Readers Write

Futures Markets Reap Most From Farm Act

"Farmers Free to Hoe Their Own Row - and Take More Risks" (April 18) alludes to a very critical, far-reaching fact few people recognize: The futures exchanges will be the major beneficiary of the new farm bill. Greatly increased uncertainty in planted crop acreages will generate highly increased volatility in grain markets. Volatility is the engine that drives commodity futures trading - but causes farmers massive problems.

In other articles I've read:

r Dr. Ed Uvacek, Texas Agricultural Extension Service economist, described the situation very accurately when he said that volatility is required to produce futures trading activity.

r Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman has commented that the new farm bill will boost (grain) price volatility, while Sen. Paul Wellstone (D) of Minnesota has been quoted, "what [the new farm bill] says to farmers is 'you are on your own.' I do not think farmers across the country will fare well with that approach."

r Sen. Pat Roberts (R) of Kansas, who pushed aggressively for the exchange-biased farm bil, is incorrectly credited by many as the "father" of the new farm bill. The fact is, former Sen. Rudy Boschwitz of Minnesota "invented" the concept nearly 12 years ago. Unfortunately, his proposal contained the same commodity price volatility provisions as the current bill and reflected gross disregard for farmers' well-being and best interests.

Yes, grain prices went up in 1996, but only because of a short crop, not the farm bill. The bottom line is, farmers, not the futures exchanges, should have received first consideration in the farm bill.

Doug Wildin

Hutchinson, Kan.

Union call heeded

Contrary to the opinion of one of your readers, I commend the Monitor for its even coverage in "Strawberry Fields Become Fresh Union Battleground" (April 16), about the union march for the strawberry workers in Watsonville, Calif.

One point of the writer's letter (April 28) was accurate. It is true that the AFL-CIO "needed a national campaign that everybody could buy into." The unions responded nearly 30,000-strong from all the Pacific states as well as places east. The strawberry workers themselves did not march, not because their "working condidtions are good and their pay superior." They stayed away because they knew if they marched, they could lose their jobs to even more needy people who were willing and ready to take their places.

I marched with the union members, although I am neither a union member nor a strawberry worker. I was proud to join America's hard working men and women - the machinists, the carpenters, the textile workers, the farm workers, the public school teachers, and others who know that union membership has brought them fair wages, decent housing, and health benefits not known to strawberry workers.

I marched because I believe that America has lost its awareness of the most basic strength of our democracy: Freedom cannot exist without responsibility. When the wealth of our great country is concentrated in the hands of a very few, when education and health and the public welfare have less importance to our elected representatives than military hardware, we are in danger of losing the idealism on which our country was founded, and on which the rest of the world has relied for both inspiration and hope.

Ellen Kattwinkel Wilson

Los Gatos, Calif.

A gang leader's choices

I found the article on Larry Hoover, "The Many Faces of a Reputed Gangster" (May 6), very moving.

The fact that Hoover continued to sell drugs when he did not really want to (in order to feed his child and perhaps fund his political activism) speaks eloquently of the lack of opportunities in Chicago's South Side. It made me ponder what the real crimes are. We would rather put drug dealers in prison than deal with the problems that make them sell drugs.

Cati Coe

Lansdowne, Pa.

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