A chorus of more than 300 farm organizations has begun singing a funeral dirge that the Democratic tax plan, designed to finance a societal makeover, will spell the death to the family farm. Concerns about increased inheritance taxes make up the lyrics which carry the message that farmland will have to be liquidated to pay estate taxes.
Statistics indicated that 370 million acres could change ownership in the next 10 years, based on the current age of elderly owners of farmland. And since many of today’s farmers are well beyond retirement age, a massive turnover of more farmland could be building up.
But that is not the only threat to the future of the family farm, and it is one that does not require an act of Congress to turn on a dime to change. And that is the current data that indicates farmers and farm families may be well behind the curve in getting COVID vaccinations.
No, there is no data that says farmers are refusing vaccinations, but the higher the percentage of a rural population in a given county, the fewer the number of COVID vaccinations given in that rural county. That seemingly translates to the fact that farm folks have not voluntarily received a COVID shot.
Why is that? It would take an expensive survey to be certain, but given the conservatism of farmers and those living in rural areas, it would seem they are philosophically opposed to it. That is not everyone, but possibly a majority, based on what statistics county health departments are reporting.
With harvest season underway, seemingly a combine and tractor cab are as good as a mask. But farmers, family members, neighbors, truck drivers, grain elevator operators, and even the parts department employees at implement stores are going to have an interchange regularly that gives a COVID virus particle a chance to find a new victim.
Eventually it will get to the farm operator and if he or she goes down in the middle of harvest, who is going to carry on if it is a small- to medium-sized family operation. Suddenly harvest is delayed while that individual is in the hospital on a ventilator and the combine is sitting idle.
That will happen this fall. Not to one, or two Central Illinois farmers, but there could be many in hospitals being treated for COVID. And given the current age of farmers, with the potential for not being able to recover quickly, the future of that farming operation is threatened.
Take that one step further, and if that farmer does not come home from the hospital, and there is no immediate family survivor able to carry on the farming operation, that spells the end to that family farm. All for the lack of a simple vaccination.
Farmers are smart. They make plans years ahead whether it is cropping or livestock. But sometimes they need to look at today, and take the necessary measures to ensure they will be managing that operation tomorrow.
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Stu Ellis is an observer of the Central Illinois agriculture scene. In addition to his weekly column, you can view his “From The Farm” and “Harvest Heritage” reports on WCIA 3 News.