THE reality of farming in a bankrupt nation is starting to sink in across the US.
The effect of deep budget cuts has come home to roost in the services and traditional farm supports available to primary producers.
The US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has been vigorously marketing the draconian measures as part of the response to the operating budget for his department being cut by a staggering $US3 billion since 2010.
The Department of Agriculture is trying to put a positive spin on the changes to suggest that service is going to be even better. The department's "Blueprint for Stronger Service" includes the closure of 259 offices across the country, about half of which are those used as shopfront Farm Services Agencies to allow farmers to sign up to a wide range of government programs.
There has been the usual cry about the loss of services, but the numbers would suggest an overblowing of the impact. The plan announced so far includes closing only 131 of 2100 Farm Service Agency offices across 32 states, almost half of which are "unmanned offices" - hardly a gutting.
In addition, only 15 of the almost 600 offices of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will be shut.
More change may be in the pipeline. A bigger battle looms when US politicians will debate the next Farm Bill later this election year.
Any wind of change in the US farm sector brings the usual fearmongering. Part of the fear agenda being cranked up would have the American public believe that the reductions in government inspection resources will increase the risks of food safety to the US public. Government inspection jobs - the logic goes - play a vital role in stopping food-poisoning scares reaching the public.
On any basis this seems a wild claim, but food safety is very topical in the US food industry. A steady stream of outbreaks across food categories keep politicians anxious.
The recent surprising proclamation by Obama's office that federal US legislation preventing interstate raw milk sales won't change is a clear sign of that anxiety.
The nature of US political representation is such that agriculture has been one of those almost "untouchables" in a finely balanced Congress where farming states have huge clout. The political backbone provided to rural America ensures the voice of the primary producer reaches Washington with amplified volume. Right or wrong, the food producer's role is a much higher priority than we see in this country.