Parasites vs. Producers
THIS SUMMER’S scorching weather wreaked havoc on farm crops in America’s Midwestern corn belt. That was a catastrophe for thousands of farmers and their families—but not for some other people in the agriculture business, who, without having to lift a hand, made a fat profit from the farmer’s losses. The Chicago Tribune, in a September 4 feature article which must have had officials at the Chicago office of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith grinding their teeth and tearing their hair, contrasted one of the losers with one of the winners.
The loser portrayed in the article is Gary Main, a burly, redheaded farmer in overalls and heavy work boots who, with his wife and three children, grows corn and raises hogs and cattle on 620 acres near Altona, in west-central Illinois. His father and grandfather worked the same farm before him.
In a normal year the Main family harvests 70,000 bushels of corn, which is used to feed 5,500 hogs and 400 cattle. This year they lost half of their corn to the drought, and so they will run out of feed for their livestock during the winter. When that happens they will have to buy more corn on the market. But because other farmers also lost much of their corn crop this summer, the price of corn has shot way up, and the Mains don’t think they will be able to borrow enough money to buy the amount of feed they will need to get through the winter. Gary Main still doesn’t know what he can do to save his farm.
Someone who couldn’t care less about the Main family’s tragedy is the winner in the Chicago Tribune article. He is Bernie Dorman, a wiry little Jew described as “looking casual in a black trading jacket, bright green golf slacks, a yellow knit shirt, yellow socks,” and an assortment of heavy gold jewelry. Dorman is a commodities speculator, who spends his days at the Chicago Board of Trade watching the changing prices of farm products and making deals with other speculators. That is, he spends six months of the year doing that; the other six months he vacations in Florida.
Dorman’s son, who is his partner in Dorman Trading Co., accompanies his father to the Board of Trade and helps him make decisions as to when to buy and sell. When the son whispered about the effect the weather was having on the corn crop, the Chicago Tribune reported, the elder Dorman grinned and danced with joy. If corn prices continue to climb the way he expects, he will make several hundred thousands dollars in profit this year.
Actually, Dorman and his son don’t buy and sell corn the way a merchant does. They play no useful role in either the production or the distribution process. Their trading is in little slips of papers — “contracts” — representing so many thousands of bushels of corn at a specified price. If the price of corn were stable, Dorman would not be able to make any money trading these slips of paper. But when it goes wildly up and down, he is able to make a killing. There is nothing he loves better than a crop failure.
Dorman told the Chicago Tribune reporter: “I know a lot of [farmers] resent us, especially when they’re coping with disaster and we’re making money. . . . We just go with the flow and try to make a profit.” Then he grinned and said: “This year it looks like some of us will do pretty good [sic].”
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Source: National Vanguard magazine, no. 97, October 1983, p. 21; transcribed by Anthony Collins