Will farmers stick it out? Texas AFL-CIO endorsement Adopted November 4, 1977 Whereas, the family farmer has been the backbone of American agriculture since the founding of our country, and Whereas, from the very beginning, organized labor has strongly supported the family farm concept even though through the years organized labor has met with adversity from some farm organizations, and Whereas, the strength of our nation’s food supply depends upon the survival of the family farm, and Whereas, the family farmer has found no reward in being efficient and has found himself at the mercy of the market place and the “free enterprise” system is but a dream, and Whereas, with the demise of the family farmer, this country’s food supply will be manipulated by the large corporate farms, and Whereas, we are all aware of the great influence being brought upon this country’s leaders by big oil with the threat of limiting oil and gas production through limited exploration. How will Americans manage when corporate farms create a food crisis through manipulation and limited production? and Whereas, organized labor believes in the right to collective bargaining for workers and that right protected by law, so Therefore be it resolved, the Texas AFL-CIO Executive Board meeting this 4th day of November, 1977, go on record in support of American Agriculture in their effort to win collective bargaining so as to maintain their chosen way of life in a decent and respectable manner and supply this Nation with a steady supply of food and fibre. Impressions of the Vernon Henry Harnly, a 36-year-old farmer from Pampa, has no doubts that the farmers’ strike will succeed. “Our objectives would be partially accomplished whether there was a formal strike movement or not,” he said. “As long as the market prices and the government loan prices stay close together, the farmers will keep their crops off the market. As far as buying equipment, the farmers can’t anyway because the bankers aren’t going to loan them any money. And as for the irrigation belt, you’re finding less use of fertilizer which in itself is going to cause a reduction in production. Fertilizer prices are going down mainly because farmers aren’t using as much of it. The strike is pretty much in the works anyway because of natural laws. It takes money to produce.” David May of Estelline says, “What have I got to lose by joining the strike? I’m going broke already. Twenty-three percent of the nation’s farmers are being forced to refinance or give up their farms this year. Today’s farmers are rapidly losing equity in their farm property.” Will the strike be successful? Farmers have rarely been able to get themselves together before, but now there is a new type of farmer, a man who grew up amidst wealth and television. Most have been to college. Many protested the Vietnam War. They understand that starving people exist in the world, yet they can’t make a living producing food. They know that something is fundamentally wrong, and they are not willing to go out of business quietly. The question remains whether farmers can muster enough unity to hold crops off the market. Jud Byars of Oklaunion is pessimistic. “Last week the wheat market started going up because farmers weren’t selling. It got up to more than $2.50 a bushel, and the next day I saw them loading the grain cars with wheat at the railroad. Lots of farmers took the $2.50. I don’t have much hope.” Jim Greenwood Early organizing Paducah Tonight a large group of people metmen, women and children, all interested in the future of their livelihoods. Some have been farmers for three generations or more, some are newcomers, and some have businesses in this small town, which depends on agriculture for its economic well-being. All were interested in the proposed agricultural strike that was to begin on Dec. 14. The plan was for the whole town to shut down, with tractors lining the streets. These farmers are asking for a fair price for their productsthe prices of things they have to put in a crop, plus the cost of living; in short, a decent wage for them and their families, as well as for the families of their hired hands. As it is, they cannot afford the new equipment, the fuel and all the other things that are necessary to stay in the business of farming, and they are tired of being the scapegoats in the food economy. People at the meeting felt that all the high food prices are blamed on the farmers, yet if farmers have a bad crop year, no one notices. Actually, the prices keep going up in the stores, but the prices for the raw products keep going down. Why don’t people see that? Billy J. Holley, G. E. Piper and Doyle Parnell spoke first. They had all attended the rally in Austin and had driven their tractors in the parade there. Then other farmers went to the platform and spoke in support of the strike, namely: James Long, Jackie Biddy and Homer Lee Long. Then Robert Worley, manager of the Paducah Chamber of Commerce, said he could not endorse the strike as a project of the chamber, but gave his individual personal sanction. The independent truckers spoke up for the farm strike. They suggested that the two groups might work together. It seems that they are hauling raw produce to Eastern markets and are unable to get a return haul, because the organized truckers restrict them from getting any 4 MARCH 3, 1978
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