Down on the farm, the economy is up

Mitchell Hartman Mar 30, 2012

Stacey Vanek Smith: Today, the Agriculture Department releases its crop-planting predictions for the year. So far, everything points to another good season for Midwest farmers.

We sent reporter Mitchell Hartman to Peoria, Ill.

DeAnna Thomas on radio station WIRL-1290: Good afternoon, welcome to the noon show here on classic country 1290 WIRL, we got a little rain this morning and we will see if you can get into the field, maybe work some of that ground.

Mitchell Hartman: Spring weather has come early to the fields of central Illinois. But the economy’s been hot right through the recession.

Tarry Hoeft: The economy here’s nothing like it is in the bigger — you know, like Chicago. On the farming side, it’s been good.

Tarry Hoeft is a third-generation farmer. We met at his ranch house in the rich bottomlands of the Illinois River, where he raises corn and soybeans. He invited some neighbors.

Ron Armbrust: I’ve never sold $7 [per bushel] corn or $13 [per bushel] beans.

Ron Armbrust says these are the best prices in his 35 years of farming.

Armbrust: It’s the one thing about farmers — if they’re making money, they’re spending money, and so it helps the whole economy.

Credit the weak dollar, plus booming demand for U.S. grain in China and the developing world.

Still, in farm country, there’s no love lost for the politicians who have presided over these good times. Like you’d find in a lot of the farm belt, this is a Republican crowd.

Lynn Coers manages the local grain elevator. He supports Mitt Romney, though the president gets a nod for the auto bailout.

Lynn Coers: At least he tried something. I’m not a big Obama fan — he’s too liberal for me. But it seemed like it helped.

That sets Armbrust, who backs Rick Santorum, right off.

Armbrust: I knew when we elected Obama it was going to be big government spending a lot of money.

Hartman: You’re probably in the group that’s going to get taxed more if taxes go up. Are people like you the 1 percent or the 99 percent?

Armbrust: Yes, with the farm economy going up, that may be where some of us were. You know, I don’t mind paying taxes if I thought my money was going to good use. But if we farmed like the government does, we all woulda’ been broke a long time ago.

Armbrust is confident a Republican administration will push back on taxes and regulations that he says make his profitable farm business a little less profitable every year.

I’m Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

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