Farmers and Health Care

There is a must-read article over at The Ethicurean about farmers and healthcare.

Having farmed and worked as an adjunct for the state’s finest university (sorry, Jacks!) for five years without health care (finally got it, along with a contract for more than one semester!), I can certainly relate to this situation.

Though I am basically a Luddite when it comes to raising vegetables, part of that strategy has always been that no big power tools=less likelihood of seriously injuring myself.  Running a solo CSA where I’ve promised to deliver vegetables for twenty-four weeks doesn’t lend itself to anything broken or seriously strained (hell, or torn off).

In order to move into a sustainable farming system, we need farmers to be able to affordable health care.  Farming can be incredibly dangerous work, but even if it is done on a scale that makes it less dangerous, there will be many fewer people willing to grow food for others if they can’t get decent coverage for a decent price.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by c alessio on January 9, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Thought for the day: nobody gets “affordable” health care anymore. But you can cut the cost by getting a group rate. Why can’t a growers association or farmers association or whatever group the farmer belongs to provide a group rate? Surely such rates are available. But even group rates won’t produce “affordable” health care. If you want “affordable,” you’d better move somewhere else.
    Before you move, however, check out what they define as affordable health care. You get what you pay for. In England, for example, their national health care won’t provide dialysis after age 50. You have to pay for it. And many’s the patient who’s died waiting to see one of the limited number of doctors who’ll work for the salary they get under “affordable care.”
    It’s a pity for the farmers and any number of other hard working folks. But it’s simple reality. “Affordable health care” is an oxymoron. If you can afford it, it’s probably not going to work.

  2. Posted by flyingtomato on January 9, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Cherrie–A few thoughts in response:

    Some can afford health care–by that measure, some do get affordable health care because, well, they can afford it. But with so much money tied up in so few hands in this country, the number of people who can afford health care in this country is also few.

    Not all farmers belong to growers or farmers associations (especially if they’re specialized–say, growing vegetables in corn and soy country). Many of those associations/cooperatives have been broken by the Big Ag strangleholds–there are a lot fewer farmers unions and collectives these days that have the kind of muscle to help provide their members with competitive rates on health care or much of anything else.

    Heck–many of the supposedly red states used to be a heck of a lot redder than they are now–or “pink” if you prefer–farm states were traditionally populist or even (gasp) socialist states before we bought the notion that “every man for himself” would get any of us anywhere. We need to revive that old-time “religion” of banding together and doing some serious collective bargaining. Except there are so darn few of us left.

    I reject the notion that we should abandon all hope of affordable health care, but I also think part of making that health care affordable is to make healthy living more of a widespread practice. Hard working folks (farmers included) don’t want or need pity, they need to be able to go see a doctor when they get sick.

    Government control over the system, at least in terms of keeping the insurance companies from gouging customers and denying coverage, as well as helping keep drug prices in check is a positive step. That’s what government is for–to “govern”–or keep a balance in a system that can easily get overheated with greed.


  3. Posted by c alessio on January 9, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    I was using an idiom w “pity the poor farmer.” Not to be taken literally. We do agree on the healthy living part as a solution. We disagree on the ability of groups to get together and negotiate rates. Even a small number can form a group that insurance companies will consider. And it doesn’t have to be specialized to be considered for group rates. it’s the average stats of the group that determine the rates. So you can form your own group of whatever kind of growers you like.
    Back to “affordable” health care. In a society where we have so many obese people about to drain the system dry with the health issues arising from unhealthy lifestyles, any kind of health care might be a blessing. And I don’t believe we’re going to fix that problem in the next decade, though many Americans may just survive this hideous recession on their accumulated body fat alone. What a blessing if we all come out the other side, slim, trim, and fit. Then affordable health care might be a reality because so few would be actually using it much. Meanwhile, your growers groups might just talk to an agent about competitive rates for the group. Maybe they could get some kind of help on their coverage.

  4. Posted by flyingtomato on January 9, 2009 at 9:01 pm


    LOL on the “…many Americans may just survive this hideous recession on their accumulated body fat alone.” Love it!


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