Before you darken your last oval, before you hang your final chad, before you feed your local ballot box, please take just a minute to consider three important election issues, a fleeting trifecta that amazingly hasn't received much attention in this marathon of madness.
I know. Many of you have already voted. Congratulations. For tolerating years of mudslinging, name-calling and general belittling (both of complex issues and voter intelligence) yet still persisting to exercise your democratic duty, you deserve far more than a sticky "I VOTED TODAY" badge.
Either the Congressional Medal of Honor or the Nobel Peace Prize would be a better fit.
Yet for those still looking for a time slot over the next 10 hours or so to be a responsible patriot with your invaluable two cents, lend me you long-abused ears. Unfortunately, more times than not, farm topics and perspectives get left on the kitchen counter when the national electorate gets serious about cooking up new leadership. If it makes any difference, I think my last-minute pot-stirring may have a little value in the way it momentarily brings a handful of agricultural concerns to the top of the boiling stew.
Immigration: Historians will no doubt employ a "huge" treasure trove of iconic phrases to describe the election of 2016. But certainly "The Wall" will always be among those most commonly remembered. I'm not about to ruin your day by attempting to plow through this hardpan section of controversy. But I would ask you to consider exactly how immigrant labor plays a key role in the current structure and efficiency of the meatpacking industry.
A high percentage of the current manpower pool in packing houses scattered across the Midwest and Central Plains consists of recent immigrants, some of which are new citizens, some of which are properly documented migrants, and some of which are simply working illegally.
Whatever their legal status, these men and women are willing to tackle relatively dangerous jobs for relatively low wages. It is far from certain that packers could successfully attract a sufficient number of replacement workers if an aggressive policy of deportation was enacted and enforced.
There are some who would quickly counter that packers would simply have to make jobs on the line more attractive (e.g., safer, greater benefits) in order to secure the interest of "real" Americans. Maybe. But guess how Tyson and the boys will pass on the higher cost of doing business?
Please understand -- I am not suggesting that the immigrant problem should be ignored in order to safeguard margins and profits with the world of meat production. Clearly, it's a situation that needs to be addressed by whoever the new administration turns out to be. I would only urge all would-be problem-solvers to bear in mind that two-word truism hated by both uncritical voters and ambitious politicians: "It's complicated."
Gridlock: Have I just missed it, or has any serious discussion of governmental gridlock been entirely missing throughout this entire election-year circus? How very, very odd. Have both political parties developed amnesia regarding those shameful, do-nothing stretches over the last eight years when no member of Congress would bother opening the door for another, let alone work together to avoid a shutdown of public works or pass a farm bill.
The average stump speech by either Donald or Hillary makes it sounds like they are running for benevolent dictator instead of president, the "decider" of the executive branch only. Are we to believe that these guys plan to rule by edict and royal decree? Spoiler alert: The divine right of kings/queens went out with the guillotine.
As if the search for a silver lining within these flawed candidates wasn't tough enough, I would urge you to consider one further filter. Which of these egomaniacs can actually form a working consensus with Congress and actually translate high-sounding rhetoric into real, brick-and-mortar policy.
High Times: Perhaps saving the best for last, the legalization (in various degrees) of marijuana should seriously be considered by a surprising numbers of voters across the country. Believe it or not, as many as nine states (i.e., Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada and North Dakota) are voting today on whether smoking weed is an inalienable right.
Now I'm far from a stoner. Truth is I can hardly handle two beers. On the other hand, I wasn't at the same party when Bill forgot to inhale. I guess I just see the issue in terms of the economic self-interest of agriculture. Not only could we be on the threshold of a new cash crop, the unleashed wave of munchies promises an explosion in food demand.
And should the wrong side win, at least you (but, remember, only in certain states) can find some help in staying mellow.
Whatever. Don't forget to vote. It's an honor and sacred duty.
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