The Last Harvest?

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"There are many things the government can’t do, many good purposes it must renounce. It must leave them to the enterprise of others. It cannot feed the people. It cannot enrich the people. It cannot teach the people. It cannot convert the people."

~ Lord Acton (1834—1902)

In the west, as a general rule, the harvest is in. Millions of tons of cereal grains, carrots, beans, peas, corn, beets, sugar beets, squash, fruits, nuts along with various other produce have been delivered to the granaries, processing plants, and packing plants.

Those of us that are lucky to be associated with agriculture have seen sunrises which dazzled the eyes, worked under a sun whose heat was unrelenting and unforgiving, enjoyed sunsets which left us speechless, and continued to work under a moon so bright that artificial lights were rendered useless.

We have spent hundreds of man-hours pulling semi-trucks, loaded to over 100,000 pounds, from wet fields, out of unseen depressions or down rain-soaked mud roads. Even more man-hours have been spent up to our elbows in hydraulic fluid trying to find that small hole in the lines or replacing pumps, fittings, and couplings which failed. Then there were the hours being covered in grease, from head to toe, working to replace that broken 20-dollar part — you know the part that NEVER fails but just did — which rendered a half million dollars worth of machinery unusable; all the while wondering about the sanity of the engineer who designed the system and why anyone in their right mind would place that little part in such an inaccessible place!

Along the way we have seen the ducks and geese begin their migrations and watched as they started to return, landing once again in harvested fields to glean what was dropped or left behind. Some have had the long hours rewarded with the sighting of herds of elk, deer in abundance, cougars, bear, coyote, mountain sheep, mountain goats and the occasional wolf.

Although the hours have been long and work continued for weeks without a day off, there have been moments of unbridled humor and times of heart-rending sorrow. After cautiously passing a lady who had retrieved her errant mule and was slowly taking the animal home tied to the mirror of her pickup, one trucker was heard to quip: "Well that is one way to get your ass down the road!"

Others who were new to the agriculture industry have learned: that a truck driver never forgets to turn off his turn signal, he is just moving electrons from one side of the truck to the other to balance the truck and load; "back hauling a load of motorcycle doors" only denotes that the truck and trailers are returning to the fields empty; a late night rendezvous with the back of a combine to "water the tire" has nothing to do with adding water to the tires; and when "on the scales with thousands and thousands of little orange things that follow you everywhere you go" suggests only that you are on the scales with 30-plus tons of carrots.

Through it all the ledger sheet has never been far from anyone’s thoughts. We have watched as the cost of diesel has steadily risen from $2.89 to $3.71 during the season, a staggering increase of 78%. This price increase added to the ineptness of state road construction techniques causing pass closures; the foolish policies that emanate from BLM and the maudlin sentiments of the Federal landlord which enervate our forests forcing road closures as forest fires ran out of control; then just the quirks of nature have increased by thousands of miles the distance trucks had to cover to deliver the product, adding thousands of dollars to the cost of the harvest and eventually to the price the consumer will pay to eat.

What is most disturbing is the continuing mantra that there are worldwide shortages in crude oil which are driving the price of oil towards uncharted territory when the real culprit is the flood of money the Fed continues to pour into a failing economy. An act which in and of itself is malum in se and will result in our loss of buying power due to hyperinflation.

As the American economy approaches the abyss of hyperinflation it is strangely reminiscent of the economy in ancient Rome as it spun out of control. The results of all criminal economic policies are purely predictable but they are generally ignored.

Rome, like the US, was in decline so it began a process of devaluing the denarius. In a short period of time the once pure silver coin became a mixture of silver and copper. With this came the rising prices due to inflation while wages started to stagnate and the privileges of freedom and what it meant to be a citizen of Rome continued to evaporate.

Emperor Trajan had already instituted a program called alimenta to try and save the Roman economy. Alimenta used public funds to subsidize education along with food for Rome’s needy. It was funded by wealthy landowners who pledged portions of their estates as collateral for government loans. The interest these landowners paid to Rome on their loans funded the alimenta.

As emperors came and went the empire continued its free fall and by 284 AD the denarius was solid copper, the gladiatorial games were being offered for more than 150 days out of the year, and food had become a “right,” supplied by the state, for the Roman citizenry.

Nothing any emperor tried would save the Roman economy; the die was cast and the Roman Empire was doomed.

However, this is not the end of the story. As the empire continued its decline the common people went about their daily routines. The crops were planted and then harvested, business were started and then failed.

Families strived to pay their rents or mortgage, clothe and educate their children, pay their bills, and put food on the table. With few exceptions the desires and daily routines of the Roman people were pretty much the same as we experience today. No, they didn’t have "modern" means of travel, or harvesting crops that we employ, but they did enjoy the gifts that nature offered and they too experienced the hum-drum of their daily routines.

They too laughed, cried, and labored to keep machinery working. They also looked at creation with wonder and joy.

That is until the day came when the common Roman could no longer afford a daily meal.

You see the crops have been harvested this year but the real questions remain. How long will the American public be able to buy the food they have come to expect and need? How long will they accept the criminal actions of those few which doom their futures, life styles and literally take the food out of mouths of their children? Most importantly was this the last harvest that will feed a once great nation?

Tim Case [send him mail] is a 30-year student of the ancient histories who agrees with the first-century stoic Epictetus on this one point: u201COnly the educated are free.u201D

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