Our View: Hold the Thin Green Line

November 2, 2016

Farm Policy Facts has recently noticed an influx of national security-themed commentary coming from the Heritage Foundation.

Jim DeMint, the president, wrote the following in two recent tweets:

“A fully funded defense is a great deterrent to bad actors around the world.”

“Years of…budget cuts have resulted in a much weaker military – putting our troops and national security at risk.”

And, on the Heritage website, a section devoted to national security and defense says:

“America must be capable of proactively protecting the nation and its citizens. Our armed forces must be ready to act anywhere in the world where vital national interests are threatened. This can be achieved by giving the military the resources it needs to keep us safe and maintain freedom.”

We absolutely agree that national security should be a top priority, which is why we find it so ironic that Heritage is simultaneously lobbying to unilaterally disarm America’s farm policy. Doing so would harm the rural economy and deal an operational setback to what is currently the most dynamic, competitive, and productive agricultural sector in the world. And, such actions would only make our country less secure.

Having the ability to feed and clothe its citizens is the first step of any country’s security, which may be why a recent poll found that 8 in 10 voters agree, “A strong and thriving American farming industry is critical to American national security.”

In February 2011, retired Army General Wesley Clark, who also served as the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, penned a passionate article on the topic. Here’s an excerpt:

“As a new Congress debates America’s future, and the White House builds on a promising State of the Union speech, they should think of the 210,000 farms that produce 80 percent of the country’s agricultural output as a thin green line standing between prosperity and disaster.

“Simply put, we must hold the thin green line.”

And, most recently, during a hearing of former military leaders speaking to the importance of farm policy, retired Major General Darren G. Owens told members of a congressional panel:

“I firmly believe that America’s first line of defense is our ability to feed and clothe the people. Without American agriculture providing adequate supplies of food and fiber at a reasonable cost we would all be dependent on other nations and that could place the food security and ultimately the security of the nation at risk.”

These military generals are 100 percent correct.

Let us never forget that America once had to ration food so its citizens and soldiers had enough to eat during World War II. And if we ever think sacrifice like that is a thing of the past, look no farther than the civil unrest currently unfolding in other parts of the world over commodity shortages.

As the Secretary of Agriculture, during World War II, said time and time again: “Food will win the war and write the peace.” Or, translated for modern-day: “Hold the thin green line.”

Heritage and other farm policy critics would do well to take note.