As difficult as this past winter has been, many would argue the winter of 1996-97 was worse. On Jan. 31, 1997, some of the state’s political leaders brought an undersecretary of agriculture to a North Dakota ranch, so he could see firsthand the severity of the situation and offer whatever assistance he could.
Standing in front of corrals filled with snow, the 30-year-old rancher, physically, emotionally and financially exhausted, said, “I think I’m going to quit.” His neighbors wouldn’t hear of it. Because of their encouragement and assistance that spring, the young man didn’t quit. A successful producer these many years, he’s first in line when a neighbor needs help. He has served on boards and committees, and he, his wife and children have donated countless hours at the church and school.
Last month, I wrote about the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) Farm Family of the Year Program. That rather short-lived program recognized three successful farm families who had gotten reduced-interest loans from the FmHA, having been denied credit by other lenders.
One of the recipient farmers passed away a number of years ago. But recently, I talked to the other two. Both are retired. Both are still living on the farms they operated for many years. Their land is rented out. Both said they would not have been able to pursue their dream of farming had it not been for the FmHA.
One told me he is leasing his land to neighbors, and the cash rent he charges is tied to the price of wheat. When the price of wheat increased last fall, he said, he raised the rent for 2023, but the renters didn’t complain.
“It’s only fair,” he said.
The other farmer said he leases his land to a handful of young farmers to help them get started.
“I let them set the price. They’ve been fair. I’m glad to help them out,” he said.
The world is a better place because of all the people who believe one good turn deserves another.
Al Gustin is a retired farm broadcaster, active rancher and a member of Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative.