Past Ag Secretaries FAILED to promote new Farm Bill
by JAMES A. MARPLES
Oct 30, 2013 | 897 views | 0 0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On October 21st , six past U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture gathered at Kansas State University as speakers for the "Landon Lecture" series.   I watched the lecture via live streaming-audio, since I was unable to be in Manhattan; however, I probably got a better view and a better perspective by that vantage-point.  

While I thank each of the past Ag Secretaries for their service, it was apparent that they are stuck in time.  John Block was Ag Secretary during the Reagan-years.   Nebraska's former Governor and current U.S. Senator Mike Johanns, age 63, gave an impassioned plea that he is nearing Medicare-age and considers himself too wealthy for any subsidized health-care, yet he still pretends to champion farm-care subsidies.   Johanns was applauded that "entitlements"  need to be cut; however his rhetoric was using a butcher's knife to cut programs that are not frivolous pork-barrel projects.  

Although I agree with Johanns in that some reforms need to be done, they should be done in a tailor-made fashion to preserve the smaller family-farm operations.    I, myself, sold a family farm near Phillipsburg, Kansas, which had been in my family over 100 years.  I hated to sell it. However, when I calmly and impartially weighed the balance-sheets, I could tell that if  I had held-on to it much longer, I would have been in red-ink in the near-term.   

Perhaps the speaker I was most discouraged by, was former Ag Secretary Dan Glickman.  I have personally met Mr. Glickman over 30 years ago and originally thought he was an excellent President of the Wichita School Board.   He was capable in that capacity in his early years.  I even attended his father's funeral. 

But, in the realm of Agriculture, as the Landon Lecture moderator joked: Dan Glickman was a "city boy" who didn't know the difference between a bull and a steer.  Glickman correctly praised Kansas State University's 150th Anniversary as a Land-Grant University; but Glickman digressed by telling about the pies and other foreign-objects thrown at him when he was a member of the President's Cabinet.    Glickman's appointment was a political payback favor and he did very little to enhance Agriculture nationwide and was a pitiful example for a man, in the seat of Secretary of Agriculture, coming from Kansas.   Glickman wore suits and ties. 

I bet I've driven my truck on more dirt roads in Kansas than Glickman ever has.   If Glickman stepped into cow manure, he was probably wearing Italian desiner-shoes and not cowboy boots.  Glickman made his brags at the Landon Lecture by asserting almost a demanding-attitude that America needs to "double its food production by the year 2050".    My ears perked-up when Johanns admitted that most modern farm bills "are built on the shoulders of previous farm bills".  His statement may be candid, but it was a crucial and embarrassing admission. 

My late father who was born and raised on our farm would have said that is the hallmark of a "cobbled-up system".    I do NOT praise Pat Roberts for supposedly being the father of modern crop insurance.  Crop-Insurance, like all other insurance is built on an equivalent of an actuarial-table of risk-potential.  Premiums must be paid by SOMEONE.  Even Mr. Johanns admitted that it is almost impossible for new college kids to get into farming unless they have a family-member already anchored and established in the business.  And, today's farming IS a global business. I was saddened that the new Farm bill was only hinted-at.   I would like to see a modern, fresh, totally new Farm Bill that is a CLEAN SLATE. 

 Its mission must revolve around food-security but treated with the highest priority as part of our own National Security.  It should protect  small family-farmers, abolish corporate welfare,  and also make a separate demarcation-line between crops such as CORN used for food-uses, VERSUS corn diverted for ethanol for fuel uses.  I am a supporter of both purposes, but human food consumption must have its protection, first.  A bag of corn-chips as food shouldn't cost more than a gallon of ethanol.  Glickman joked that a certain few Congressional kingpins convinced his Ag Department to buy tons of suplus salmon and surplus cherries...and schoolkids would turn-up-their-noses at such foods.  That is what's wrong with the U.S.D.A.    

They misguidedly got in the business of buying unwanted surplus goods that nobody else would buy; then, they wouldn't grant enough monetary-relief to the small, struggling family farmer who shouldered hefty property-taxes, as well as  costly seed and fertilizer prices to stay afloat.  Furthermore, two contradictory conditions exist.  Food-waste is a problem for schools, restaurants, and even household.  Conversely, childhood obesity is a problem, too.     I am thankful that K-State exists and is celebrating its 150 years.  

The university's motto is "Rule by obeying Nature's Laws".    Modern Ag Secretaries should take that motto as a sound advice.   Let us hope that the new Farm Bill is fresh and untainted.  It should have input from FARMERS AND ORDINARY FOLKS from small towns whose livelihoods are hanging in the balance.   The Farm Bill  is doomed if lazy politicians merely tweak previous farm bills instead of revamping it into a clean-slate to meet today's changing, modern Farm Climate and Global Economy.
 
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