(May 8) Want a job in the coming decade? Be a truck driver, teacher, computer expert or technician, or even a sales representative. Don’t plan on being a farmer, butcher or clerk. You probably shouldn’t plan on being an independent grocer, either, given the pace of mergers and buyouts in that field.

The worst job of all, at least as far as a future is concerned, is farming. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which studies job needs, there will be a need for 328,000 fewer farmers in the next decade. That’s about a 15% decline from 2 million. Of that number, only half make a living at farming, and the top 10% to 20% produce almost all the food and fiber.

Truck drivers and mechanics, by contrast, will be in great need: 700,000 more will be needed in the next 10 years. Of course, the number of farms has been on the decline since about 1920, so this is not exactly a new trend.

The decline needs to be seen in the context of the new farm bill. That bill has gotten almost uniformly bad press. Maybe some publication somewhere praised it, but I haven’t seen it.

The criticism is always the same: welfare for “rich” farmers, followed by complaints that this is somehow anti-consumer and that help for farms is politically driven to help politicians from farm states. In this view, Sen. Pat Roberts, a staunch Republican from Kansas, is in the same boat as Sen. Tom Daschle, the South Dakota Democrat who leads the Senate majority.

There is only one thing wrong with this argument: Most farmers don’t get government payments. Those who do get the assistance are among those declining in numbers. While the dairy program has been in place, the numbers of dairy farmers has been cut almost in half. The money in the farm bill helps boost a highly productive system that actually helps consumers, the poor and just about anybody who eats on a regular basis. It hasn’t really bailed out farmers.

Here’s another irony: All those welfare-grabbing farmers are part of a rural economy that lags behind that of their urban brethren. Rural areas have lower incomes, more poverty, less education, poorer medical care, more child poverty, a declining infrastructure, less access to technology and more dependency on gas and diesel-driven cars and trucks.

So all this so-called “welfare” hasn’t helped all that much. For fruit and vegetable growers, who are mostly on their own, they get a few crumbs here and there, such as a country-of-origin law, some export money, pilot-project produce giveaways in schools and help fighting foreign bugs and fungi. That may help, but it won’t build a robust economy. Now they face threats of retaliation from the European Union over steel tariffs.

But the real problem with the rural and farming U.S. is the urban and consuming U.S. It is heresy to say that, but like a good horseshoe toss, it leans near the pole of truth. The urban mass media tilt toward consumers in all their coverage and boast about it. Consumer and environmental groups are hardly friends of the farmer. They are more likely to be critics.

The confrontation in the Klamath Basin in the West over water showed once again the disconnect between farm needs and urban desires. Do urbanites have any idea how much water it takes to grow and handle their food? Not a clue.

The urban view seems to be that the great cities — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago — exist as entities on their own, separate from the countryside. Isn’t it just possible that the New York area grew to 21 million souls because the hinterlands of a vast continent allowed it to grow? The “Garden State” of New Jersey might have helped by providing produce. The Hudson Valley might have helped by sending in apples and beef and pork. Rural Pennsylvania might have contributed a bit with everything from mushrooms to chickens. Not to mention timber and wool and water and people. Distant Florida and California also keep the metropolis alive and eating well.

The supermarket consumer and the restaurant diner in the great cities might reflect now and then on the contribution made by the producer. They probably don’t.

To their credit, a few supermarkets and foodservice operators try to bridge that divide between the urban and rural realities. Giant Supermarkets in the Washington, D.C., area posted large poster photos of some of its produce suppliers — actual farmers. Other retailers have made similar efforts to show that real people produce the food. But as companies merge and grow larger, the disconnect may actually increase.

Does any of this matter, or is it just sour grapes, the griping of the losers in the rough-and-tumble American economic system? Sadly, it probably doesn’t make a lot of difference. As a global economy comes to dominate, there is less and less room for any romantic notions about the past, about the noble stewards of the land, about the hard-working yeoman farmers.

Except there is one difference: In the end, one way or the other, the countryside still sustains the cities and their pampered urban consumers. That was brought home recently during a trip to Kansas City in the U.S. heartland. The city was thriving, but if you looked closely you could see how it was sustained by the endless truckloads and train movements and barges bringing in the wheat for the Panera bakery/ restaurants, the poultry for the Hen House markets, the beef for the Golden Ox steakhouse, the fresh produce for the thriving City Market.

Only the satisfied could ignore the role played by the countryside. Unfortunately, most of us are satisfied.