In an ad reminiscent of Chrysler's spot during last year's Super Bowl paying tribute to the auto industry, the company this year gave a dedication to farmers who have persevered in the face of the worst drought in 50 years and whose woes fell on deaf ears in Washington in 2012.
The ad was meant to sell the Dodge Ram pickup truck, but the vehicle was only shown at the conclusion of a commercial that had a broader message about the farming sector.
Last year's Chrysler ad was narrated by Clint Eastwood. The late radio host Paul Harvey starred in the Dodge Ram ad, which featured his "So God Made a Farmer" speech from the 1978 Future Farmers of America convention. With the rustic sound of an old tape reel or vinyl record, Harvey invoked a preacher's voice to poetically describe the daily duties of agrarian life.
The two-minute spot hit the emotional notes that inspired nostalgia, in a shift in tone from the lighter ads from Oreos or Bud Light.
"God said, "˜I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the field, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.' So God made a farmer," Harvey said over still images of the farmers at work.
Farmers have been grappling with tough times. Last summer's drought devastated corn and soybean crops, hurting farm profits and driving up food prices nationwide. According to a June study from the National Climatic Data Center, the drought was the worst to hit the United States in the last half-century.
Meanwhile in Washington, lawmakers failed to pass a five-year extension of the farm bill by the deadline. The legislation passed the Senate but died in the House, bogged down by a debate over food stamps and the cost of subsidies to the sector. Since the start of the new session of Congress, lawmakers have vowed to revive the farm bill.
On Jan. 22, Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, and several members of the Senate Agriculture Committee reintroduced it for the Senate to consider in the coming months. House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., has also said he would push Speaker John Boehner to reconsider the farm bill.
The ad did not make an explicit pitch to Washington — in contrast to the Mayors Against Illegal Guns ad that called for universal background checks for gun purchases. But the Jeffersonian and family images shown in the ad might resonate with policymakers and the public.
"It had to be somebody who'd plow deep and straight and not cut corners," Harvey intoned. "Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed ... and plow, and plant, and tie the fleece and strain the milk. Somebody who'd bale a family together with the soft, strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh, and then sigh and then reply with smiling eyes when his son says that he wants to spend his life doing what Dad does. So, God made a farmer."
It's not halftime in America, as last year's ad suggests; it's just another play in the long game for farmers every year.