Friday, April 12, 2024

‘Herding cats’ scenario not an option in 2012

By Carroll Smith

Many years ago in my first career as a high school teacher, I had the opportunity to direct the senior play at the school where I taught. I was young, enthusiastic and, in my mind, could envision a musical of Broadway proportions that we could easily pull off.

When the playbooks came in and auditions began, the reality of what it was really going to take to make this production successful crept in like a rain cloud on the distant horizon. “This is like herding cats,” I thought, as I tried not to panic. All of the students involved had his or her idea of how the characters should be dressed and how the music should be played. We were crisscrossing one another, running in different directions and organization was at a premium.

I realized I had to call in some expert help to get this play back on the right track. Luckily, another teacher with an eye for costumes volunteered to help, and we enlisted the choir director at one of the local churches to coordinate the music. With this leadership now in place, scattered individuals, who once had only their own interests at heart, came together as one in a solid cast.

When the curtain was lifted on opening night, all of the behind-the-scenes effort had obviously paid off, and, in the end, the audience applauded in a standing ovation. True, individual actors had their chance to shine, but it was the sum of the whole that made everything run smoothly.

As we begin the process of writing a Farm Bill in a hotly contested election year, the phrase “herding cats” again comes to mind. The United States is blessed with a plethora of commodities, and each has a role to play in providing food and fiber for the world. But, when you step back and look at the big picture, they all fall under the umbrella of American agriculture, which is facing new language in a new Farm Bill, and, yes, monetary cuts in the farm programs.

To keep all American farmers in business, each commodity has to figure out a way to make the most out of what they have to work with financially. Then, the leadership representing each commodity needs to come together behind the scenes, out of the public eye, to work out their differences and agree on a unified plan to present to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to help them move forward in a timely manner.

If this can be accomplished, then, hopefully, we will have a Farm Bill in place by Sept. 30. A Farm Bill that all American commodities can applaud.

Send your comments to: Editor, Rice Farming Magazine, 1010 June Road, Suite 102, Memphis, Tenn., 38119. Call (901) 767-4020 or e-mail

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