Hola! I've just returned from an unforgettable week-long trip to Nicaragua. Although it seems odd, I can once again drink water from a tap without hesitation.
My trip took me to rural areas where the United Nation's World Food Program (WFP) is helping the poor deal with the lingering effects of a hurricane, a drought in its western agricultural areas and floods.
The trip was not an epiphany for me. Modern technology has shrunk our globe to where it's difficult to see much of anything for the first time.
But, I left Nicaragua with a greater appreciation for farmers both there and here. Congratulate yourselves for growing food in such abundance that in countries like Nicaragua, people are able to eat despite their poverty. Your harvested truckloads of grain become a meal that was missing until the bags of U.S. grain arrived in one of the villages I visited.
It's a humbling experience to see school-age children stand patiently in line for a large glass of CSB (a corn-soybean blend mixed with water) and realize it's likely the only food they'll receive that day.
American farmers should feel good about the bounty they produce — it helps fellow farmers in less-fortunate countries feed their families.
The next time you grumble about $2 corn, keep in mind that's about what a Nicaraguan worker can earn in a day. The $5.25 soybean price that sometimes seems so unfair, too, is enough to feed a child for a month through programs like WFP.
U.S. farmers win in so many ways when corn, soybeans, wheat and other products are processed and shipped around the world to help feed starving and undernourished people.
Like the Farm Bill, food programs such as WFP are tied to the U.S. budget. And right now, Congress is debating H.R.1700, The George McGovern-Robert Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Act of 2001.
I encourage you, as you lobby Congress for a better Farm Bill, to spend time lobbying for food programs just as vigorously. Today's food program recipient may very likely be tomorrow's importer of grain.
You can't experience the emotion of the people until you walk in their villages, hear their deep-felt gratitude for the grain you grow and hear the stories of what a simple cup of what we'd consider gruel means to their village. Their eyes and emotions say “thank you” to American farmers in ways that words can't match.