Grading the Politicians

January 21, 2010

January 21, 2010

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the Renewable Fuels Association, Wal-Mart Stores, Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

Today, I want to grade some of our political leaders in their effectiveness in serving the ag industry.

Start with President Obama. He sets the agenda. I want to give him some consideration. He inherited an economy in free fall. However, from the corn fields of the midwest, from the cotton fields of the south, or the livestock operations across the land, his agenda has focused on big city voters. His agenda has been a push for bigger government, more regulations, and a spending binge that we have never witnessed before. His grade is a C, maybe a D. He has 3 more years to bring it up. I remind you that President Bill Clinton did just that. We shall see.

Secretary Vilsack is next. I give the Secretary an incomplete. I give him the benefit of the doubt because he works for the President and in order to push his agenda, he must get support from the White House. And I don’t think the White House has farmers and rural America very high on their priority list. I remember that when I stepped into the role as Ag Secretary, I asked President Reagan to lift the Carter Grain Embargo. I faced strong opposition from Cap Weinberger, Secretary of Defense, and Al Haig, Secretary of State. It took me three months to get President Reagan to announce the lifting of that grain embargo to the Soviet Union. One thing that slowed the process – the President was shot. There are all kinds of internal forces working for you and against you.

Now, we can turn to the Chairman of the Senate Ag Committee, Blanche Lincoln. She is new in the job so I’m not ready to grade her either. What I have heard her say is encouraging. She supports expanded trade with Cuba and rural development. She is in no hurry to pass cap and trade. She is not convinced that farmers are going to get a fair deal out of it.

Speaking of a “fair deal” for farmers, House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson gets a solid A. He has been tenacious in battling for the ag industry. He fought to protect our interests when the cap and trade bill was pushed through the House. He said up front that nothing good would come out of the Copenhagen climate meeting. He never accepted the indirect land use argument that grain for biofuels would cause conversion of non-agriculture lands here and abroad.

As we look ahead, the Ag Committee Chairs in both the House and Senate will have a tough time simply because the leaders of those bodies, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, are not tuned into rural America. In fact, the Obama Administration and the legislative leaders are dominated by big city politicians. Rural America is not even on their radar screen.

That’s my report card. I hope I can give some better grades at the end of 2010.

Until next week, I am John Block in Washington.