Friday, January 16, 2009

Vilsack Confirmation Hearing, Part 2

There were actually some choice words during this hearing, although not by Mr. Vilsack - the chap is smooth and practiced, a true politician. No, these choice words came from the Republican Senator from Kansas, Pat Roberts (pictured), the same Pat Roberts who, from my last post, came to the defense of crop subsidies.

Here is Senator Roberts talking about America's small family farmer:1
"That small family farmer is about 5'2", and I'm looking to see if Mr. Leahy is still here, um, from Vermont, and he's a retired airline pilot and sits on his porch on a glider reading Gentleman's Quarterly -- he used to read the Wall Street Journal but that got pretty grim -- then his wife works as stock broker downtown. And he has 40 acres, and he has a pond, and he has an orchard and he grows organic apples. Sometimes there is a little more protein in those apples than people bargain for, and he's very happy to have that."
Contrast that with his description of America's "production agriculture" farmer:
"That person is in Iowa. He's got 2,000 acres and he farms and he farms with his dad. Two brothers have gone because they can't really sustain that on the farm. His counterpart in Kansas, in my part of the country, has 10,000 acres. And his tractor costs about $350,000. It's amazing, in terms of the costs. But these folks are the folks who produce the food and fiber for America and a troubled and hungry world."
In sum:
"There are some that want to change the mission of the USDA," Roberts said. "Some think the department should be called the Department of Food or Nutrition or Hunger, or really, I think what they want is a Department of Anything But Agriculture."
Was there a reference to Michael Pollan there?

I don't know, he makes the small farmer in this country sound so ... quaint.

Update: Here's one more quotation from Senator Roberts.
1 Thanks to virginia, you can watch Senator Roberts recite his comments, at 1:32:00 into the 2.5-hour hearing, on

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