Mightier Than The Pen

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Farmers Looking Forward to Dollar Bill Harvest

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Thaler’s silo.

Topeka, Kansas (AP) – Currency farmers in this quiet city anticipate the most plentiful harvest of U.S. Dollar bills in decades, according to forecasts by the farmers’ trade group.

Once a crop with limited appeal, the U.S. dollar now commands high demand almost everywhere, but as with all agricultural products, its market value fluctuates. But with the commodities markets holding steady, dollar farmers are looking to make it their cash crop this year.

“Stability is the name of the game with dollar farming,” explained William Thaler, 62, a Wichita-area farmer who has been raising dollar plants for four decades. “When you do your planting in June or July, you want to know more or less what you’re going to get down the road.” The dollar crop is harvested during the late autumn, just in time for the Christmas shopping season, when most dollar bills are consumed.

A strong domestic market for dollars, combined with concerns over the long-term use of Euros, has contributed to a strong growing season. This year’s yield is expected to contain some newer feats of genetic engineering, including more fibers that will strengthen the bills and prevent them from inflating too much.

The dollar plant fields in Kansas are among the nation’s most productive. Industry groups claim the state produces 25 billion units annually, though that figure might be an exaggeration; some bills inevitably reach the consumer already worn and useless, and still others never make it to market because smugglers and thieves find them a tempting target. Overall, the Midwestern states account for well over ninety percent of the U.S.’s annual dollar production, and more than eighty percent of its currency acreage.

Dollar plants must be resown each year, and are harvested when the bills reach just the right level of ripeness. “The leaves – which you call bills – have to be removed carefully from the stalks when they’re not too soft yet. They have to be soft and supple, just enough to hold together,” explained Thaler. The specific ripeness of the currency is the source of the common expression “legal tender” with which each unit is subsequently labeled.

The initial softness of each bill early in the season calls to mind leafier greens, a similarity that gave rise to the term “lettuce” as slang for dollars. Although they are soft, the dollar has proved surprisingly durable, with some leaves still in circulation a decade or more after harvest.

Thaler, who plans to retire in the next five years, is often surprised at how ignorant so many Americans are about their homegrown currency. “We get dozens of tour groups out here every year, and there’s always a bunch of people amazed that the dollar is a vegetable.” He shakes his head. “I have to explain to them that money doesn’t exactly grow on trees.”

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Written by Thag

October 23, 2012 at 3:15 pm

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