Why local farmers monitor Mississippi River

Ottumwa Courier

Sept. 05–OTTUMWA — While a recent visit by a US congressman focussed on farm issues like the drought, topics that may not, at first glance, seem related also came up in conversation.

John Sandbothe, a farmer and Iowa Farm Bureau employee, asked about “infrastructure” during Congressman Dave Loebsack’s visit to Clark Yeager’s Wapello County farm.

Loebsack said he’s been pushing for rural broadband, but if it’s not worth it financially for providers, they’ll need an incentive to get the amenity out to every country property.

Sandbothe was more interested in transportation infrastructure: roads, bridges, locks and dams. Loebsack agreed it’s going to take money to update what is rapidly becoming a broken down old system.

When farmers can’t get their product to market, the product can see its price fluctuate; the same with demand.

Loebsack knew what Sandbothe was talking about; there are few US Representatives with more locks in their district than him.

Delays can also be costly, farmers reminded him. Delay a shipment enough and the entire cargo can spoil right on the barge.

The rural folks visiting this weekend mentioned NAFTA: While it might not be a great trade agreement between nations as far as the United States in general is concerned, it works just fine for agriculture, they said.

Another business term brought into the conversation: monopolies. Yeager feels as though small suppliers are vanishing. Everything farmers need is being offered by a couple of huge companies.

“And they charge what they want,” said Yeager.

All in all, between commonly discussed issues, like disaster programs and crop insurance, to more indirect money-makers like infrastructure and NAFTA, there’s plenty of risk for the American farmer, Yeager said.

“As a farmer, I ask that you keep us competitive,” he told the congressman.

That would take a majority of the US House working together, Loebsack said. But while that doesn’t sound like an easy fix, it is possible, he said.

Rural folks around the country tend to need similar things. And with so many rural people represented by Republicans, Loebsack has over the years, had the perfect icebreaker in establishing relationships that reach across party lines. Those rural representatives can work together, he believes.

Right now, he said, there’s “not a lot going on” in congress. And they’re starting to run low on time.

His hope is that politicians on all sides will be able to work on important issues, and do the right thing for their voters and for the country.

“For their own political future, the best thing they can do is what’s right for their districts,” Loebsack said.

Reporter Mark Newman can be contacted at mnewman@ottumwacourier.com and followed on Twitter @couriermark.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Waterways Council, Inc.