By Sam Hatcher
For Rural Life Today
WOOD COUNTY — My wife is sick of the presidential hoopla already, and its only February. Being the dutiful and loving husband that I am – just ask my wife’s family that – I told her that it’s time for her History Lesson for February.
President’s Day started out as a holiday for George Washington’s birthday. Then somebody remembered that Abe Lincoln was a pretty good president too, so he should be added since his birthday was in February as well. Then some fool congressman thought that all of the Presidents should be honored, hence the third Monday in February was designated as the federal holiday we know today – President’s Day.
How, one might ask, have presidents impacted the farm? As I explained to my wife, Washington is credited with introducing mules to this country. Lincoln signed the Homestead Act into law – where a settler could acquire 160 acres of land for free if a couple of conditions were met in a specified period of time. Can you imagine having a land grab like that in your county?? Then it went all over after that.
One president established parity prices for farm commodities. Another signed an idea into law where slaughterhouses and meat packers had to be inspected. Another used American corn to feed the Belgians before he got to be president. Another used his administration to sell farm products to the Chinese Communists. Another put a grain embargo into effect against the Soviet Communists because they invaded a country by the name of Afghanistan. One president campaigned for the job by plowing with a team of horses at a plow day in Iowa.
Another president signed a bill called Freedom to Farm into law. Still another created NAFTA – where no tariffs exist on trade-able farm goods in North America. Another helped to establish the Federal Reserve system – that agency that sets the interest rates as a way to control the nation’s economy.
One had a ranch in Texas, that he bought and kept adding acreage to with his wife’s money. One said: “read my lips, no new taxes…”, then had to go back on his pledge. One had a guy named Orville Freeman as his Secretary of Agriculture – how many guys do you know named Orville? Another had to fire his Secretary of Agriculture named Earl Butz, probably the best known Ag Secretary to ever come out of Purdue University, for telling a joke that was not politically correct.
One contributed by the fact that he weighed 300 pounds as president – so he must have eaten well, and helped the farmer in that way. Another is currently presiding over our current economic farm boom – wonder when this bubble is going to burst??
Another vetoed a Farm Bill in 2008, then had his veto overridden by Congress. Another president signed the Packers and Stockyards Act into law, which prohibited meat packers from cheating farmers who raised livestock. Another president was the man who hired Henry C. Wallace as his Secretary of Agriculture. Henry C. is NOT the man who started the Pioneer Seed Corn Company, that was Henry A. Wallace, but rather it is his dad, who helped start a magazine by the name of Wallace’s Farmer – a forerunner to all of those great farm magazines that we get in the mailbox today. Finally, another president presided over an economic boom that, for farmers, lasted for most of the decade of the 1950’s.
Yes, if one does a careful accounting, I think I have hit all of them from the 20th and 21st centuries so far, from Teddy Roosevelt to Barack Obama. So as I told my wife, it is a l-o-n-g way to the next presidential election, but now in the doldrums of this wacked out winter weather, at least she is a bit more educated. President’s Day, another part of life on the farm.