In the midst of the winter meeting season I traveled to Washington DC for the American Sugarbeet Growers annual meeting then left to go directly to New Orleans for the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives annual meeting. It was very interesting to me to see all the similarities both inside and outside of the meeting halls.
I was pleased to hear so many kind words at the ASGA meeting about the NCFC, (that is as it should be after all, coops own all of the beet processing in the US) and all of the kind things about ASGA said at the NCFC. With farmers dropping below 1% of the US population and sugar farmers being a small fraction of that we need all the collaboration we can muster. ( Thought — joint meetings? )
At both venues I saw farmer directors sitting, uncomfortable, in sport jackets, listening to presentations about the next Farm Bill, economic outlooks and thoughts from political insiders. Much, much focus was given to the tax bill and the excitement around a provision known as 199a. Again, not surprising there would be such similarity in DC and New Orleans.
In DC where people from across the country gather to do the serious business of the country, we are just before the season when the focus turns to the serious business of getting re-elected. In New Orleans people gather from across the country to party just before the season of Lent when we begin the serious contemplation of salvation. It would seem on the face of it these two disparate goals, party versus govern, should produce decidedly different atmospheres — not so.
Both cities have truly great restaurants and bars, also a fair amount of homeless folks. New Orleans has a casino in the center of the hotel district where you can bet on roulette, DC has PAC’s where you can bet on candidates. In both cities folks dress up to make it hard to tell what they truly feel inside, DC seems to prefer dark wool suits, New Orleans shiny purple and gold. In the parades in both cities folks carry hand made signs expressing thoughts. I must admit in the many parades during Mardi Gras the bulk of the signs are of a liberal social nature with little of the point counterpoint you see in DC.
Mardi Gras week has a tradition of parades, lots and lots of parades during which people stand on floats and throw strings of beads and other trinkets (most of it made in China) they did not pay for themselves to the shouting mass of people assembled. Elections feature speeches, lots and lots of speeches during which people stand on stages and throw promises they are unable to fund (unless they borrow the money from China) to the mass of people assembled. Bourbon Street smells really bad, some of the actions on Pennsylvania Avenue are no less offensive. If you are of a socially conservative mindset you will likely not enjoy Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras. If you are Libertarian at heart you will likely not care for DC. If you love museums - DC, if you love jazz - New Orleans is your choice.
In the end I must give credit to New Orleans, there is no fake news about their intentions during Mardi Gras week, celebrate life in all its glory. I think I’ll mix up a batch of Hurricanes, get on the internet and see what the Russians want me to do at my party’s caucus.
Happy Easter. David Kragnes
Write Field column is written by David Kragnes. David farms near Felton, MN. He is a former Chairman of American Crystal Sugar Co., and currently serves on the board of directors of CoBank.