Wade Roberts, Don Gardner, Warren Burnett, Rod Davis, Steve Russell, Paul Sweeney, Laura Richardson, Marshall Breger A journal of free voices We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of humankind as the foundation of democracy; we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth. to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. ,The editor has exclusive control over the editorial policies and contents of the Observer. None of the other people who are associated with the enterprise shares this responsibility with him. Writers are responsible for their own work, but not for anything they have not themselves written, and in publishing them the editor does not necessarily imply that he agrees with them because this is a journal of free voices. BUSINESS MANAGER Cliff Olofson OFFICE MANAGER Joe Espinosa Jr. ADVERTISING Jeff Reynolds Published by Texas Observer Publishing Co., biweekly except for a three-week interval between issues twice a year, in January and July; 25 issues per year. Second-class postage paid at Austin, Texas. Publication no. 541300. 501! prepaid. One year, $12; two years, $18; three years, $25. Foreign, except APO/FPO. $1 additional per year. Airmail, bulk orders, and group rates on request. Microfilmed by Microfilming Corporation of America, 21 Harristown Road, Glen Rock, N.J. 07452. Editorial and Business Offices: The Texas Observer 600 West 7th Street Austin, Texas 78701 512-477-0746 7416DoIf Raising Hell Austin Jay Naman is a McClennan County farmer, president of the Texas Farmers Union, and a lifelong, loyal Democrat. Last fall, he worked hard for Jimmy Carter’s election. Today, he wouldn’t trade an old red rooster for the entire Carter administration. “Carter just flat-out lied to farmers,” says Naman. “He promised they’d be protected on their cost of production. Said he was a farmer himself and understood these things. Now he’s turning his back on us.” Naman is not just temporarily miffed; he has taken the President’s picture down from his office wall. Texas farmers are an angry bunch these days, and their anger is not the normal mad that farmers have on for things in general. \(Farmers are notoriously pessimistic and hard to pleasewhen rain finally breaks a drought, they are likely to be happy for a day or less, then turn sour on the rain: “Looks like it might pour forever, wash our crop, the tractor and Aunt Eula all the way to the Gulf.” It’s an understandable attitude for people whose fate is not in their own hands, but subject to the whims of weather, commodity traders, bugs, politicians, land speculators and other The current mood on the farm is a deeper anger, the sort that people feel when they are fed up. “You just can take so much of this, then you’ve got to do something,” says Naman. Such feelings have welled up before, most notably in the 1890s, the 1920s and the ’50s when economic downturns spawned mass farm movements. What’s got farmers so upset this time is not just the low prices they are receiving, though that is irritant enough, but that their hard work, efficiency and productivity are all taken for granted by the other 96 percent of the public. It irks them no end that consumers and government live in a fantasy world of supermarket abundance, neither knowing nor apparently caring how things are going on the farm. Things are not going well. Today, farm prices are plummeting. Texas wheat, which just three years ago brought $5 a bushel, is earning farmers less than $2 this harvest against per-bushel production costs of at least $2.50. This year’s wheat price is no aberration. Farmers expect to lose money one out of every three years, a cycle they can live with, but bad years are outnumbering good years. You wouldn’t know it from your bread bill, but grain prices have been dropping since 1973. Now, with a bumper crop in the fields, the bottom is falling out, and thousands of Texas family farms face financial ruin. At the same time, the cost of everything farmers buy has jumped almost out of reach. Billy Bob Toombs, who raises wheat and cotton and runs a few cattle on his place near Merkie, says that rising costs were about to shut down many of his neighbors even before the current bust in wheat and cotton prices. “Three years ago,” he says, “we could buy LP gas at 9 cents a gallon. It’s 34 cents now, and diesel has jumped in that same period from 16 cents a gallon to 42 cents today. A 1973 tractorthe 4430 John Deere cost $13,000. That exact same tractor, same horsepower and everything, is $24,000 now. People are going broke out here.” Continued on page 20