BARRY FLINCHBAUGH: Thank you, President Schulz. At age 71, I'm going to stay sitting, not go to the podium for two hours. This afternoon, the Secretaries visited with my students in Ag Policy. This is my 42nd Ag Policy class that I've taught here, and it was a marvelous experience to listen to the give and take and the really bright questions those students ask. I'm very proud of them, and I told them last Friday, this is a great experience that they were about to partake in. What a treat. I've known each of these gentlemen, many of them for years, and then, specially, I have known Madame Secretary from California. She won't let me tell you how many years we go back. So it's wonderful for me to have all these great people here. When they're finished tonight, your faith in government will be renewed. And god knows we need it. This is Secretary Glickman's home state, and so I've asked him to go first, five to seven minutes, not ten or twenty. We go way back to when he was the president of the Wichita School Board, city boy. Fist time we met, I explained to him the difference between a bull and a steer. And he is a quick study, I mean he learnt it just like that. Dan, It's all yours.
DAN GLICKMAN: Well, you know, it was hard to resist Barry, when you lok up in the dictionary, under the word tenacious, his picture is there, and I think we did this because we didn't want him remailing us and calling us, but it is a great pleasure to be here, and as a Kansas, I'm delighted to be here, and I would just tell you, with all my colleagues here, being Secretary of Agriculture was the greatest job I ever had, and I don't know if the others feel the same way, but nowhere else on Earth can impact the lives of so many people. Farmers, consumers, business people, not only here, but around the world. And to be here on your 150th anniversary of K-State.
By the way, like the tie? Jackie Hartman got me this tie. But to be here when the Department of Agriculture actually came together by Abraham Lincoln in 1862, it was created as a commission on agriculture, and then became an actual cabinet-level department in 1889, I think it was. And so the timing is fortuitous. Great land grant school, great public university, and celebrating the department of agriculture as being a partner of K-state and being a partner to farmers and ranchers and consumers, it's just a tremendous experience to be here, so I'm delighted.
And I just thought I would maybe try to open this with mentioning just a few things today. And that is, we've got a lot of challenges in this country as it affects food and agriculture. The big challenge is demographics. We're going to have about 9, 9.5 billion people in thirty to forty years. We're goint to have to double food production. Double food production, and also increase production because incomes and economic conditions are growing in places like China and India and Indonesia, and in Africa as well. And so we've got to do all this, at the same time we got to do it without ripping up the soils and the forests of the world; we've got to do it sustainably; we've got to do it with no more utilization of water and better utilization of water; we've got to do it climate and weather variability; its functions in agriculture with the same degree of civility and trust that we've seen in the past, particularly in the area of agriculture.
So those are really big challenges, and it's going to be incumbent on land grant schools to help be a great part of finding answers to those challenges and helping the department of agriculture and the congress and the private sector to try and deal with those. So the challenges are really real. They're real for all of us. But there are some opportunities as well, great things that are happening. Number one, food and agriculture are actually hot topics now, they're high up on the agenda. Theyre in the international agenda, people are concerned about them as they relate to stability of the world, they're concerning about pricing and inflation and people care about them, and that is good news for agriculture. The second thing is, by and large, the farm economy overall, realizing that natural disasters hit us, but the farm economy has never been better, and after years and years and years of low prices and bad economic conditions.
My judgement is we're in a different era. We're in an era of a much much stronger farm economy overall. And I'm not polishing any of it. There will be ups and downs, but the era of agriculture being the weak sister in American economics is over, and that's great news for students and kids that want to be involved in agriculture, and it's great news for consumers as well, who, by the way, want to know more about what's in their food, they're going to be more and more engaged about what's going on as well, and as we deal with diet and obesity, and other things that, really probably were not at the top of the consideration of people in this world before. And so the Department of Agriculture is still a big player in all of this, but so is the land that I talked about, particularly the budget challenges that make it so difficult to have the resources to do what we need to do, that we can turn this farm economy into a jewel of America, where it's a business that young people will want to go in and want to stay in, and America will continue to be a leader in the world. So, Barry, with that, I thought I'd maybe set the stage, perhaps, for discussion that will occur afterwards. Thank you.
FLINCHBAUGH: Thank you, Dan, appreciate that. Were' going to go in order of service, and my long-time friend, Jack Block, goes back to Ronald Reagan. So, Jack?
JOHN BLOCK: Thank you. I think the way I want to open this... First of all, Barry, thank you, good to be with you, and my fellow former Secretaries of Agriculture. We're kind of a clan working together. We've been on a few programs and it's great fun, and we exchange ideas, and, actually, we agree on quite a bit whole lot more than the Congress does right now in Washington. I am optimistic about the future of agriculture, and I'm going to talk just briefly about it. I'm optimistic because I have seen the dramatic change in this industry just in the last 50 years, it's just been astounding.
My father, when he first got busy on the farm, he was picking a hundred bushel ear of corn in a day, by hand. We pick and shell a hundred bushel of shell corn in seven minutes. We used to have two old horses, Burt and Bill, that pulled a two-row corn planter. Now, we have a 32-row corn planter on our farm in Illinois. We used to milk our cows by hand, eight or ten cows, morning and night. By hand, we took the milk into the basement, and we bottled it, and we sold it in my grandfather's store in Knoxville, Illinois. Was it pasteurized? No. That's real organic milk! And our crop yields have just exploded over a period of time. I've got a chart on the office at the farm, and I always look at it when I go back there, and it starts recording our yields, starting back in 1964. Every year, every year, fifty years, all the way up. And the chart goes like this, that's the way it goes. And that's what's happening to agriculture and the progress that we're making. We raise pigs. We used to maybe be lucky to get six pigs per litter weaned. Now it's closer to ten. And the weeds in corn and beans, we were hoeing them with a hoe. The high school kids would come out and help. I hated that. I hated it almost as bad as milking those cows by hand.
And today, there are no weeds in the corn or beans, we don't have the corn borer ripping off the ears and the root worms eating the roots. We have precision farming, GPS guiding us through the fields, all kinds of new technology. Genetic engineering is the hottest thing going right now, and yet it's being attacked by some people that just don't understand the value, I guess. Consumers in this country have a bargain, they're spending less than ten percent of their family income on food. No other country can come even close. As you pointed out, Dan, by 2050. I have no doubt of what we can do this, and we can satisfy the demand.
Look what we did over the last fifty years, and we're still hard at it. We are creative in this country, and we're inventing things yet. We just have to continue to move ahead and use the new technology, we cannot let the critics stop us we just have to continue to move ahead and use the new technology, we cannot let the critics stop us we just have to use it, or we're not going to meet our objective. I think these are very exciting times, and I look forward to discussing this issue with this group tonight. Thank you, Barry.
FLINCHBAUGH: Thank you, Jack. Next, we'll turn to Mike Espy, who served with Bill Clinton. Mike?
MIKE ESPY: Well, thank you, Barry. I want to thank all of my colleagues in the cabinet for being here. I want to show my appreciation to Kansas State University administration, its faculty staff and its students, I want to congratulate you on your 150th anniversary, I think that's awesome. Now, we've heard about Burt and Bill, we've talked about optimism, as far as agriculture is concerned, and I'm also optimistic, but I want to inject maybe just a note of political realism into the discussion tonight. I mean, I'm a creature of the House of Representatives, like Dan Glickman, I've served there for seven years, proud to serve there from the state of Mississippi. But the House of Representatives, where I was so proud to serve for about seven years, it's not the same place as it was when I was privileged to serve there, and I think that it will have an impact on the Farm Bill and all discussion relating to bills which have historically been bipartisan. I mean, if there's one bill among the myriad of hundreds of thousands of bills passed by the congress the house and the senate, the Ag Bill was the one where partisan interests would be set aside, and everyone would come together and recognize that at least everyone would eat, and the farm bill had a tremendous impact on the balance of trade in the last fifty years, tremendous impact on the gross domestic product, and it was the industry which really makes the united states what it is today. But it does not look like the same place.
When I was a house member, I started therein 1986, and I decided I wanted to become a martial artist, I wanted to take Tae Kwon Do. And I started out as a white belt, and I worked my way for four years up to a second degree black belt. And I'm saying that for this reason, every morning, I'd get up and go to the house gym where, you know, the Tae Kwon Do instructor would meet us, and in that class there'd be about 25 house members, Democrat and Republican. For that length of time, every morning, we'd do our katas, we'd do demonstrations and we'd fight each other, and we'd shower, and then we'd go to work. And then, when we went upstairs into committee rooms when we had contentious discussions about this or that, and someone would make a particularly mean point to me, I'd turn around and I'd say, "you know, I've seen you naked." And all of a sudden, you get more respect, you get the discussion to turn a bit more civil, and you get things done. It would turn into a more harmonious conversation.
And I've just got to tell you, I think we're going to have a Farm Bill, I think we will. I mean, we have to. I think everyone there understands that we have the right market signals or predictability and security. I think wisdom is going to prevail and we're going to do it, but it's not going to be easy, and I don't want to pretend to anyone in this audience today that it's easy, because the attitude has changed in the House and Senate. Now, what do I mean, just a second. If I was in Barry Flinchbaugh's class, Agricultural Economics, I would put a graph of political attitudes in the congress relating to bills which used to be harmonious and bipartisan. I'd first look for the midpoint. I'd first look at the midpoint of that graph, and these would be the moderates. But if you look around to try and find political moderates in the House and the Senate, there are fewer of them today than there used to be. Why? Because Gerrymandering, they lost in the primary, they're drawing an opponent from their right flank or their left flank, and so they're much more careful than they used to be, but this is the group which championed the Farm Bill. They recognized the benefits of the Farm Bill for seventy years, and they're just more timid I guess. And so what that does is, it puts the political energy out to the flanks, the left of center and the right of center. And that's where the energy is, particularly to how this Farm Bill discussion that the discussion title has now been stripped out, delinked, and considered separately.
We do know there's a Farm BIll vote in the House of Representatives in July, and it failed. And that's really never happened before. So what's happening? In my opinion, on this political graph, you go from the midpoint where the moderates used to be so vested, and now the energy is now gone out to the flanks. On the left flank, I'd say the Democratic flank, now they are characterized by urban Democrats, who used to only by able just to have an interest in the Farm Bill because there was a nutrition title. And rural development and research, but mostly it was the snap program and the food stams, and that's been deleted from the program, causing angst and a loss of leverage that used to be there, and less of a vested interest. And so now they see the Farm Bill really just in more of social class terms. Okay, we've got a Farm Bill, and agriculture now is so concentrated that we've got nine percent of farm producers getting about 53 percent of the program payments, and they see that as being unfair. But there's nothing to link them to the substitive bill anymore, and that is a problem. And then you go out on the right flank, where we've seen what happened with the shutdown of the government and almost debt default in the United States, and now we see another group- don't want to call any names- but, honestly, it just seems that they want to burn down the place, but in that fire will be ariculture. People who just don't really believe in the merits of government ideologically need to know that this is a government program. It's beneficial, and I think it's really sacrosanct. So we've got a real problem, guys, and I know my time is up, but I just think that this is one bill that Democrats and Republicans have historically worked together to benefit this nation, and I'd like it to go back to the way it was.
FLINCHBAUGH: Thank you, Mike. There are three people on this stage that served with George W. Bush, Beginning with Madame Secretary from California. Ann?
ANN VENEMAN: Well, thank you, it's such a pleasure and really an honor to be here with all my fellow former Secretaries, and Barry, let me just say thank you very much, and we've known each other over twenty years. Just for the record. And it's great to be here at K-State and to really celebrate this 150th anniversary of the university, and it's a great university. I spent five years after I was Secretary of Agriculture as the Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund, which is a U.N. organization. And so I had the opportunity to look at some of these issues a bit more from a global perspective, and I want to just talk for a moment about food security as Dan Glickman raised, and, really, some of the challenges and the opportunities in that regard, and that is, as he said, the population of the world as we know is going to increase to nine billion people by the year 2050, which is about a two billion person increase.
With the requirements food being estimated by some at the need for about sixty to seventy percent more food. Now, we have today, the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates we we have about 842 million people around the world who are suffering from chronic food insecurity. And when we look at this, of particular concern are young children. One of the issues that's gotten increasing focus in the past few years is something that people are talking about called "the first two thousand days," and that's the time and the life from conception to age two, and inadequate nutrition during this time period can impair brain development permanently, which then impairs the ability to learn in school and earn as an adult, and so it simply continues the cycle of poverty. But there's something else that's being talked about more and more, and that is what's called the double burden of malnutrition. In addition to the 842 million people that are chronically hungry, the world health organization estimates that there are over 1.4 billion people in the world who are overweight, and of those, five hundred million- two hundred more million than the population we have in the U.S.- five hundred million people in the world are obese. Which this causes all kinds of additional issues. Chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and this increases the cost of healthcare, and it decreases the productivity of individuals. This double burden is not just a global issue, but it's one that we have to face here at home as well.
As you know, the U.S. Department of Agriculture administers the Food and Nutrition Programs, including what is commonly referred to as the Food Stamp Program is now called the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. That program has gone from about 28 million people on it in 2008 to 47 million people today. There's a documentary film that came out earlier this year called "a place at the table," which really talks about- it's a chilling account of hunger in America. Today, 53 percent of the children born in this country are born into families that are eligible for the women, infants and children program. And on the double burden side, obesity in this country has skyrocketed with one-third of the population now suffering from obesity and again raising the cost of healthcare in this country by trillions of dollars. For twoo long we've addressed these issues of hunger and malnutrition as about "how do we get calories to people?" And now we know that we have to change that debate, and start talking about "how do we get nutrition to people?" The issues of food, hunger, and health have to be looked at together, and we have to look at the issues of nutrition. We also have, in addressing these issues, about 40 percent of the world's food is wasted, goes to waste. In the developing world, it's often because of inadequate storage, insect infestation, lack of transportation. In this country and other developed countries, it's primarily food that's thrown out from restaurants, grocery stores, and your own refrigerators.
We have increasing in focus on the sustainability of agriculture, the importance of conservation, of environmental protection of water, as Dan Glickman points out, over 70 percent of the world's water is used for agriculture. There are increasing consumer demand for certifications for organic, for sustainably produced, for fair trade. Farmer's markets in this country have dramatically increased as people want to be more connected with their food. They've increased 1,775 in 1994 to 8,000 in 2013. It's also very important that we continue to expand agriculture trade, which has been so important to the overall health of U.S. agriculture for so many years. But we also have to build agriculture in the developing world. THere's a program called Feed the Future, Now, that's government-wide, and it really is about investing in agriculture around the world, not just providing food aid. Protecting the agriculture systems, whether it's our food safety systems, protecting our agriculture from pests and disease, critical. And of course, something that's near and dear to the heart of any land-grant university: research, science, and technology. Just absolutely essential to the future of the food and agriculture system, and in solving the problems, and creating new opportunities.
FLINCHBAUGH: Thank you. Next is Senator Mike Johanns from Nebraska. We will get you a purple tie too before you leave. He served George W. Bush also. Mike?
MIKE JOHANNS: Thank you much. I was curious about our record with the Wildcats while I was Governor. You'll be interested to know that in the six years I was Governor, we lost four out of those six games. I then left the state to go to Washinton. We won the next six games and left for the Big Ten, so that's my history. I want to give a shout out to my two colleagues of mine in the United States Senate, who I work with every day, who are two of the most honorable people you'd ever meet, and that's your two United States Senators, Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran. They are exactly the kind of people I would expect the great state of Kansas to elect to the Senate. THey're tough, thoughtful conservatives, and they do a great job for you. And I'm not running for reelection, so I have no dog in this fight, but I so enjoy serving with both of them.
I often tell people that I grew up on a dairy farm in northern Iowa, a small family farm in the 1950s and 60s. My father had three sons, and his notion of building character in his three sons was to hand us a pitchfork or a scoop shovel, send us to the dairy barn or the hog house, and we would stand ankle-deep in you-know-what and scoop away, pitch away. Little did my dad know that what he really was doing was preparing his youngest son, Mike, for his life in politics.
It is great to be here, it's great to be on this styage. These are some people that I've worked with through the years, respect a great deal, so it's always a lot of fun when we're together. One of the things that I did, as you know, when I was Secretary of Agriculture the Bush administration wanted to submit a complete farm bill while I was there, so we went across the United States listening to farmers, and we did one of those events here in Kansas. Jerry was there with me and Pat Roberts, and billed just like we said it would be. There was no set format, it's not like we invited the president of the Farm Bureau to be there, although they were welcome to be there. But, literally for three, three and a half, four hours, I just sat there on a stool at the front of the stage, and I took notes as farmers just came up to the microphone, or people who were involved in some way with the farm bill, and they would tell me what they liked, they would tell me what they disliked, they would chew me out over something, they would applaud us for things. I did over twenty of those myself, we went to all fifty states in this effort to build for the farm bill. Somewhere along the line, I don't even remember what state it was, I had a farmer come to the microphone, and that day we had spent a lot of time talking about farm bill policy and he offered an interesting observation that has stuck with me through all these years. He said, "Mike, we have to get beyond this notion where our total focus is on a farm bill." He said, "good farm policy is not just about a farm bill." And I've thought about what he's said so much over these years, and he even went on to talk about this. Yes, we need a farm bill, I want to get you a five-year farm bill as much as anything. I was asked recently, "what things do you want checked off you list before you leave the Senate?" I want a five-year farm bill, that's at the top of the list. I know how important it is to agriculture to get that done.
But it's not the only thing that's going to make agriculture successful. We need good trade policy. You know, if you think about it, ladies and gentlemen, ninety-five percent of the world's population doesn't live here, they live in another part of the world. I just got back from a trip to Africa, and in various parts of Africa, we are seeing great success. The AIDS drugs are working, some governments are stabilizing. Admittedly, in other parts, not so good. But the one thing we see is that as incomes improve, and people have more disposable income, they want to improve the diet for their family. And, oftentimes, that means protein. That means Nebraska beef, Kansas beef, it means the products we raise here so well. Good farm policy means good research at your land grant universities. And then, not only having good research, having an outstanding extension service that can take that development and bring it to the farm, which is why I believe one of the reasons why we are just better than anybody in the world when it comes to agriculture.
We need good tax policy. You know that bill that was maligned at the end of the year, all the talking heads on Radio, etc., talked about how awful that was. You could go to our media sites, our social media sites and see people just hammering on us over that. Do you know what that bill did in terms of the estate tax? All of a sudden, you could work a lifetime and put something together, and pass it to your children without the government interfering with that, because we got the exemption raised, permanently. Now, I appreciate what's going on in the world, and there's all kinds of people that are going to malign what we do back in Washington, but that was agigantic step in the right direction. When it came to tax policy, about 99 percent of Americans did not see a tax increase that was going to happen because of the action we took. Now, were there other things that we should have gotten done? Yes. But I've done this long enough to know that sometimes you take the important steps when you can. And believe me, those were important steps. We need good regulatory policy. You know, I have farm bill sessions around the state of Nebraska, I bet if Jerry and I went across the state here, one of the first things we would hear is the regulatory overreach. You can't imagine how much time we spend in our senate offices dealing with average citizens on regulatory overreach.
Maybe it's the Department of Labor telling you where your kids can work. Heck, I grew up working for twenty-five cents an hour, driving a hay-baler, and I was never so proud in my life. I was barely old enough to reach the clutch on the tractor that drove that hay-baler. And you know what, I thought I had arrived. That's what we need. And the final thing, and I'll wrap up here, we need good young people. You know, I was with the other Ag Secretaries this afternoon. God bless you, you raise great kids here, just like I see back home in Nebraska. And you know what, people like me are going to be moving on, we've done our service. Fifteen months from now, I go off and do something else. I want to see young people behind me, generation after generation, who care deeply about making this government work. And you know what, some days that's a heck of an assignment, but we desperately need it. We desperately need it, and we need them on our farms, and on our ranches, in our universities, we need them across this great country, because those kids are truly going to make the difference. So maybe our greatest asset is those young folds we talked to this afternoon, who are really going to change the world, in my opinion. Thanks for having me here at K-State.
FLINCHBAUGH: Thank you, Mike. I appreciate your comments, with the exception of one. You're followed by a gentleman from North Dakota, and you had to bring up football? That means, Ed, you don't need to talk about it. The next gentleman was former President Bush's third Secretary, and served as Governor of North Dakota. Ed?
ED SCHAFER: Well, thank you, thank you all for the opportunity to be here tonight. It's a great pleasure to gather with my colleagues here and talk about agriculture and agriculture policy, and the global effects that we have. I sure appreciate the opportunity here, Dr. Flinchbaugh, and the chance to interact with all of you that are here tonight. President Schulz, thank you for the hospitality to be here on campus again, I've been here a couple of times before, and I do appreciate getting back. Since I've been banned from talking about football, and all the other secretaries have mentioned about everything we need to talk about: politics and policy and global need. We've talked about the food security and nutrition, about education and things. I do have to, however, talk about North Dakota a little bit.
I'll skip the football effort, but you know, really, it's fun to be from North Dakota these days, I have to say. We do have the best economy in the U.S. It's exciting to see the Lowest unemployment rate in the nation, and how those jobs and careers and efforts are making a difference in our state and, in fact, this country. We produce, now, twelve percent of the oil in the United States of America. It's a good quality product, and it's being sold well. Our personal income in North Dakota has increased a hundred percent in the last ten years. The GDP has increased a hundred and fifty percent in the last ten years. And I mention this, and I'm reminded of the great economy we have, and I'm reminded...
Recently, my wife and I were hiking in the Grand Canyon, and we ran into a couple from North Dakota. And after the day was over, we got back in the parking lot, I was chatting with these folks, and the female part of the couple was talking about my time in office. She said, "I really appreciated when you were Governor. Because after you left, things really started to get better." But my point is, when I was Governor, I realized North Dakota wasn't just an energy state, it was an agriculture state. And agriculture continues to be the number one pice of the economy that you don't hear about today. As you hear about the energy sector, we've kind of passed over North Dakota agriculture. But, really, it is that energy and agriculture that points to the strength of our natural resources in this country. And I like to use North Dakota as an example because it has been such a good one. Five good years of agriculture really has set the economy of North Dakota on fire. And it was a lot of public policy, all things that we've been used to dealing with and used to generating that made the difference. It was Public Policy that said, "we need to create value in North Dakota, so let's do value-added agriculture instead of growing the commodities that we are so well capable of." It is important to note policy in place, both federal and state, to enhance exports so that we could export our opportunities in agriculture across the globe, and today North Dakota exports fifty percent of the agriculture product in North Dakota.
And as was mentioned, the United States of America really is in the export agriculture business, the only sector in our economy that has a positive trade balance. But, you know, it's that exporting of product that really is going to really make the difference in the world, I believe. You know, if we look at the opportunity that we have, it was mentioned that we have to double food production by 2050, we're looking at a growing population without any more land, any more water, we're going to have to figure out how to do this, how to increase our productiona nd deliver nutrition to the world, and that is going to fall on the backs of Americans and farmers. It's going to fall on the backs of agriculture. And as we learn how to export our food and our food products, we also export our aid to the world. I was surprised when I was the U.S. Representative to the F.A.O., The Food and Agriculture Organization, at the United Nations in Rome. And I'd go there and we'd visit about aid, and the world food crisis in 2007 and 2008, and people talked about how America had to do better, how we could improve to send food aid to hungry people. And I was shocked to learn that United States, year after year after year, delivers fifty percent, over half of the food aid in the world, all the time, every time. And we're not appreciated for it, we're supposed to do more, and we can do more. And as we look at those opportunities, I think, on the global marketplace, we get to see not only do we export our crops, not only do we export our equipment, our technology, our knowledge, not only do we export the economic opportunities that we have for the United States of America, but, you know, we export our values. And Mike Johanns was saying earlier, the students that are coming up in agriculture today, and how impressive they are, and the values that agriculture delivers. You know, when you touch the land, you know about responsibility and honesty and character and values, and those are the things that we are exporting across the globe. I believe that is one of the most important efforts that we can make. Hungry people make unstable governments. Hungry people don't learn. Hungry people don't work. We need to be able to take the strength of the natural resources in the United States of America and transfer that to the global marketplace.
I'll just tell you three quick stories here, and then we can get on to the questions. Here's what I think we export: I had the opportunity to help to negotiate the Colombian Free Trade agreement. We were down visiting with farmers that had been kicked off their land by the drug lords in Colombia. They were just thrown out in the jungle to fend for themselves. And President Uribe was able to come in to restructure the military to provide safety and security in the rural areas, and the agriculture started to flourish. I talked to a farmer that had eighteen kids. THree wives, you know, they weren't all from one poor soul. But, you know, he talked about how agriculture go him on the land, how agriculture allowed him to make a living, how agriculture allowed him to buy into a processing facility for the crops that he grew, and how agriculture provided three of his kids to get educated in the United States of America, in agriculture. And he said, "that's what it's all about. Agriculture did this for me." It's the education that we can provide across the world that's going to make a difference. I was in a fourth grade class in California, in Northern California, in the midst of fruit country, and one of the little fourth graders asked me, "is it true that if you find two strawberries that are grown together, and you give it to a girl, it means she'll fall in love with you?" I said, "of course, absolutely!"
But, you know, agriculture does bring people together. As we go in our communities, the rural America, as we work the land and grow the crops and provide for the food and the fiber and the feed and the fuel in this country and around the world, it really is that love of the land and the love of the people that we bring together with agriculture as well. And I have no doubt in my mind that as we focus on agriculture, we bring education, we bring nutrition and the food, And when we move out of unstable governments, we have the proper opportunities to present the peace that we can bring among families and communities and neighborhoods by sharing meals at a table, that we really have an opportunity, all of us in the agriculture, to affect the education and the love and the peace around the globe which is going to make our world a better place.
FLINCHBAUGH:Thank you. I have prepared a list of questions. You need not all of you anser every question. We'll talk about it, and whoever wants to respond can respond. The first one, you might all want to answer, and you need to keepyou answers to two minutes, okay? Good. Number one: what were the most significant issues you addressed as secretary? And we'll just go the other way. Ed?
SCHAFER: Assurance of the American people that we had the safest, least expensive, and most abundant food supply in the world. We were under fire at USDA for animal cruelty, for disease, for proper management of the food and nutrition in the world, and a lot of moms were worried about "are we really having safe food supply out there?" We spent a lot of time making sure that we could prove to the American people that we did have that safe food supply, and it was secure, and that it would be there for the people of the United States of America at affordable price, and one that would, you know, give them the security of their families and their families and their homes and neighborhoods.
FLINCHBAUGH: Thank you. Senator?
JOHANNS: Well, Ann was secretary when the cow stole christmas, as we say. That was that BSE animal, and that transferred not only to my time as Secretary, but, Ed, I'm sure you were working on that too,and to some extent, we continue to work on that. That occupied a lot of my time. We had many, many countries- borders were closed, as was indicated in the introduction. We tried to move as quickly as we could to reopen borders, even for very small countries, just so we could get momentum going. Just recently, Japan moved to a more normalized state, as you know, where they're now taking beef from animals thirty months and younger. Before that it was twenty months. So BSE occupied a lot of my time. Probably the second thing was the farm bill proposal. The President was very anxious to get a comprehensive, total, complete farm bill out there, and that's what launched the listening sessions across the country. The gratifying thing- farm bills are evolutionary, as you know. It's very rare that one just tears up the old one and then starts over. They tend to build on the shoulder of the last one. It's gratifying to see how many of those proposals were adopted, and now they've even adopted some of the recommendations we made for conservation that are, I think, likely to be in the next farm bill if we can get that to the finish line. So those would be the two that pop up as the most significant challenges we faced.
VENEMAN: Well, I served as Secretary at a time when we had, it seemed like, challenge after challenge of emergency-type situations. About a week after I came in, we had this huge outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Europe, which we were very worried was going to come to the U.S. of course, we then had 9/11, which was significant to all the U.S. people and economy, and in agriculture we were looking at where the biggest vulnerabilities would be in the food and agriculture systems, from farms to processing plants. So that was among the most significant, of course. We had outbreaks of exotic Newcastle disease, the first time in fifty years. That became a big emergency to deal with. Bird flu. And then, of course, we had the cow who stole Christman, as you pointed out, which was December 23rd, 2003, almost ten years ago. As I mentioned this afternoon, although we did have our export markets shut down as we would have done to other countries if other countries got cases of BSE, we were pretty much treated as we treat others. But we were able to keep enough confidence in the food safety system in this country that our beef consumption during that time never went down. We also dealt with significant forest fires around the country. So it was as if we had crisis after crisis in those four years that I was there. But we also launched a DOHA round, and we held a significant science and technology conference which brough together over a hundred countries to talk about the future of agriculture and how to use technology to feed the world in the future. We had over a hundred ministers. The issues you deal with are so broad and so immense, but it certainly was an honor and a privilege to serve.
ESPY: Like Ann, I also had a food emergency very quickly into my term. In the first three days after I was sworn in, we had a young girl who died from eating an undercooked hamburger. You might remember it as the "Jack in the Box" incident. I fount out about the ravages of hemolytic uremic poisoning, E. coli 0157:H7. We had to move to contain it, investigate it, and do what we could to institute reforms. But at the same time, we had to guarantee the image of agriculture to make sure the stigma of adulteration would not give Americans and the world consumers a false perception of our food. That was an emergency. I went out for dinner with Barry FLinchbaugh last night and told a story, and he asked me to try to work it into this Landon Lecture. This is about as good a time as any, because I may not speak again. So here you go: during the first years of the Clinton administration we were able to sign NAFTA and GATT- the general agreement on tariffs and trade. It was sign when the Uruguay round was signed. I asked the President to allow me to negotiate the agricultural title and he said okay, as long as I didn't screw it up. So I go to work, and they give me a ticket to Marrakesh and Brussels and Geneva and South Korea and all of that. So we did it and tried to wrap it up.
There was one country outstanding that we didn't make any progress on a bilateral trade agreement, and that's Japan. Japan refused to import any U.S. rice, and their argument was that it was essential to their economy, it was cultural, iconic, and central to their culture and they would import more apples or do anything else on their market axcess and their quotas. But they would not import one grain of American rice into their country- it just would not happen. And that was the great void outstanding in what otherwise would have been a very successful trade negotiation. So I got on a plane, flew to Tokyo, and I met with my counterpart, Minister Hata. We walked into this big room. Usually, you get off the plane- you fly all night- and you go and change and shower and then you go into these negotiation rooms. My delegation was pretty small. I had Walter Mondale, who at that time was the ambassador to Japan, he was sitting on my right. I had one of my interpreters and one of my economists on the left. I had ten points to make- this story is not going to be as long as it was last night, I'm hurrying through it. However, they were just- I made ten points and I thought I'd made them well, I thought I was articulate, and they were just striking them down, striking them down, striking them down. And we had even had- the night before I was staying in a high-rise Tokyo hotel and there was a tremor of an earthquake. I'm from Mississippi, you know? I'd never experienced the sway of that building before and I said okay, what I'll do tomorrow is lead into my thesis that you can think that you're self-sufficient, and that this is even a part of your national defense, but you're not immune from natural disasters. So I led off with that and they struck it down. So I figure, okay, we've lost this, we've got to go back ot Washington not having achieved any success on this particular item. So I called it a close.
Mr. Hata wanted to entertain me, and we were going to a banquet. THe banquet was across the hall from the negotiation room. So I'm tired and I'm angry and none of points, articulately made, were considered. So I was going into the banquet room, and all the sudden someone tapped me on the shoulder- someone I really didn't recognize because he had not been any of our negotiations. He invited me to an anteroom off of the main room. I went into that room and there was nobody there but him- the two of us. I asked him, "do you want me to go get the ambassador?" He said "no, just you." He said, "okay, you made ten points, and we agree with them." He started ticking them off. This gentleman was head of the Japanese food agency. I'm sitting there and he's agreeing to everything. I asked him, did I persuade him based on my logic or my intelligence? He said "no, no- what you guys don't know is our housewives are making us do this. Your rice is better, and it's cheaper than ours. They want this long-grained rice." He said that's why. So I have a glass vase in my office and it says- it's from the U.S. rice federation- it calls me their Trade Secretary. And that is because we introduced U.S. rice for the first time into Japan.
FLINCHBAUGH: That's a great story. Jack, you have to follow that.
BLOCK: Well, there's no question about it. All of us as Secretaries faced a lot of challenges. Certainly, when I was there these were tough times. The early years in the 1980s, interest rates went through the roof, we lost a lot of farmers. The story I'll tell you about is even before the President Ronald Reagan had been inaugurated. We went to washington once I was selected the whole cabinet, we were out there in January. We had our first cabinet meeting and it wasn't in the White House because he was not in there yet. And he had a few members of the cabinet that gave presentations. He had two or three of them. When they were done, about ready to leave, he said "anybody else have anything they want to bring up?" I'd just been moving around and twitching the whole time and I wanted to bring something up. I put my hand up, naive as I was, and I just said "Mr. President, you had said during your campaign that you would lift the trade embargo."
There was a trade embargo at the time so that we could not export to the Soviet Union. They were a great partner of ours. They brought all kinds of goods from us, they were a great partner of ours. They brought all kinds of goods from us, they always paid cash on the barrelhead. But we couldn't export there because President Carter had imposed an embargo. Interestingly enough, it's because they, the Soviet Union, invaded Afghanistan. Now of course, we can't get the hell out of there fast enough in my judgement. Anyway, I about had my head taken off by the Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, and Cap Weinberger, the Secretary of Defense, saying "we're not going to do that, we've got to extract some concessions from the Soviet Union." So I left that meeting pretty depressed. But I found out from Ed Meese and two or three others who said "we'll help you on this, we've got to get this done." And so we did start working on it, and in the meantime, the President got shot, and that kind of slowed things down quite a bit. It was terrible. I'd just come in there and I couldn't get anything done. The newspapers were writing up the fact that Secretary Block's not getting anything done and he's probably going to fail on this one.
GLICKMAN: I believe I called for your resignation.
BLOCK: Yeah, you probably did. Anyway, I had an audience with the President and we got enough people working on this thing that finaly he called me in to the Oval Office. Alexander Haig was there and he right, straight to me, said "we're lifting the grain embargo today." And for American farmers, that was huge. Alexander Haig almost slumped back in chair, but that's tough luck for him. We lifted the grain embargo, we had a cabinet meeting right afterwards- immediately we went into the cabinet room, and he told the cabinet "the grain embargo's being lifted today." they didn't know it until he told them. That was it. That was one of the best moments. We had some moments that weren't so great over those years because it was tough, but that was a good one and that helped us. We already talked about how important trade is- keep the trade channels open. Right today, we're negotiating trade with the Pacific countries, including Asia. We're negotiating with Europe. We've got to be tough in those negotiations, but we need to get it done. Thank you.
FLINCHBAUGH: Dan, you can finish it off.
GLICKMAN: Mine is perhaps not quite so serious. With all due respect to my colleagues here, but I was the most-assaulted member of the cabinet. In fact, I think Gordon Schmidt and others in the room have heard me tell the story before. The Secret Service changed their entire protective detail for cabinet members because of my proclivity to get things thrown at me. First time it happened, about six months after I took the job and I went to the World Food Summit in Rome. I was there, President Clinton, the Pope, Fidel Castro, they all spoke. And then the American delegation went into this room to have a news conference. It was very hot, we were sweating, and all of the sudden the entire two front rows of people stripped totally naked. And written on their bodies- of course I didn't look- but written on their bodies were "no gene beans" and "the naked truth" and they threw genetically-modified soy beans and other things at us. So this was- I don't have a lot of hair, as you know, so I was sweating and the seeds were sticking to my forehead. And the police came in, so they arrested the protesters. That night, CNN did the whole thing, except in the U.S. they did it with big black stripes over the key portions of people's bodies, but not in Europe.
So I get a call from my parents in Wichita. My mother says "this is terrible, this job is dangerous, I told you you shouldn't take this job, and just a minute, your father wants to talk to you." Those of you who know my father, he was a guy who saw the bright light in every situation. His first question is, "tell me, what did it look like?" Not too long later, about four months, I'm at a national nutrition summit in the Shoreham Hotel in Washington and we're talking about nutrition. I'm on the panel- I'm on the dais with Bob Dole and the Secretary Shalala. A woman starts screaming "Glickman, you're nothing but a pimp for the meat industry!" So she's running up and she has a tofu cream pie in her hand. She proceeds to get up close and she throws it at me. I deftly duck and it hits Shalala in the back. I didn't know what to make of it, and so I quickly said to Dole, "Bob, I don't think we're in Kansas any longer."
The final thing, it happened about three months later, we're at Yellowstone Park in Gardiner, Montana, where there is an effort to try and root out Brucellosis, which is a disease where the cattle got infected and they were spontaneously aborting. It was a terrible problem, so we were sent up basically to cull the number of bison that were there that had this disease. So we're talking about what we were doing and all of the sudden a woman comes down and she's screaming, and she's got a big pot of something. And she said "you're killing my brothers, you're killing my sisters!" One of the people on the panel with us was Senator Conrad Burns of Montana, he was an old auctioneer and pretty funny guy. I said, "what's going on?" He says "we've got a problem." "She thinks that those animals are her brothers and sisters." So she proceeded to throw infected buffalo guts at the whole table. So all I could think about was that I'm going to get a disease like malaria called undulant fever, and I was going to have it the rest of my life,a nd my mother was right after all.
So I only tell you these stories- there were others that happened too- I only tell you these stories because one thing I learned about this experience is that people feel very, very strongly about food. These are matters they care about very much. While I'm giving you some of the perhaps more extreme evidences of what's going on here, what we do does impact people's lives- every day, every place, all over the country- farmers, ranchers, consumers, business people, national government, national security, America's image in the world and everything else. And it does make a difference.
FLINCHBAUGH: Well, you may have a hard time believing this Dan, but this does lead into a serious question. Ann very eloquently talked about the world hunger and the world food problem, etc. So a very blunt question: is it in any way possible to feed the world without biotechnology? There are people out there that think so. Is it possible?
FLINCHBAUGH: No? Why not?
BLOCK: Well, back to what I said- what do you do? Do you go back and farm the way my grandfather did with all the weeds and hoeing? All the labor it takes? Look at all the extra chemicals. Later on, they started using chemicals. We don't use the chemicals they use in Europe because we have biotechnology. Europe uses forty percent, fifty percent more chemicals than we do, and they can't keep the yields up with us. I mean, there's no way, unless we invent something else that's better. Right now, we don't have anything else that's better. I think that it's- well, that's a short answer. I just think it's ridiculous. But, somehow, we've got to make sure that we rely on science, not on somebody's whim that you've got to go back and farm the way my grandfather did, or the way they do in Africa now. A lot of places over there don't have biotechnology. They don't even have hybrid seeds, and they don't have what they need to raise a big crop. If we're going to feed the world, we're going to have to raise a big crop in a lot of places, not just in Illinois and Kansas.
GLICKMAN: I would agree, but with this one proviso: there is no silver bullet to feeding a world of larger numbers of people. There's silver buckshot, I call it. There's a lot of answers. If you go into- I was in Ethiopia just in April, and if you go to a lot of these countries, what they need more than GM seeds- and I'm for them, by the way, I think it's an important part of the equation- they need modern techniques, modern fertilizers.
They need to deal with the issue of waste, which Ann talked about. They need to deal with modern conservation tillage practices. And about 75 percent of the people who are farming in Africa are women and they need to understand new marketing techniques, how to use cooperatives much better. So we just can't take this issue and just overlay it on everything and say it's the only answer, or in many cases the primary answer. Now I do agree with you that we're not going to be able to deal with the water issue, we're not going to be able to deal with the pest issue, and we're not going to be able to deal with disease, and weather, and the climate without using new technologies, including genetic engineering. And we've got to talk about the trade-offs involved if we don't do this kind of thing, which we haven't, as well. I would say this, however: if I were the food industry, I would be looking at ways that we could develop techniques and traits of food that average consumers could see would benefit them. Right now, most of the discussion of biotechnology is how it affects production agriculture, which is fine. But you're seeing a growing movement in this country of people who want to know what's in their food and a lot of people who do that really a against biotechnology and genetically modified foods. If we could get more evidence that these traits are improving nutrition and improving diet and doing things that not only help production agriculture but also help consumers, I think it would go a long way to remove a lot of the uncertainty that's out there about this subject.
FLINCHBAUGH: Anybody else want to comment?
JOHANNS: I'd offer a couple of comments. I think, Dan, you make a very valid point here, and Jack does too. But here's the point: Kansas-style agriculture, or Nebraska-style, or Illinois-style, or whatever state you want to mention does not necessarily work in every part of the worl. It's just a different phenomenon. Like I said, I just got back from Africa. We were in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Liberia, we even spent a little bit of time over in the Congo, which is really a mess. You could change the world there with hybrid seed and fertilizer and water management. You could change the world with just better planting practices.
One of the things they found out: they grow a crop there, and they spread it, and so it kind of grew up like wheat or something. They came to learn that if they took that crop and put it in rows, their yield doubled. Now why did they spread it instead of putting it in rows? Because their father did it that way, their grandfather did it that way, their great-grandfather did it that way. As long as anybody could ever remember they spread it. Well, when you start changing things on that scale you make a world of difference. The other thing I'd say about this too is that I'm a believer in biotechnology. I was the chair of the Governor's coalition on biotechnology- I could give you all the credentials. But I will offer this: number one, we have to really get good at the science. THat's where K-State comes in, and the University of Nebraska, and other land-grant institutions. We've got to be the best, and we have to understand that wehn we send a product into the marketplace, we're going to put our seal of approval on that product from a safety standpoint, etc.
The second thing I would say is that no matter how hard we try to convince people, they're not going to be convinced. This is what I say to young people: I love all kinds of agriculture. Heck, I loved it when we milked thirty cows and farrowed twelve sows at a time. But I appreciate that's a hobby farm today. Now, that fed four kids and two adults, but you're not farming that way anymore. As much as I might love that and pine for those days again, I appreciate those days have ended, and we've got a growing population. We've got to deal with it. But what I say to young kids is that there are so many opportunities in agriculture. Maybe you want to do organic, God bless you, there's a market for it out there. Maybe you want to do something different, maybe you want to do hormone-free beef, God bless you, there's a market out there for you. And on and on.
So what I would say is celebrate all aspects of agriculture, from the very large operations that we're used to, to the very small operations that maybe are the organic farmer who's selling at the farmers markets or whatever. Because there's opportunity in all parts of agriculture and we should say that's outstanding, and it is. But there's got to be room for all parts of agriculture, not just one segment.
FLINCHBAUGH: Ann, you probably have the most experience on this panel in terms of food policy. What dietary changes do you see coming and how will it affect people's eating habits?
VENEMAN: Dietary changes in terms of the dietary guidelines?
VENEMAN: I think we had a new set of dietary guidelines. Continually, we see the dietary guidelines focus on the need for more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, a healthier lifestyle in terms of exercise. We've seen a lot- I think we've seen a lot of focus now, because of the severe problem of obesity, in this country and around the world. Dan Glickman and I have co-chaired an initiative through the bipartisan policy council looking at the cost to healthcare of obesity in this country. There's so many implications in addition to the healthcare costs. Twenty-five percent of hte people in this country who apply to go in the military can't get in because they're too overweight. So it's affecting national security. I think we're making progress, we're seeing some decline in childhood obesity rates right now. There was some slight good news coming out. We've seen some changes to the school lunch program, which I think are positive results in terms of really looking at how you help children eat healthier. There's some very good examples of cities who have worked with new kinds of food companies that are preparing healthier foods that kids want to eat. I think education of children on eating is absolutely critical. And I think that as we go forward, we have a lot of this controversy over what people are eating- and I absolutely agree that we have to look at all kinds of agriculture. And much of that is consumer-driven. The consumers are asking for more connectivity with where their food comes from, whether it's local food or organic food. We see a huge increase in the amount local food driven a lot by the restaurant industries. We see the emergence of stores like whole foods and more and more certification programs, whether it's fair trade or organics. So I think as Senator Johanns has said, we have to really look at agriculture and the breadth of what it is, what it represents, and we have to focus on nutrition and how to get nutrition to people and that connectivity of nutrition and the health of the human being.
ESPY: I'd like to weigh in on this for just one second. We talked earlier about the farm bill being a problem because the food and nutrition title was de-linked or taken out of it. And we talked about also- taken out principally because of the ballooning cost of it based on entitlements and those who qualify for SNAP program- food stamps. I echo everything that Ann Veneman said and associate myself with her regarding the high rates of obesity. I am from the state of Mississippi. Unfortunately, every socioeconomic index when it comes to those kinds of thinkgs we tend to be at the bottom and we've got to do something about it. So, to me, we have a reform idea which some may consider as a bit controversial. I'm certainly not coming to the Landon Lecture trying to become controversial.
However, I think it's reasonable to experiment as to whether or not we could remove some of the snack foods from the SNAP program. Those foods that are high in calories, high in salt, fat, trans-fats. Some of the high fructose corn syrup drinks, perhaps when it comes to the use of the public tax dollar at the supermarket to be spent on thing that we know do not perpetuate the best health outcomes. Those products, just like tobacco and just like beer- you can't buy those products and get them paid for by food stamps. We would give some consideration to making some of these foods ineligible for use in the SNAP program. Now, it doesn't mean they can't buy them. They can use their own private dollars- discretionary dollars- for those types of foods. But I think that should be considered.
I don't want some to indict this for an infringement of personal choice, that's not something I'm trying to do here. But honestly, when we know as a nation that there are negative and deleterious health outcomes with regard to obesity and the rest, this is something to consider. Or the savings on these types of products that now aren't eligible, perhaps we could add a half-percent bonus for the purchase of fruits and vegetables. We've tried persuasion, we've tried education and that's working. But now we might need to take more stringent measures.
GLICKMAN: First of all, I agree with both what Ann and Mike said, but I have to tell you two personal vignettes. Running this Department of Agriculture, we had the authority on what's called Section 29...
GLICKMAN: 32, well, it was three less. I had 29 and I wasn't there very long. But anyway, I was there six years. But anyway, when there was a crop or a product in oversupply, we had the ability to go in the marketplace and buy it. It was unlimited, it was a totally unlimited power. So I'm just thinking about this, because these problems, while I agree with Mike, these problems are a little bit more complicated than you'd think.
So, one day, I get a call from Senator Stevens, who was a very, very powerful senator of the appropriations committee. He prevailed on us to buy millions of dollars of canned salmon for the school lunch program because there was an oversupply of salmon. Now, I can tell you that there is one thing that school kids will not eat: canned salmon. So we bought it, and remember Forrest Gump when they had broiled shrimp, sliced shrimp, and diced shrimp? Well, we did broiled salmon, sliced salmon, boxed salmon, anything we could, and I think we still have that salmon twelve years later. Then, another colleague of Senator Moran and Senator Johanns, Senator Carl Levin called, and he says we've got a lot of cherries. What are we going to do with all these cherries? I'm sure you all had similar examples. So we bought lots and lots of cherries for the school lunch program. Now, let me tell you what we did with them: we dried them, we fried them, and we mixed them with hamburger meat. We mixed them with canned samlmon even. And I think that we served about three portions and none in Kansas, I want to tell you that. My point in all of this is that the obesity problem is really serious, and what Mike says is true.
We probably ought to begin looking at these issues of these are taxpayer funds, and what people ought to be buying with them, and if there's a way to improve their health. But, you know, fundamentally, a lot of these issues are taste, preference, and culture. And sometimes they're difficult items to get people to change their behavior with.
ESPY: No question.
FLINCHBAUGH: Anyone else want to comment? Jack?
BLOCK: Just one word on this. I agree with Mike. I think the federal government contributes towards obesity. If there are fifty million people getting food stamps now, and all of the checks and people are looking things over realize that there are more obese people in that group than there are the other group that's not getting food stamps. I've seen these kind of studies.
GLICMAN: Yeah, but-
FLINCHBAUGH: No, you can't complain now. I've got another solution. That's the first thing, I agree- more fruits and vegetables and meat even, but not stuff that makes them fat. Then the other thing is that we've got kids that are obese and they're going to school and they get free lunches, and they have big lunches for them. I've got an idea here: the way you deal with that is you weigh them in and if the kids are too heavy, they go to the vegetable line and get fruit and vegetable. And if they're not too heavy and they're just right they can get biscuits and gravy, it doesn't matter. That's my solution.
GLICKMAN: That's from personal freedom we just heard that.
BLOCK: Well, the government can dictate this becaue we're giving the money out. It's not that we're taking away from someone.
VENEMAN: Can I just comment on this?
FLINCHBAUGH: We got him stirred now, Ann, so you...
VENEMAN: First of all, we have to recognize- I think what Mike Espy said is right. We have to look at these issues: is the government paying for food that is actually contributing then on the other end to our healthcare costs? I think the other thing that we have to think about is that a few years back the name of this program was changed from the Food Stamp Program to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. That ought to be taken into account. Things we realized is how politically sensitive some of these issues are. One of the things we noted in our report was that this is a time when everybody wants information, big data, and transparency on everything.
And yet we don't have any publically available data on what people buy with the SNAP program or the Food Stamp Program. So one of the things we called for in our report was let's first of all get that data. Second of all, there's been- many of you have heard about things that go on in the place where I live, the other Manhattan, in New York City, and what Mayor Bloomberg has done on soft drinks. But he didn't start with that. He went first to try ot get them taxed, but then he went to the USDA and asked for a Pilot Program exemption. I think the other way politically to start this process to see if there can be some of the programs along the lines that Mike Espy is talking about is to begin some Pilot Programs,a nd other states have asked for this as well. Perhaps this is a way to begin to look at what policy would make sense in this regard.
ESPY: And I would tell my friend, Jack Block, that he needs a good lawyer when he tries to take a kid out of-
ESPY: I'll be your lawyer.
FLINCHBAUGH: Oh, you're going to be the lawyer!
BLOCK: I'm not running for office!
FLINCHBAUGH: Well, I think we've probably sufficiently covered that subject. Should we continue to provide a safety net under farm income, like we've done since 1933? Should we continue that, or not?
GLICKMAN: Yes. Yes, we should, but it should be more focused on risk management, which we're doing, and on true natural disasters. And we're entering, I belive, an era of much stronger farm prices, farm income, and the sending out of checks to farmers is one that is under great review right now, and the Senate bill has dealt with that issue by dealing with trying to reduce direct payments. But we should not take this as an opportunity to go down the road to get rid of farm programs. That's a real bad mistake in my mind. I think the history of the world shows that we're always going to need some government support for agriculture. It's been true since the time of the Bible, in Exodus, when he had storage programs to help people in periods of big surpluses as well as tight supplies. But I think that the programs ought to be more geared towards risk management, and away from just providing checks to producers.
FLINCHBAUGH: Ed, do you want to come in on that?
SCHAFER: Yes, and I think that one of the things that we tend to forget is the fact that with disease and weather problems and this and that, farmers can be impacted through no fault of their own. And so we want to make sure that we keep the production capacity out there, keep agriculture in business, so to speak, so that we keep agriculture and food security in the United States. If you look at parallel to the energy that we see today, though it's getting better, we didn't take care of our energy industry, and that sector of the economy in the United States was pushed offshore, and we became dependent on other countries for our food, and we became dependent on other countries for our energy. We do not want to become dependent on other countries for our food, that would be a bad idea, and we need to have some kind of a program that is an assurance, an insurance program, a disaster payment program, something tha keeps farmers in business when they get hailed out, washed out, diseased out, through no fault of their own. I mean, we just need to provide that security and strength for the agriculture sector of the economy in our country.
JOHANNS: It's an interesting question, expecially happening here, and I'll share something with you. One of the most forward-leaning, -thinking people in the United States Senate on this issue comes from this state: Pat Roberts. Back in the day when he was chair of the House Ag Committee, he was working this issue. And his concept really has become the foundation for discussion now. And, basically, I refer to Pat as the father of the modern crop-insurance program. When I became Secretary of Agriculture, I think corn prices were two bucks a bushel, and you saw what got us. It was not a good system. We had the counter-cyclical program, we had the marketing-loan program, we had the direct payments, and, quite honestly, it was moving farmers away from a thoughtful view of how best to manage their operations.
And then there was the point in farm policy history where we told you what to plant. The federal government literally dictated what you planted. Can you possibly imagine that these days? I mean, I think if we tried to do that today, we'd have open rebellion in rural America. So what we have now is a more risk-management approach to agriculture, and that's basically what we're seeing. Last year, when we have drought across the corn belt, we're going to have a crop insurance program, and that makes sense to people, and we can sell that in town. It makes sense to the farmer, we can sell it in town, and the thing I like about it is everybody-s got skin in the game. The farmer's paying premiums, the federal government participates in this, and people understand natural disasters. But there's a big debate going on, because as you move south- sorry, Mike Espy- they like their direct payments, they like their counter-cyclical program, they like their marketing-loan program, and so you get this constant knocking of heads between southern agriculture and Midwest agriculture. And any of you who have participated in national ag organizations knows that this is the case. We just got to keep working on this, because we can't defend these programs.
I've been telling farmers in Nebraska for the last two, three years, "direct payments are gone." If we ever get a farm bill done, don't go to your banker and tell him your direct payments are going to be there, 'cause they're not. And I didn't get any push-back from Nebraska farmers on that. No one said that "well, we still need direct payments." Nobody said that. I really believe where we need to be is what was envisioned years ago, and it literally came out of Pat here in Kansas, he joined forces with a Nebraska Senator, Bob Kerry, and it became what is today the modern crop-insurance program, which is working very well for us, and we just need to protect that program as we think about getting this farm bill done.
FLINCHBAUGH: Let's take this out further, and then we'll go to the audience for questions. Obviously, one of the things that's driving the farm bill debate is the budget. And we've just gone through a god-awful experience over shutting the government down, and the debt-ceiling debate. Why has Washington become so dysfunctional, and what can we do about it?
ESPY: I gave you a solution during my opening statement that said everyone gets into the shower together. There you go.
FLINCHBAUGH: But those were the days before there were very many women in the congress, right?
ESPY: Separate showers.
FLINCHBAUGH: Why separate showers? No, that's not the question. Why is it so dysfunctional?
GLICKMAN: You know, a hundred years ago, Mark Twain said that there was only one true criminal class in America, and that's Congress. So, in some sense, some things haven't changed all that much, I do probably think that it is worse today than it was before, and I don't think there's one simple solution. I think there's 24-hour media, which is generally not objective and not reporting the news, but reporting ideological perspectives on the right, if you watch Fox, and on the left if you watch MSNBC, and on the radio for all of the above. I think the amount of money in politics is embarrassing, that members of congress spend fifty, sixty, seventy percent of their time raising money,a nd don't have the time to do their jobs? I think that that's a lot different than when I first came to the place in 1977, and I suspect Mike Johanns has some thoughts about that himself as well. I think that, a lot of times, leadership doesn't act like leadership is supposed to act, people get very nervous about the safety of their races,a nd I lost in 1994, you know, I lost. I thought it was the most terrible thing that had ever happend to me, and it's turned out I've had the best life I could ever imagine in my life. You know, it wasn't the end of the world.
FLINCHBAUGH: You wouldn't have been secretary.
GLICKMAN: I wouldn't have been secretary, but be that as it may, I think that the whole country is a bit less civil as well. I mean, you looka t the content on television and the general media, and it's harsher than it used to be. So the public picks that up, and you go to town hall meetings and it's harsh. People are anstier than they used to be. I think most members of congress are honorable people, want to do the right thing. I think the system is difficult, I think there are some problems in the system, and as I said, I think money- the excess of money. As Sam Raven once said, "money is the mother's milk of politics," but it's become the cottage cheese and the yogurt and the tofu cream pie and everything in between. But we're all in this together, and we've got to have a country that works well. I think it was MIke or Ann that talked about what the rest of the world looks at us when we shut down our government, when we don't pay our bills. I mean, we're the strongest country int he world, we don't act like that in America. Now, that doesn't mean we don't have problems, and we do have a terrible deficit that has to be dealt with, but we got to act like mature, responsible people, who are fiduciaries of the public. And if we don't act that way, we're going to become a second-rate power, and I don't want to see that happen. I don't think anybody else does.
FLINCHBAUGH: Mike, you're the only one that hold public office at this moment.
JOHANNS: I'll offer a couple of brutally honest assessments here. If I were a Kansas resident- and I've been in this place in my home state of Nebraska- and I wanted to be your Mayor of Manhattan, or Kansas City, or whatever, or I wanted to be your Governmore, and I ran on a platform and I said, "ladies and gentlemen, I want to assure you that if I do not get my way, I will shut the government down." Think about that. What would the impact on K-State be? What would be the impact on your schools that get a major portion of their funding? And I could go on and on. And, you know, I've been in that position. You see, I never thought I had that option. I think that is unbelievable. Now, there are certain thinkgs that have happend in the last five years that break my heart. I think this healthcare bill is just the absolute worst. But part of the ownership has to be on the country, too. We need reinforcements in the Senate. THe House can repeal that any day, they want to vote on that every day can repeal it. But the last time I checked, forty-five votes in the Senate doesn't get you very far if you want to repeal something. And so I just think that's as brutally honest as I can be about the last couple of weeks. I just think, at the end of the day, you've got to fight wisely and strategically and in the best interests of the country. That would be number one.
The second thing I would offer is this: you know, as I was looking across those young people today, those beautiful kids that you raise in this state, that, as I said, remind me so much of the kids back in Nebraska. You know, they grow up on ranches and farms and they've got great values. They're conservative by nature, they've been raised that way. Gosh, I hope in that room we have school board members. I hope we have members of the trustees of your local church. I hope we have someone that's a future United States Senator, maybe there's somebody in there who'll be the next President of the United States, or be President of the United States someday. But, boy, if we just continue to destroy our belief in our ability to govern ourselves, then how are you ever going to get those young people to do these jobs? And I think that would be tragic loss for our future.
I'm going to leave public service, and I'm going to continue to believe like the first day I ran for office, that this is a profession that has great merit, and can tremendously improve the lives of its citizens, but ladies and gentlemen, it's got to work. I mean, flirting with your faux-faith in credit? Please, I mean, I don't like the seventeen trillion dollars worth of debt in it, you know, if I ever get in power, we're going to fix that. Because, you know how we're going to fix it? We're going to talk to you about entitlements, my Social Security and Medicare, which I'm just a couple of years away from. That's where the spending's at. You know why we don't talk about that much? 'Cause it's a surefire way to get unelected. Nobody wants to talk about giving up their benefits, but quite honestly, that's where you got to talk. We can hammer K-State till the cows come home. We can cut research, we can cut all of these discretionary spending programs, and there isn't enough there to make any difference. But that's what we're doind, year after year after year,a nd we're paying a very heavy price for it. Let's get real and honest and have an adult conversation, a very honest conversation about where the spending is at.
I tell people back home in Nebraska, "I'm your problem." And they go, "yeah, we voted for you." But I am, I'm a baby boomer. I'm smack dab in the middle. And all of these years, somebody's been saying you're going to get Medicare and Social Security, and if you're poor, you're going to get Medicaid. That's very costly. And you know what, final thing I'll say about this, I could get really ramped up on this: I am two years away from Medicare. Why in the world should my kids, who are struggling to make their first house payment, provide daycare for their two children, why should they be paying for my medical care? Does that make any snse to a single person in this room? I'm not the wealthiest person in this Senate, but I can sure as heck afford my medical care. And if I'm going to pay for it, versus Michaela paying for it, this is not a close call. Just tell me what I've got to do, just be honest. And I think that that's the kind of conversation that this nation needs more of, and we need a whole lot less of "elect me and I'll shut down your government," because we will pay a heavy price for that. That is dangerous, that is dangerous. "If I don't get my way, I'm going to shut down your government, and jeopardize our faux-faith in credit?" I don't like that message. And I'm as conservative and as Republican as the next person. We owe you better than that. If that's the best we can come up with, that's not very good. We owe you better than that as United States citizens.