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Trump could use John Mellencamp as an ag adviser

John-Mellencamp
Rock musician John Mellencamp, shown in this 2004 photo, has been a longtime advocate for farmers and understands they want open markets and fair prices, not government assistance. | DFree, Bigstock

Rock musician knew decades ago that farmers want export markets and strong prices, not government aid

August 2, 2018

When the Trump administration announced a week ago a $12 billion aid package to help U.S. farmers who have been hurt by tariffs on agricultural goods, a common response by federal lawmakers and agriculture trade groups was that type of financial assistance isn’t really what the farmers want.

What farmers truly want is open trade, which is essential for creating a demand for the commodities they produce, which will drive up prices for those goods and make farming profitable, those groups are saying.

This is not a new revelation. People have been saying this for years, not only in agriculture and economic circles, but even the rock music scene.

‘Rain on the Scarecrow’ video tells tale

One thing I thought of when I heard of the financial aid package was the video to the John Mellencamp song “Rain on the Scarecrow,” which is a song I have loved since it first came out in the mid-80s. In the song, Mellencamp, who is from rural Indiana, was actively involved in the Farm Aid concerts, and understands the importance of agriculture, brings attention to the financial woes of being a farmer and how long hours and hard work don’t always equate to financial success.

The cassette I had that included that song has long since worn out, but thanks to YouTube, I can listen to that song practically any time I want to. And in watching that video, I saw something I never saw before. (We couldn’t get MTV out in the country back in the day.) Before the song starts, the video shows comments from two of three young farmers shown on the screen, revealing their frustrations.

“All the government wants to talk about is they want to keep giving more loans and more loans. That seems like that’s all they’ve got in their heads. We don’t need another loan. We need a good price,” one farmer said in the video.

“I think the politicians are paying games with us. It doesn’t cost them anything to change the rules and embargo another country,” another farmer said.

Three decades later, farmers are in a similar situation.

This aid package was presented as one that is temporary in response to tariffs imposed in retaliation to earlier ones imposed by President Donald Trump and his administration, but still, Trump needs to stop “playing games,” as that one farmer said. Instead, he needs to try to find a real solution to undo the damage created by this trade war.

Mellencamp knew that clear back when Ronald Reagan was president, but five presidential administrations later, three of which were for two terms, this is still a problem.

Perhaps Trump would be wise to consult with Mellencamp about what the farmers really want and need to make a living.

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