Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak was quoted in a Farm Journal interview as saying rural America is becoming less relevant to American politics.
He’s right. Since the 1950s, when the population shift to cities and their suburbs became profound, rural areas gradually have lost their influence in Washington, and even in state capitals.
“Why is it that we don’t have a farm bill?” Vilsak said. “It isn’t just the differences of policy. It’s the fact that rural America, with a shrinking population, is becoming less and less relevant to the politics of this country, and we had better recognize that and we better begin to reverse it.”
It’s the old story of the city mouse versus the country mouse. In Aesop’s fable on that subject, a city mouse invites his country cousin to the city, where food is abundant. But once the country mouse arrives and the two set about to dine, they find themselves hassled by cats. The city mouse accepts being preyed on as a condition of abundance. The country mouse says, “No thanks, I’m going back home where I can enjoy my dinner (albeit less plentiful and less varied) in peace.” The moral: A modest life with peace and quiet is better than a richly one with danger and strife.
Vilsak says rural folks are too quick to complain about regulations they see as too restrictive on their farming operations, and should rather spend time and money reminding city folks of the many benefits agriculture confers on the country.
“There’s a huge communication gap” between farmers and the food-eating public, the Farm Journal quoted him as saying.
What Vilsak leaves out is the fact that city people can seem stupid when it comes to their food supply. Most of them have little idea how food makes it to their tables. Stupidity can’t be cured. Maybe it can be tempered, though, with better public relations.