09-28-2017 Letters and Commentary


Farm bill could help farmers, soil health, and water quality

Dear Editor,

Do you care about soil health, clean water, and farmers’ ability to make a living and steward their land? Time to tune in; Congress has started work on the next farm bill, and now is when they need to hear from you: the voters.

The next farm bill offers a major opportunity to support conservation through the crop insurance program. Crop insurance is a must-have for most farmers. Linking crop insurance to conservation is therefore a smart way for Congress to invest taxpayer dollars in supporting farmers and strengthening stewardship of natural resources.

However, many farmers may be hesitant to use conservation practices due to confusing crop insurance regulations. They may ask, “Does planting cover crops impact eligibility?” Congress could eliminate this barrier by making clear that all conservation activities count as good farming practices under crop insurance.

The farm bill could also strengthen the tie between farmers’ conservation practices and their eligibility for crop insurance subsidies. Congress already passed a measure requiring farmers with highly erodible land or wetlands to meet a conservation threshold in order to receive crop insurance subsidies. It makes sense to expand this and offer a higher crop insurance subsidy to all farmers who practice conservation. These individuals are preserving the land for future generations.

Whether you are a farmer or not, everyone has three representatives in Congress: two senators and one congressperson. All three will eventually vote on a farm bill. Let your lawmakers know today that conservation is important to you.

Anna Johnson, Center for Rural Affairs

Learning the lingo of Social Security

Is Social Security a topic in your conversations these days? Are you familiar with the lingo used to describe Social Security benefits, or does it sound like a new vocabulary to you?

Social Security employees strive to explain benefits using easy-to-understand, plain language. But if a technical term or acronym (an abbreviation of the first letters of words in a phrase) that you don’t know slips into the conversation or appears in written material, you can easily find the meaning in our online glossary at www.socialsecurity.gov/agency/glossary.

Social Security acronyms function as verbal shorthand in our financial planning conversations. If you’re nearing retirement, you may want to know what PIA (primary insurance amount), FRA (full retirement age), and DRCs (delayed retirement credits) mean. These terms involve your benefit amount based on when you decide to take it.

If you take your retirement benefit at FRA, you’ll receive the full PIA (amount payable for a retired worker who starts benefits at full retirement age). So, FRA is an age and PIA is an amount.

What about DRCs? Delayed retirement credits are the incremental increases added to the PIA if you delay taking retirement benefits beyond your full retirement age. If you wait to begin benefits beyond FRA — say, at age 68 or even 70 — your benefit increases.

Once you receive benefits, you get a COLA most years. But don’t expect a refreshing drink — a COLA is a Cost of Living Adjustment, and that will usually mean a little extra money in your monthly payment.

Knowing some of these terms can help you fine-tune your conversations about Social Security.  If one of those unknown terms or acronyms does come up in conversation, you can be the one to supply the definition using our online glossary. Sometimes learning the lingo can deepen your understanding of how Social Security works for you. Discover more at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Vonda VanTil is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov.

A solution for loneliness

“No one ever says ‘Hi’ to me.” Those were my complaining words when I attended a good sized church as a teen back in Philly. I felt justified in my self-pity until I discovered a verse in Proverbs: “He who would have friends must show himself friendly.” While I felt shorted by others not greeting me, was I greeting anyone myself? So I decided to do something about it. The next time I was at that church I started to say hi to others. I had discovered a solution for my own loneliness by bridging to others myself. That approach has worked many times for me throughout my life.

The proverb about feeling sorry for yourself because your feet hurt until you see someone without legs has broad application. We sometimes forget to be thankful for what we have.

While it is true that we cannot earn our salvation by good works according to the Bible, good works is supposed to be a part of our regular experience. While Ephesians 2:8, 9 says: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (NASB), Ephesians 2:10 says: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (NASB). See also Titus 2:14. We are to be “zealous” for good deeds.

Someone might sneeringly say, “So we all have to be ‘do-gooders,’ huh?” Only if you want to please God and get outside yourself. You’d maybe rather be a ‘do-badder’? No future in that.

The good thing we can do to overcome loneliness is to become more others-oriented. I had to understand that there were other people waiting for “Hi.”

FREE SPEECH AND STUPIDITY… How stupid is this national debate about athletes not standing for our National Anthem?

Our anthem includes… “land of the free.” Being part of the free includes freedom of speech (and expression).   Whatever the motives of those that choose to demonstrate their beliefs by taking a knee at a football game or on a stage may do so.

As much as others may be incensed or concerned by such actions, those who choose to ‘disrespect’ our National Anthem are protected by the same laws that allow us to worship, gather, carry arms, vote, and be free of tyranny. We are all guaranteed the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

By the same token, those of us who disagree with others may also do so without threat or fear of repercussion.

What is stupid is the coverage the media offers to those that express behavior that seemingly appears to many to be disrespectful. The same media that refuses to record the actions of a person running across a ball field to make a statement (clothed or otherwise) locks the cameras on professional athletes kneeling during our National Anthem to make a political statement.

There are many issues dividing this country that needs public debate, none of which should be on a ball field.

Sadly, our President adds fuel to the fire by commenting. There is so much more he could say by saying nothing at all.

SPEAKING OF BAD SPORTS… why does major league baseball not require screens to protect all fans from balls and bats crashing into fans? Perhaps the aforementioned debate on athletes’ disrespect of our National Anthem distracted the baseball fans attention from a real danger.

From experience, I’m surprised there are not more injuries reported. Baseballs leave bats at more than 100 miles an hour and regularly fly into the stands. Bats break and frequently send slivers into the stands. Even with all the carnage in the stands, major league baseball accepts no responsibility for injuries sustained in the ballpark, so says the fine print on a ticket.

Just last week a young girl was hit in the face by a ball. Other than the youngsters wearing gloves in the hopes of catching every ball hit, most kids are hardly paying any attention to the games, much less looking out for balls banging into the seats.

A couple years ago, I was sitting behind third base in Wrigley Field and about ten rows back. I was amazed by the speed and frequency of the foul balls whizzing into the stands.

From the instance of the crack of the bat, the ball came whistling overhead and if it wasn’t caught in the air by a spectator, the scramble was on as it rolled between and under the seats.

I saw a couple strange things; a fellow down the row from me was waving a twenty-dollar bill at the beer vendor. SPLAT! A foul ball hit him in the hand and pinned the bill to it!

Another guy, less fortunate, wasn’t paying any attention, KNOCK the foul ball hit him on the top of his head, and caromed away. There were so many foul balls being hit towards us, a season ticket holder said he had never seen so many in one game. Not long after that, one hit an empty seat behind me and rolled down the steps. I got my hand on it before the guy ahead of me and after a slight tussle he let go… nodding towards my grandson Eli, “I’ll let you have it since you have a kid with you,” he said.

Perhaps, along with screens all the way out to the foul poles, and injury liability, there should be an age limit of at least 14 years old for the kids. Major league baseball probably wouldn’t like that, because kids fill a lot of seats and eat a lot of hot dogs.

LAST GREAT HEAT WAVE…. Yikes, this past week sure rang the bell for the hottest end of summer and beginning of fall. The mercury at the Bayer house hit triple digits Saturday afternoon, topping out at 104 degrees in the shade.

The Panther Homecoming Festivities were broiled Friday afternoon just as the first of fall occurred at 4 p.m., setting a hot venue for the parade at five and onto the kickoff at game time. This Monday kept broiling causing many preschools to cancel classes; opting to let the young-uns keep cool at home.

I slipped off to the river Sunday morning for a little fly-fishing. By nine a.m. the big salmon I was stalking headed for deeper water, cutting a v-wake across the shallow gravel bed and leaving my fly far behind.

Happily the real fall weather caught up to the calendar by midweek. Sadly, it is probably too late to save the flower petals and leaves of many of the garden plants and bushes; they have been burned to a crisp. Even the emerging stink bugs and Japanese beetles headed for the shade, hopefully not to return this year.

It appears the fall color show may be short-circuited by so many tree leaves already fried and dried brown by the heat wave leaving few to brighten the landscape in reds, yellows, and oranges.


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