National Editor Tom Karst
National Editor Tom Karst

My brother Doug was recalling the size of his high school class (pushing 30 or so) the other day and he mentioned that the class had bonus members - two exchange students from Finland. The comment brought immediate snickers from Doug’s wife Amy, who questioned why the Finnish exchange students would agree to come to tiny Bertrand, Neb., for their taste of the U.S.

Why not?

Doug assured Amy that the two students had the times of their lives doing high school on the plains of south central Nebraska. I suppose we must take him at his word as the Finns have long since returned to their homeland.

But the story reminds me that folks like to travel, and this yen to see what is around the bend is particularly true for young people.

I recently read online that agricultural officials in Chile are looking at the New Zealand model of luring adventuresome tourists to help out with fruit harvest. The New Zealand model allows the entry of foreigner for up to six months to work in agriculture. The website, has a whole section for fruit picking jobs for young travelers to consider.

Can the use of “backpackers” as fruit pickers be transferable to Chile - or the U.S., for that matter?

Ironically, New Zealand officials told their Chilean counterparts that about 1,000 Chileans come to New Zealand each year to work on farms. Ouch, that hurts, NZ.

Since U.S. growers are leaving no stone unturned to find a labor force, they might want to put out feelers to adventuresome youths in other countries. See the world and pick apples in beautiful Washington state! Pick lettuce near the central coast of California!

If I were them, I would start looking for workers in Finland.


 I was in the office of my car mechanic the other day and asked him how the economy was doing. Not so well, he said. Stressed out by the slow economy and government largess, he confided that America will meet a day of reckoning and someday go back to the gold standard.

 His transparent if bleak views on government aren’t shared by the mainstream. Every government program and regulation under the sun can be justified until the cows come home.

 But the question of “What about Bob?” and the multiplicity of federal feeding programs caught my eye the other day,

 In discussing the House budget plan in floor debate, Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., contended that America is “on the economic road to Greece,” with the national debt now at 100% of the U.S. gross domestic product.

“You know there are 44 different Federal job training programs? If one of them works, why would you need the other 43?” Kingston said. And then he took square aim at the federal feeding programs via the mythical “Bob.”

If “Bob” is three years old, Kingston said he is eligible for 12 federal feeding programs, including food stamps, child and adult care program, commodity supplemental food program, the fresh fruit and vegetable program, the national school lunch program, WIC, and more.

At age 10, Bob is still eligible for nine. At 35 years old, Bob is eligible for seven federal feeding programs. And at 65, Kingston says Bob can potentially take part in six federal feeding programs.

There are unnecessary duplications in federal feeding programs that Democrats and Republicans alike should agree to eliminate, Kingston asserted.

“This is the low fruit,” he said.

Yes, Rep. Kingston, you can eliminate the low fruit, providing that pruning doesn’t touch the fresh fruit and vegetable program, the school lunch program, the WIC program, etc.

Of course it is simplistic to say that federal program are redundant without pointing out how they are so.

Nutrition advocates and industry leaders can defend any one of these federal feeding programs - and particularly the fresh fruit and vegetable program, if you will - as a key part of the safety net and sound nutrition policy.

But there is a growing sense among mechanics and moms that America’s ability to inject cash into food stamp debit cards for more than 46 million Americans (up 15% from last year) and to fund other federal feeding programs besides is not sustainable.

Not when we are on the road to Greece.

When America goes to the ATM and there is nothing left to withdraw, what happens then?

As a people, we need to respect the fact that folks like Kingston are asking “What about Bob?” It is a question that my mechanic would answer emphatically.