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Commentary: Morbus Agricola, A Rural Epidemic

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By Gary Truitt

The Center for Disease Control has recently identified a long-observed, but hitherto unnamed disease, Morbus Agricola.  Commonly referred to as farmer disease, it is currently running rampant and unchecked across rural America. Those who are stricken with the disease are seldom aware they have it, but those who observe them can see the effects all too plainly. The CDC, in their analysis, detailed the symptoms and consequences.

Symptoms:

– An almost uncontrollable desire to plant something, to till soil and grow food

– A nervous restlessness only satisfied by the operation of a tractor or other large piece of equipment

– A deep affection for the care and nurturing of bovine, porcine, equine, or poultry animals

-A irrational optimism with risk-taking behavior, most notable from March to November

– Boundless energy, allowing the individual to sustain in strenuous activity for long periods of time without sleep often causing a person to work 18-24 hours

– Dissatisfaction with the status quo, a constant desire to make things work better, be more productive, and make things better than when they started

Causes:

There is considerable debate among researchers as the cause of farmer disease. Several studies have suggested a correlation between exposure to diesel fumes, grain dust, and anhydrous ammonia. Another theory suggests it is a psychometric syndrome caused by reading too many glossy color farm magazines with pictures of farm equipment and detailed stories of farmers who grew 300 bpa soybeans and 500 bpa corn. One study claimed that the disease was caused by exposure to glyphosate. This has since been discredited by research showing that those suburban homeowners, who have twice the level of exposure to glyphosate from treating their lawns and flower beds, exhibited none of the symptoms of Morbus Agricola.

The CDC reported there is no known cure at this time.  Their recommended course of treatment includes providing those afflicted with seed, fertilizer, and land to plant along with sufficiently large equipment to work the land and a workshop so equipped to allow for endless tinkering and repair of equipment.

The National Institutes of Health estimates this disease is very widespread and can be found in almost every rural area. It is , increasingly found in urban centers especially those with many vacant lots and food deserts. Local and state officials have been  advised to  consider the adoption of right to farm laws, zoning regulations that prevent the elimination of farmland.

The Rural Health Association has published a brochure for families of those afflicted with Morbus Agricola. It includes tips on learning to halt conversation when market reports and weather forecasts come on the radio, coping with having dinner alone most nights during planting and harvest, and reorganizing the refrigerator to accommodate veterinary pharmaceuticals. The rural church foundation has published a devotional to aid families impacted by farmer disease to pray unceasingly that the crops grow, the animals live, and the market rallies.