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Texas Cattlemen will take the first hit from Trump’s new trade policies
February 18, 2017
I grew up in cattle country, in far West Texas where the grass blew as far as you could see, and the lowing of cattle was a constant lament. The sun bore down on us relentlessly, with only occasional rain.
And yet, my people made peace with the land and a good living for our family raising cattle. In the summers, I rode the train to Kansas to visit my grandmother. My dad tipped the porter to keep an eye on me and make sure I got off at the right stop.
My grandmother met that train and off we went into hilly Kansas to her place where she raised wheat. In those long sunkissed summers, I spent time sitting on her screened-in porch, drinking gallons or what she called seed water – aka lemonade.
My grandmother and her various and sundry daughters- in-law and cousins were hard at work cooking for the threshing crew who came through to harvest the wheat.
Those men would come to the house tired, dirty, and ready to eat. They’d wash up at a pail on a bench in the yard. She’d ask me to hang a towel on a stick for them to dry their tired faces.
Lots of fried chicken, potato salad, okra and tomatoes, with plenty of corn bread and buttermilk fed those guys. Stacks of dinner plates went from full to empty, then those men would lay under the shade of the Chinaberry tree and take a nap before going back to the fields.
The work went on deep into the night. By the time they were done sometime around midnight, Grandmother’s kitchen staff had fed them three meals. A breakfast of buckets of oatmeal, gallons of coffee, then two generous meals – dinner about 2 in the afternoon and supper about 6.
I, of course, along with the other cousins, was drafted to wash dishes and dishes and dishes, stacking them on a tea towel spread over that same bench.
And that was how we fed America back in the fifties. The beef cattle, the wheat for bread, the row crops of tomatoes and lettuce.
We never thought much about what went on behind the steady work of getting the food on the table. But of course, lots went on. Mother cows were bought and bred for calves. Wheat was sundried and stored – the usual crop laid by was two years’ worth. Because we did what was necessary to keep the food supply coming.
My people were close with money. They didn’t waste money, and they rarely wanted for what they needed. They actually operated on a thin, carefully titered supply. But the system worked.
They began trading with other countries. My grandfather rode a horseback into Mexico to buy cows and calves which he brought back to Texas to keep his ever thriving cattle operation growing.
My paternal grandmother, always kept two years’ supply of wheat in the silos, and sold the rest, some of which went to Canada as well as to American markets. It was a system that worked and kept North America fed and thriving.
So cut to the present. I read a piece from yesterday’s Dallas Morning News with a glimpse of the present for the folks who provide the basic foodstuffs of our diet. Under Trump’s plan, the Texas cattlemen are going to be the first to fall.http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2017/02/16/first-casualties-trumps-trade-wars-texas-cattle-ranchers
By ramping up a trade war with Mexico, those hardworking Texas cattlemen are likely to be cut off from their supply of cow and calf pairs this spring. Cattle futures have already taken a hit. And then, Trumps bluster about the Trans Pacific Partnership dealt a death blow to the good relations Texas cattlemen have had with Japan, a major market for Texas beefsteak.Not only cattle, but wheat and grains are also at risk, with these futures markets already trembling. May I tell you I grew up at the breakfast table listening to the radio station in Amarillo, Texas report the futures markets, every day.
When I think of the uninformed drivel that comes out of Trump’s mouth about trade it makes me furious. He is taking people’s lives and livelihoods in his hands as if he knew come here from sic-em. He does not.
We have a very short window to get rid of him and his minions before our entire economy collapses. I just have to wonder. Do you suppose Donald Trump has ever been hungry?
Linda West Eckhardt, Everybody Eats News, Author 35 cookbooks beginning with The Only Texas Cookbook
James Beard award winning food writer 973 327 2256, Maplewood NJ