DES MOINES, IA—Citing the massive economic woes plaguing the nation's farmers and the severe physical hardship of farming itself, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman announced Monday that he would like to "forget about the whole farming thing altogether."
"Every day, it's the same thing—get up at the crack of dawn, swamp out the barn, feed the livestock. It's just a lot of work. I get exhausted just thinking about it," Glickman told assembled agribusiness representatives at the annual Midwest Agricultural Alliance convention in Des Moines. "And what's the point? Just to get up and do it all again the next day? I think it goes without saying that all of us are sick and tired of the whole grueling process."
According to Glickman, despite heavy government subsidies, the nation's agricultural community has struggled badly in recent years, with declining prices in an increasingly globalized marketplace making it more and more difficult for farmers to eke out a living wage and keep up with the soaring costs of maintaining and running a modern farm.
"Sitting on those tractors out there in the middle of nowhere day after day, for hours on end, it's a nightmare," Glickman said. "At this point, I honestly don't care if I never see another clod of dirt again in my life."
Glickman, appointed head of the embattled Agriculture Department by President Clinton in 1992, also said there is strong resentment among the nation's farmers over the fact that while other Americans are free to go out each night—dancing, drinking, driving fast cars and having an all-around hootenanny—farmers are regularly stuck out in the sticks in some backwater boondocks town, freezing their asses off tending to some henhouse.
"The chicken is a mean-spirited, stubborn bird," Glickman said. "Who needs them?"
Glickman urged America's farmers to seriously reexamine their priorities. "As the 21st century approaches, and breakthroughs in technology continue to make our lives easier, most citizens of our modern industrialized nation are out there living it up with their cable TV, video games and disco-dance clubs," he said. "Yet, somehow, we who make up the nation's agricultural base are still stuck rubbing our knuckles in dirt, praying for rain. It's a damn shame is what it is. I've got to have half a mind to just say to hell with farming, and advise my constituency to catch a Greyhound bus out of their one-horse towns and see what life is like in the big city for once."
Glickman noted that residents of the nation's major urban centers, such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, enjoy access to things traditionally denied to those who live in rural areas, such as big, tall buildings and ladies who dress up in fancy clothes from France.
Glickman's remarks were met with disapproval and caution by some within the agricultural sector, including his own Aunt Becka and Uncle Jeremiah, of Emporia, KS.
"That boy's got his head up in the clouds, filling his mind with all sorts of fancy dreams, instead of keeping his attention on what he's doing," said Glickman's uncle, a quiet, gruff man known for his way with horses. "Move off to the big city, I never! Don't he know that we still got 60 acres of alfalfa coming in yet this season, and not one ranch hand left to help bring in the crop after Pablo took sick with the frostbite last winter?"