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June 21, 2019

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Media role in informing US farmers

I wrote this after reading “Midwest farmers devastated by historic floods, ongoing US-China trade tensions” in the Shanghai Daily (June 17). One heck of a lot of farmers in America are not happy, and an even greater number are very worried about how this will all play out, especially the longer the stand-off continues.

The age of the average farmer continues to increase, the prices they receive for their crops are stagnant, the costs of the inputs nonetheless are increasing, and corporate mono-crop “farming” is harming land, air, and water (the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is larger than ever).

So, are they just stupid, misinformed, or what?

I think the problem is really the vast division in our country caused by the culture wars — the real, but deliberately exaggerated, tensions between generations, the urban-rural divide, the skillful way the Republicans keep single-issue politics picked raw, and the marked decline in rural districts that are Democratic leaning. In a sense, many farmers thus believe that they have nowhere else to go.

The Democratic candidates have yet to produce, at least to my knowledge, anything that could remotely be described as a farm or rural program package, making the situation even more dire.

I think the wide range of concerns covered by the Shanghai Daily is truly remarkable, and I hope that despite current tensions you will continue to cover matters in the US, including the many indicators that we are a society in deep trouble: such as levels of student debt after graduation, still largely stagnant wages, the ongoing widening disparity of wealth and the genuine plight of rural America. In contrast, newspapers in the US are not doing so well. The Oregonian, the newspaper published in Portland and its metro area of a few million, is nothing like what it was in the recent past.

They now deliver paper editions to subscribers only four days a week, expecting that on other days people will use their digital apps to access them. And their national, let alone international, coverage is insufficient to provide the information even half-informed citizens need.

The author is a retired US statesman. He now lives in Oregon.


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