Subcommittee Hears from Former Ag Secretaries

Sep 14, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Jerry Moran, Chairman of the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, convened a hearing to review federal farm policy with three former Secretaries of Agriculture. Former Secretaries John R. Block, 1981-86; Clayton Yeutter, 1989-91; and Dan Glickman, 1995-2001 served under three different Administrations but were all involved in the implementation of agricultural policies designed by the Congress.

“We are here today to learn from those who have walked the path before us. Cabinet members are responsible for implementing the programs created by the legislative branch and we anticipate hearing a distinctive perspective about the future of farm policy, based on the decisions of the past,” said Chairman Jerry Moran.

Today’s hearing marked the first time in the Committee’s 180 year history that a panel of former agriculture secretaries testified before its members.

“Today’s hearing provides us with a historic opportunity to gain the perspective of three men who served their country honorably as Secretaries of Agriculture and represent decades of knowledge and experience of farm policy,” said Subcommittee Ranking Minority Member Bob Etheridge.

John R. Block, who served under President Ronald Reagan, noted that a variety factors would likely shape the next farm bill including trade, energy, and the budget deficit. He cautioned the Subcommittee to approach the farm bill writing process with all of agriculture in mind, not just one aspect of American agriculture. “It is necessary to remember that farm program reform is an evolutionary process, not a revolutionary one. Sweeping reform cannot be made all at once, but well-thought out, meaningful reform can be made through cooperation and a shared motivation to improve things for all sectors of United States agriculture,” said Block.

Clayton Yeutter weighed-in on the trade challenges facing legislators going into the next farm bill. “…I believe it is in our own self interest to seek to “build a better mouse trap” in U.S. agricultural policy. I am not persuaded by the argument that we should “keep doin’ what we’re doin’” for doing otherwise would constitute unilateral disarmament in the WTO agricultural negotiations,” said Yeutter.

Dan Glickman addressed the “five R’s” in his testimony about future farm policy including resources, research, riches, reform, and right. “If nothing else, farm bill debates have produced creativity and imagination—more for the good, some just bewildering. If I have one piece of advice: produce clarity of basic policy choices.”

The 2002 Farm Bill, which authorizes a wide variety of programs including rural development, energy, commodity, nutrition, marketing, conservation, and forestry programs, is set to expire on September 30, 2007. In addition to the 11 field hearings held by the full Committee in preparation of reauthorizing the 2002 Farm Bill next year, the Subcommittee has convened several hearings to review agriculture programs under its jurisdictions. The Subcommittee maintains jurisdiction over programs and markets related to cotton, cottonseed, wheat, feed grains, soybeans, oilseeds, rice, dry beans, peas, lentils, the Commodity Credit Corporation, crop insurance, and the commodity exchanges.

The panel discussed energy issues, trade opportunities and agreements, research, rural infrastructure, commodity programs, and disaster assistance. The Subcommittee will continue to gather feedback from a variety of organizations and individuals involved in agricultural production throughout the remainder of the year.

Witness testimony is available on the Committee website, and a full transcript of the hearing will be available on the Committee website 4-6 weeks following the hearing.

Witness List

The Honorable John R. Block, Secretary of Agriculture, 1981-1986, Washington, D.C.

The Honorable Clayton Yeutter, Secretary of Agriculture, 1989-1991, and U.S. Trade Representative, 1985-1988, Washington, D.C.

The Honorable Dan Glickman, Secretary of Agriculture, 1995 - 2001, Washington, D.C.