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Class XII Curriculum

Understanding National Government and Its Influence on Agriculture

Seminar VI

Washington, DC

Saturday, March 5, 2005
Scribe Matt Gard

Leaving the house early in the morning, with an adrenalin rush and eyes wide open, on the way to the big city. Upon arrival at the airport, the curb side porters said we can help with your luggage. We didn’t know it was for a fee. After a small token of appreciation we were under way. Meeting a few other class members on the curb was a nice feeling that I was on time. Going inside the terminal I noticed many more members, but Joe and Brian were late! Well, maybe later than us, but still on time. After many tries at head counting we were still short. Upon further review, we found some classmates waiting at the gate instead of by the ticket counter as previously discussed. Head count turned up right and then it was time for ‘shaky town’ at the metal detector. Now some of us almost had to remove most of our clothes, but we still made it through. Rush! Rush! we go - so we can wait for our plane. Matt and Randy picked up some cute OSU shirts for the upcoming game. Once we were all on the plane I (Matt) fell asleep before we backed out from the loading area. When we landed we were pleased to see the rest of our classmates waiting for us (some departed from other airports). McDonald’s must love us for all of our patronage. On to the next plane and lights out for Matt, again. I’m sure something happened, just not sure what. We landed and all the luggage made it... what a miracle. Once we found our bus one half mile away and a short jog, we were on the way to dinner. We ate like Vikings as always. The seafood for us land locked Oklahoman’s is greatly looked forward to. We arrived at the hotel in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania just in time for the OSU - Texas basketball game. OSU lost the ball game.

 

Sunday, March 6, 2005
Scribe: Julia Laughlin

At 10 a.m. on Sunday, March 7, our class met Mr. Bob Steenstra at the Gettysburg Battlefields Visitor Center in Gettysburg, PA. Mr. Steensta is an 8th grade school teacher, a Gettysburg battlefield historian and a licensed battlefield tour guide. His great-grandfather was a Union soldier and he often brings his classes to the site for day-long history lectures and overnight stays on the battlefields. He began our tour by giving us a brief history of the Civil War which lasted from 1861 to 1865. He then shared with us the history of the battle that occurred at Gettysburg which took place on July 1, 2 and 3 of 1863. We alternatively walked and drove through the town of Gettysburg and the surrounding fields and battlefields as Mr. Steensta unfolded the history for us.

The town of Gettysburg had a population of 2400 at the time of the battle. Confederate General Robert E. Lee began marching his soldiers westward from Virginia and then north into Pennsylvania. General Lee did not know he was followed by the Union Army of the Potomac under Major General Joseph Hooker. The two armies came together by chance at Gettysburg on June 30 and the main battle began July 1 as the Confederates attacked Union troops on McPherson ridge, north of Gettysburg. The Federal forces, now commanded by Major General G. Mead, were outnumbered but holding their position until they eventually were driven back to Cemetery Hill south of town where they spent the night building up defenses and taking up positions.

On July 2, the two armies were about one mile apart on parallel ridges. The Union forces were on Cemetery Ridge and the Confederate forces were on Seminary Ridge to the west. Fighting ensued all day, but the Union held fast. Then, on July 3, General Lee’s artillery opened a two hour attack on the Union lines on Cemetery Ridge and Cemetery Hill but did little to soften up the Union defense position. Next, in what has become known as “Pickett’s Charge,” some 12,000 Confederates charged the Union lines and more than 5000 soldiers became casualties in one hour. The battle of Gettysburg ended as the Union soldiers held their positions and the Confederates withdrew. Mr.Steenstra said that this was probably where the Union began to win the Civil War.

The three days of fighting left 51,000 soldiers dead, wounded or missing and the town of Gettysburg in shambles. Today the battlefields have about 1400 markers/monuments, mainly Union. There is also a Visitor’s Center, Gettysburg Museum of the Civil War and Gettysburg National Cemetery.

After lunch at “General Pickett’s Buffet,” we traveled to visit Brubaker Farms in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania. We were met by Luke Brubaker and given a tour of the farm. Brubaker Farms is owned by Luke and Barbara Brubaker in partnership with their two sons, Mike and Tony. Luke’s father purchased the farm in 1929 and started the operation with 8 cows. Then in the early 1960s, Luke and his brother purchased the farm from their father. When Luke’s sons graduated from college and returned to help run the farm operations, Luke’s brother sold his interest in the farm to Luke and his sons and a partnership was formed.

Today, the farm has over 600 dairy cows, 450 young stock and a 48,000 bird broiler operation. They own 5 farms consisting of 80 – 100 acres each and additionally rent 1000 acres. There are also 13 hired employees whose families are supported by Brubaker Farms.

The farm is considered a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) and is regulated by the Pennsylvania Dept of Environmental Protection. This regulation requires an approved nutrient management plan as part of their permit application. There has been a shift in these management plans from Nitrogen (N) concerns to Phosphorous (P) concerns. Another issue is addressing soil loss and erosion. The Brubakers have had a conservation plan developed for their farm and are implementing it.

Luke also discussed the great pressure on farmers in this area to sell their land for developmental (urban sprawl) use. The state of Pennsylvania is offering farmers a purchase of the “development rights” on farmlands. This payment to the farmer guarantees that the land will not be used for anything but farming for the next 100 years and is designed to keep it from being turned into housing developments.

 

Monday March 7
Scribe: Lee Horton

At 8:30 a.m. we all met back up with the group at Brubaker store. Class members had a very enjoyable evening and night. The host families showed great hospitality.

Around 9:00 a.m. we boarded the bus going to the Hershey Factory, with Stan Bucker as our host. When we arrived at Chocolate World, Raymond Brace, our tour guide, began showing us around.

Milton Hershey, 1875-1945, started out in life as a failure and ended in success. After many unsuccessful adventures as a young man, Milton Hershey started a caramel factory, sold it for one million dollars in late 1898 and purchased 10,000 acres in the area of the present Hershey Plant. In 1903 he started construction on the Hershey Plant and completed it in 1905. Some of the requirements of location were ample clean water, good work force and leading dairy operations in the United States. Hershey Chocolate became to the candy world what Ford was to the automobile industry. Milton Hershey married Catherine Sweeney in 1898. She passed away in 1915 at the age of 42.

Tours of the actual factory were discontinued in 1973 with the opening of Chocolate World, a simulated tour of the actual plant. Tours was discontinued because of sanitation concerns. 18,000 people a year were requesting tour. Presently only about 2,000 people a year are honored with a factory tour - we were part of that group. Inside the factory we saw several vats of chocolate being blended for the proper recipe required. Each vat holds approximately 10,000 pounds of chocolate and is blended with osculating arms with granite rollers. The vat is made of granite, and the friction between the roller and the bottom of the vat creates the heat that brings the chocolate to the recommended temperature. Also we were able to see chocolate bars, candy kisses and Hershey’s chocolate syrup being processed, labeled and packaged for shipment. Approximately 25 million Candy Kisses are produced in a day. It requires approximately one cocoa bean per candy Kiss. Imported cocoa beans are sorted by country because of flavor, not for safety precautions. All chocolate bars have a different formula for each chocolate mix. Hershey’s does not supply milk for the operation of the plant directly from their own dairies, but they purchase it else where. Presently there are around 1800 employees at the factory. Prior to touring the factory we enjoyed a 3D movie describing the history of chocolate and the tour of Chocolate World.

Milton Hershey utilized the candy making knowledge of the Swiss & German in perfecting business endeavors and that of the Italian, as good construction workers.

Milton and Catherine Hershey had no children. Catherine had a dream of having a school. In 1910 the Hershey Industrial School opened with four young boys. It operated for many years as the M.H. School Homes, a home for orphaned boys where they lived with approved parents and were exposed to a real family environment.

Milton Hershey, in 1918, gave virtually all of his personal fortune to the school to provide for its continuation. The Deed of Trust was established for the school in 1909. Then in 1976 modifications to the Deed of the Trust permitted the enrollment of girls. Presently there are approximately 1300 students in the facility, with plans of increasing to about 2200 in the next five years. Qualifications to be accepted in the school are: be of age 4 through 15 when enrolling, be of low income or social need, have the potential for scholastic achievement, be a U.S. citizen and a few other requirements. Formally, students were to be orphaned by one or both parents to be accepted. Students have full care while in the program, from clothes to medical and college expenses if so desired. The children on Sundays are required to attend an interfaith session and then allowed to attend a church of their preference. Upon graduation students are not allowed to apply for work with the Hershey Factory, or any part of the Hershey operation, for a period of 2 years. In those two years they must first return to their previous home areas of the country, since the children came from all states.

As Milton Hershey proceeded with caring for his workers and others he planned for building the town, which consisted of a bank, hotel, school, churches, parks, golf courses, and a zoo. It was Milton Hershey’s boast that no one was laid off in Hershey during the depression years.

As the Hershey Company still operates as a trust, it is obvious to us that he really had a true passion for children first and his fellow man. Also, as the foundation is still growing and changing, there is a new tour planned to be open in 2006 with “talking cows.” Hershey didn’t start advertising until the 1970s. Shortly after, their first “character” of advertisement was ET with his Reese Pieces.

After our splendid tour of Hershey’s Chocolate and picking up some special gifts in their gift shop, we loaded the bus for Funks Family Restaurant where we enjoyed a delicious chicken pot pie meal, with Shoo Fly Pie for dessert. Joining us for lunch was Lee Wenger from Farm Bureau who presented us with some local agriculture figures from Lebanon, PA area.

Around 2:00pm we were at Elam & Sadie King’s Dairy Farm. They are an Amish family. They live with their seven children, approximately 48 milk cows, 7 horses, and a mule, on their 107 acre farm they purchased in 1997. One of the traditions of the Amish is having no electricity in their operation, including their house. They have a diesel motor that turns an air compressor that is used for moving the milk by air pressure and for operation of the milkers. Also, the diesel engine charges batteries that power their electric fence. Elam raises his own cows now for the dairy, and artificially inseminates the cows. He purchases grain for feed, but raises most of his hay himself. Some of his equipment consists of plow horses, one old Deutz tractor, motor operated square New Holland bailer and a four row JD planter - a very conservative operation, no unnecessary expenses. Just prior to leaving the King’s farm we thanked Stan and Cindy Bucker for their hosting us for the day and for Stan setting up and matching us up for our for our host family visit. At this point we parted Stan and Cindy and their two nieces on our way to Washington D.C. While in transit, we each shared our experiences with our host family.

Upon arriving in D.C. we began our tour by picking up our tour guide, Martha, at the Old Post Office. As we made our way around she pointed out several of the buildings and monuments and gave a brief history of many of them, also pointing out Arlington Cemetery and many other points of interest. Martha told us that if the House or Senate is in session their flag will be flying above their section of the capital. As we approached the Capitol building our bus was searched by the k9 units, and of course all was well. Martha described Lady Freedom being 19 ½ feet tall on top of the main Dome of the Capitol. She told us that Lincoln was the first president’s casket to be placed in the Capitol.

There are over 3500 cherry trees in D.C. Martha also shared with us that Senators’ salaries are around $200,000 and the president’s salary just doubled and is now $400,000.

Martha did a real good job describing all that we passed by on our tour. She also revealed to us that she was in the Capitol building, where she is a tour guide, the day the plane was supposed to have hit there, and she was in Pearl Harbor, at the age of four, when it was bombed. Our tour concluded and we arrived at our motel.

 

Tuesday, March 8, morning
Scribe: Mark Holder

Our first speaker of the morning was Jennifer Spurgat. She is the Director of Government Affairs for Farm Policy of the National Association of Wheat Growers. NAWG is in 21 states and has 36,000 members.

The 2002 Farm Bill, which is authorized through 2007, was structured so that when prices are better the program pays less money. The first three years of the 2002 Farm Bill payouts were 17 billion dollars under budget. These are savings to the U.S Government.

  • The 2002 Farm Bill cost less than ½ of 1% of the federal budget.

  • Agriculture make up 15% of the GDP and creates 25 million jobs.

  • Farm programs cost each American 4.4 cents per meal.

  • The EEC subsidizes farmers at 6 times the rate of the United States.

The Presidents proposed budget would cut Direct and CC payments by 5%. The proposal would drop the limit on market assistance programs from $360,000 to $250,000. The proposal would do away with the Three Entity Rule and would require participants to take out crop insurance.

The 2002 Farm Bill was a contract with farmers. The implications of the proposed changes would include:

  • Up to a 40% loss of farm income.

  • WTO negotiations will be effected.

  • Sets a precedent for the next farm bill.

The next speaker was J.B. Penn, Undersecretary of the Farm and Foreign Ag Service. Mr. Penn stated some issues we are facing are:

  • Export problems of the Asian Beef Market. We sold 7.5 billion dollars worth of beef to other countries before the first mad cow. Our sales to other countries are currently 3.2 billion dollars less than they were. Seventy-five percent of this reduction is in the Asian Markets. He said that 96% of all consumers live outside of the United States.

  • The Foreign Ag Service is involved in trade negotiations.

  • The world average of incoming tariffs is 62%. The average tariff coming into the United States is 11%.

Mike Linsenbigler is the Deputy Director of Conservation. Some of his points were:

  • The national average of the outstanding CRP contracts is $50. / acre. USDA will pay 50% of establishing the grass on CRP land.
  • President Bush said in August the government would look at extending contracts.

  • The CRP is the best government program to reduce CO2 from the atmosphere.

  • Companies will pay individuals on a global basis a premium for the credit of using their acres for carbon sequesteration.

Jim Brownlee is the Communications Coordinator for the USDA. He told us the USDA was founded by Abraham Lincoln. He called it the “people’s department.” The USDA has 30 agencies.

Mr. Brownlee is in charge of USDA communications. One of his biggest challenges was the first BSE case on 12/23/2003 and the three months following. He gave 25 press conferences in 30 days. They ran from 8 to 20 cameras and 20 to 40 reporters. The Canadian media had already gone through this and this helped the USDA go through the similar situation.

Mr. Brownlee said that is very important to talk to the media every day.

Our final morning speaker was Alan Tracy. He is with the US Wheat Association.

The Oklahoma Wheat Commission is a member of this association. Twenty different states are members.

The US Wheat Association has seventy employees overseas. The Association receives $4,000,000 from the producers and $10,000,000 from the USDA. The Association’s primary function is to develop international markets.

One of his most interesting topics was China’s Reemergence in the wheat market. Mr. Tracy told us:

  • China’s population is 1.3 billion. The average Chinese income is $5,000. The average income in the US is $40,0000.

  • China’s economic growth rate is 9.4%. The economic growth rate for the US is 4.%.

  • China’s is the second largest economy in the world behind the US.

  • Our freight rates are up by 2.5% because of China’s growth.

  • Fifteen to 20% of the landed value of a bushel of wheat is due to increases of freight.

  • China was a net exporter of wheat. This year, China imported 8 million metric tons of wheat. They are still 4 million metric tons short of consumption.

  • China is losing land to urbanization at a rate of 2% a year.

  • The top buyer of US wheat is Japan.

  • Fifty percent of the world’s pork consumption is in China.

  • The big change in China is their attitude. People that used to trade food on a barter system are moving to the cities to work. Now, a very high percentage of their income is going to purchase food.

 

Tuesday March 8, 2005, afternoon
Scribe: Harlan Hentges

Class XII of OALP spent the afternoon meeting with three members of the Oklahoma Congressional Delegation.

 

Senator Jim Inhofe

Senator Jim Inhofe arranged for staff guided tours of the Capitol Building. Jeremy Shull of Senator Inhofe’s office conducted an interesting and informative tour of the Capitol building including the Old Supreme Court Chambers, the Crypt, the Rotunda, and National Statutory Hall. After the tour of the Capitol, we were greeted by Michael J. Ference, Senator Inhofe’s Legislative Assistant responsible for agricultural and energy issues.

Senate Inhofe addressed Class XII, briefly describing the issues which are important to him and which prompted him to seek public office. First, he expressed his commitment to conservative ideas. He was selected the most conservative Senator in 2004. Second, he advised that he is the Chairman of the Committee on the Environment and Public Works, and he attributes his chairmanship to seniority which he attained by staying on the same committees since becoming a Senator. Finally, Senator Inhofe described his experience in private business in which he found that his chief opponent was often the federal government. This experience, he said, caused him to want to come to Washington to improve federal government.

Senator Inhofe described three primary actions as essential to improving government’s regulations of its citizens and their business. First, decisions should be based on sound science. Second, a cost-benefit analysis should be conducted before imposing regulations. Third, there should be an attitudinal change in the federal agencies. As an example, Senator Inhofe cited the experience of a business person who had received a letter from a federal government agency informing him that crankcase oil from his business had ended up in a superfund sight. The nature of the letter caused the business person to believe that the EPA was going to put him out of business. Senator Inhofe expressed his belief that such actions by federal government agencies are too heavy handed.

Senator Inhofe also serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee. He advised the group that the Troops in Iraq are very pleased with the accomplishments that they have made in Iraq. Senator Inhofe described the success in Iraq as the first time in 7,000 years that the Iraqis have had the opportunity to form their own government.

Barbara Gilbertson asked Senator Inhofe about his thoughts on economic development in rural areas and the challenges facing rural areas. Senator Inhofe said that he believed we are passed the trend of people constantly leaving the rural areas and moving to big cities. He believes people are and will be moving to the rural areas. He expressed his belief that there are under utilized resources in the rural areas which we need to put to work. Senator Inhofe asserted that federal agencies could assist in this effort by working together and stop guarding their turf. As an example, he described the progress that has been made at the Tar Creek Superfund site since he got the various agencies to work together.

Mark Holder asked about the President’s proposed changes in the Farm Bill which would result in cuts in direct payments to farmers. Senator Inhofe stated that the policies and proposals regarding the budget are in their formative stages and that it is too soon to judge the specific proposals.

Senator Inhofe, covered several other issues during our discussion and offered important perspectives on the operation of government. The conversation with Senator Inhofe was very informative and constructive. Class XII is very grateful to the Senator for his time and comments.

 

Senator Tom Coburn

Class XII then met with Senator Coburn. Senator Coburn immediately opened the floor for questions. On the topic of rural economic development, Senator Coburn referenced the work of Wes Watkins in Durant which could serve as a model for the state. Senator Coburn said Oklahoma needs tort reform and workers compensation reform to create a friendly place for Oklahoma’s college graduates to work.

Senator Coburn announced his intention to work to give Oklahoma advantages in obtaining grants from private and public sources to fund projects in Oklahoma.

Regarding agriculture, Senator Coburn linked agriculture to rural economic development through the need for farmers to provide energy products such as ethanol as the price of oil continues to rise. He also described the need for farmers to save energy through no till. He advocated no change in the farm bill at this time. Senator Coburn also expressed his desire that the United States do a better job of negotiating for agriculture during the trade negotiations through the World Trade Organization.

During the meeting Senator Coburn addressed many other issues and offered information insight to the government process. Class XII is grateful to Senator Coburn for sharing his perspective on the needs of Oklahoma and his objectives as a Senator.

 

Representative Frank Lucas

The final meeting of the afternoon was with Representative Frank Lucas. Initially, Representative Lucas described how his district had changed and that his district now covers the largest portion of the land in Oklahoma. Representative Lucas then mentioned three major issues currently affecting agriculture.

First, Representative Lucas addressed issue of the President’s budget proposal. He echoed the comments we heard earlier in the day that the Presidents budget was only the beginning of the process and the final result may be very different. He did however express the concern that it appeared that agriculture was being asked to bear more than its fair share of the spending cuts.

The second major agricultural issue Representative Lucas addressed was the decision from the World Trade Organization that the United States Cotton program was illegal.

The third issue addressed was the opening of the Canadian border. Representative Lucas expressed the need for a phased in border opening so that the markets would not be drastically affected.

Representative Lucas then took questions on various topics. Regarding Country of Origin Labeling, he said that USDA is working to implement the rule but is getting a lot of “pushback” from groups that are affected. He combined the COOL discussion with mandatory animal identification. He expressed an opinion that the USDA will not get to mandatory animal identification until there is another case of BSE. He believes animal identification will benefit good operators and allow them to be rewarded. It will also help to prevent cattle rustling.

Representative Lucas addressed several issues regarding the farm bill. Most significantly he said that rewriting the farm bill this year would suck resources out of agriculture. He noted that reducing commodity payments would hurt rural America.

Representative Lucas also addressed the issue of declining population in counties in his district. The engine of growth in those small counties, he said, has been agriculture and oil. For example, if oil declines there is less need for pumpers. As farms consolidate there are fewer tractors sold and fewer dealers. Ag and oil will not be the salvation of those areas in the future. Instead, aggressive communities will recruit businesses, and provide sewer and water systems.

Representative Lucas, in response to a question by Mark Holder offered several suggestions for making the economy better. The good news, he said, is that Oklahoma has a great career technology system and the people have a good work ethic. He also said we need a more attractive tax code. There are advantages with increased depreciation on Indian land. He also mentioned value added taxes, refunds for exported products, and flat tax, and consumption tax concepts.

Representative Lucas offered very detailed information regarding a wide range of agricultural and rural issues. Class XII of OALP appreciates the time and expertise which Representative Lucas shared with us.

 

Wednesday, March 9th, 2005, morning
Scribe: Lanie Hanes Cousins

 

Gilbert Gonzales
Acting Under Secretary, Rural Development

We arrived promptly and found our seats in the same meeting room as yesterday where we were greeted by the fabulous Kathryn Hill. My classmates engaged one another in either casual conversation or lively banter, depending upon mood (& proximity).

Mr. Gonzales arrived at 8:30 a.m. on the dot and his opening remarks included appreciation for the leadership group (he had participated in a similar group in Texas). He has been with the agency (USDA) for 3 ½ years.

He felt strongly that President Bush is trying to create an environment in which businesses can prosper; however, applying public sector strategies to the private sector can be difficult. A key point to Mr. Gonzalez is building trust and building relationships between the government and private sector so that there will be medium in which to implement change.

“Leadership in rural areas is more important than in urban areas, because we must galvanize these rural communities if they are to survive.” (paraphrased quote of Mr. Gonzales)

He emphasized that market solutions aren’t in Washington, but are in our own states(s) where we know the issues. He mentioned that in many ways the department is like a bank, because they can build a community from the ground up (Rural Development). This is what makes them special among the agencies.

An important campaign they have embarked upon was to brand the USDA. In other words, they are trying to improve public understanding of what the USDA does, since a recent poll showed that less than 2% of the public had any type of knowledge about the agency.

On a more personal note, before the beginning of this session, a USDA employee found and returned Julia’s cash she had dropped. Hats off to that person!

 

Chip Conley
Democrat Economist
House Ag Committee

Mr. Chip Conley discussed forces shaping the next farm bill: budget and outlook for agriculture spending. In summary he stated deficit reduction pressure will likely continue for several years. He expects continued cuts in agriculture programs. Policy makers must be mindful of how cuts are expected to reflect WTO commitments. Dairy and sugar programs will need to be addressed carefully. Specialty crops and planting prohibitions will likely need to be addressed. Conley expects land values to decline, both as a result of reduced government assistance and to meet competitive challenge with other countries.

 

Mr. Ken Cook
Environmental Working Group

One of Mr. Cook’s opening comments was “its good to put faces with the numbers.” His organization published the farm subsidy database.

He mentioned that he is interested in farming / environmental interaction, and he wants more environmental measures in general. He was instrumental to the CRP program that came out of the 1985 Farm Bill. His concerns surrounding that program were the selection of the right land, funding, and simply, will it work? He admits that the program has its problems, but overall is pleased with it.

He did have a criticism of the ag committee for not stepping up to get the money allotted after the 1990 program was accepted. This was an instance of the environmental groups being in agreement with the ag group on the issue.

He believes it is better to spend government money on environmental concerns than on commodity supports. He also mentioned that the more commodities we produce the more dependent we become on exports.

Overall, he was professional and accommodating to our group; however, he is firmly ensconced within his environmental ideology.

 

Michael Yost
Associate Administrator of FSA

Mr. Yost gave a general overview of FSA and then opened the floor for questions. He mentioned they administer 45 programs including the CRP, crop disaster, the tobacco buyout, the Farm Loan Program (which carries a $1.9 billion portfolio), the commodities for international and domestic donation (especially nonfat dry milk), and the food warehouse authorities.

They are working to keep people from abusing the system and “double-dipping.” This serves as justification for the 85% rule for marketing loan gain or LDP. They are going to continue to expand their requirements for producers to purchase crop insurance (particularly “buy-up” or higher level crop insurance).

An interesting statement he made about the $250,000 cap on payments was that if it came up today, it would pass either house.

He made another point which we heard echoed throughout the trip, and that was the public perception of large program payments and how record farm income will impact what happens in Washington.

He mentioned renewable fuels and that in Minnesota there are new ethanol plants being built every month. He also said that dealing with BSE has taken an enormous amount of time and effort.

 

Bruce Knight
Chief of NRCS

This department used to be known as the Soil Conservation Service and started with the dust bowl. Now their mission includes soil, water quality/quantity, wildlife, & air quality. Their budget is growing – presently they have $3.3 billion to invest in conservation. All participation is voluntary.

Their programs include environmental quality with a 50% / 75% cost-share between the farmer & NRCS. They spent $720 million last year with 46,000 customers. They will spend $1 billion this year in Equip funds, which is as much as in the last 5 year farm program.

They are on the on the leading edge with their Conservation Security Program (example: adding watersheds), Easement Programs (example: wetlands reserve which has allowed us to no longer lose wetlands to agriculture), the Farmland Protection Program (which has curbed development of prime farmland like we saw in Pennsylvania), and the Grasslands Reserve Program (which protects grass from farm ground/urban development).

There are 1.2 million acres in Oklahoma protected in some way. They have put $67 million into Oklahoma this year & $260 million since the last farm bill.

The ways they hold costs down are: they have cut $.05 out of every $1 they spend on administrative costs for their programs. They have also improved automation. They have begun getting laptop computers for their agents so they can go to the field and work.

An interesting new project that stirred some questions among the class was that they are now asking farmers to perform a self-assessment (rather than having an agent ask these same questions) to hold down costs. Mr. Knight explained that this saves them a lot of time because it weeds out farmer requests that would have to be processed and then declined.

During Q & A, Mr. Knight mentioned that he’s not worried about the new farm bill yet because it’s too early. He also explained that they make proposals for the new budget a year ahead of time and then whether their proposals are accepted or not, they stand behind the final, approved budget. I can understand how this would be important to promote unity across all aspects of the government.

 

Wednesday, March 9, 2005, afternoon
Scribe: Tex Hall

 

National Cattleman’s Association and Beef Association

Brian Deerlam, Executive Director of Government Affairs, welcomed our class and opened the session. He explained that the NCBA has over a hundred years of history based on the organizations that grew into today’s NCBA. In 1996 the National Cattleman’s Association and the Beef Industry Council of the Meat Board merged to become NCBA. Mr. Deerlam said the reason NCBA formed is because Cattlemen wanted to be involved in ‘democracy’; they needed to have their voices heard.

How NCBA works: NCBA holds two conventions annually. The state level NCBA organizations bring member issues and concerns to these conventions. His office in D.C. takes those and drives them into the appropriate branches of government. About 90% of those go into the Executive and Legislative branches. The other 10% goes into the Judicial branch.

Deerlam told us that the legislative work leads NCBA to making sure their legislative work is done correctly. He gave an example of a USDA representative misinterpreting legislative action, and the NCBA representatives taking it back to the legislature to rework the law. He also said that NCBA Headquarters takes all cues from the membership.

NCBA uses a “fact-based, science-based” approach to their actions. Just thinking about the next turn of cattle isn’t long term enough for their actions. Recent changes to the Canadian border situation have caused a “what’s next” kind of reaction. He pointed out that there are other big picture problems that go beyond just that border issue. NCBA sent a nine member fact-finding team to Canada recently. Bottom line from that team: No Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) issues exist, and there is not a “wall of cattle” waiting to come to the US when the border opens. As NCBA does with many issues, they took this information and ironed out the direction that NCBA will take and their membership approved it at their recent convention.

Q&A session with Brian Deerlam

Q: What is NCBA’s level of ownership/backing by Government?

A: NCBA is not owned, but is backed/financed with Government support and many cooperatives of local producers.

Q: What is the difficulty with Japan: Is it politics or consumers?

A: The real problem is political. The consumers love our beef. Their first BSE case was a shock. Consumers lost confidence in their government’s ability to protect them. There is a division: their consumers and packers want US beef, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) is against it. Japanese Food Safety Commission is the new body to over watch the BSE issues. Japanese BSE testing is 100% of all butchered beef. US trade sanctions on the Japanese are in the works now if they don’t open their border soon.

Colin Woodall is the NCBA Manager of Legislative Affairs. He’s the self-described ‘voice and face of NCBA on the hill’. Colin told us his job is to stay in touch with everyone on Capitol Hill. The greatest thing that NCBA can do is educate. Most people on the Hill have no agricultural background. He tells them what we (producers) do and how their work effects what happens to beef. Mr. Woodall said that NCBA will have a Congressional “Beef College” for representatives and use producers to teach at the Beef College sessions. Woodall stated he has to learn the strengths and weaknesses of all members of congress and how to work on those strengths and weaknesses. NCBA is starting a House and Senate Beef Caucus. A South Dakota Representative is working now to tie Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) with the Canadian border opening issue. The two biggest issues for NCBA today are Japan and Canada. Next on their list is immigration.

The current system of immigration isn’t working. Woodall gave example problems such as multiple deaths of immigrants in large trucks and thousands of illegal immigrants sneaking across our borders. He said a complete closing of the borders is too costly. NCBA membership wants legal immigrants to be allowed to stay, but just don’t want a blanket program that allows all of them to be allowed at one time.

Other issues on the NCBA horizon include COOL and Animal Welfare. Woodall acknowledged that horse issues have a peripheral impact on the latter. He expressed concern that the Humane Society has joined with the radical Animal Rights group “Fund for Animal.” He pointed out the fact that there’s humane involvement already in our industry; Veterinarians are already involved, the Humane Transportation Act is enforced, etc. The emotion driven animal rights actions have really caused NCBA deeper involvement. NCBA uses facts and science.

NCBA continues to work on other issues to include the latest budget reconciliation. NCBA is trying to minimize the funding cuts that affect the beef industry. Woodall said they are also trying to make sure that the cattleman’s share of the cuts is proportionate.

Gregg Doud, NCBA’s Chief Economist, has been an NCBA representative for two years. Prior to this, he was with “World Perspectives” Group for three years. A long time wheat farmer, Gregg is what he describes as the “Open the Market” guy now. He talked to us about several other countries border issues in regards to beef.

The Japanese have big food safety issues. Doud said they are fearful of all food. Korea is politically following Japan’s lead on import issues. Taiwan is ahead of all the Asian countries on importing. Hong Kong has already reopened to Canadian boneless beef, but not US beef. They say it’s because Canada has an animal identification system. Egypt will reopen to US imports soon. The technical aspects are complete, but the remainder of efforts is all diplomatic. Each country is really different in terms of how the react.

The Japanese Scientists are really in a face-saving effort now. Japan continued to import ruminant feed from England even after the BSE issues that they had there.

Mr. Dodd told us that the A40 (age grading issue on carcasses) is a foot in the door. That system uses carcass observation to determine approximate age of the cattle before butchering. The US goal is still 30-month old cattle to export to Japan vice using that grading methodology.

Dodd explained some terms we’d heard in our time in the DC area. Green Box refers to Direct Payments that don’t distort trade. Amber Box is trade distorting spending.

Finally, Gregg Dodd assured us that all imported cattle must meet the same requirements as American cattle.

For further information on NCBA, here a link to their website: http://www.beefusa.org/

 

Thursday, March 10
Scribe: Barbara Gilbertson

Dave Frederickson, President of National Farmers Union addressed the group. Mr. Frederickson is a 4th generation farmer and also served in the Minnesota Senate. National Farmers Union has 250,000 active members in 24 states and is 103 years old. NFU has a goal of having a presence in every state. Oklahoma Farmers Union just celebrated its 100th birthday. NFU is a bottom to top organization in that the states direct the National organization. Some of their current agenda items are: social security, the Canadian border opening and COOL. NFU did a survey in 2004 in which 82% of consumers think that food should be labeled with the country of origin information, 85% would be more inclined to buy food produced in the USA and 81% would be willing to pay a few cents more for food products grown or raised in the USA. NFU also favors the following items being in place before the Canadian border is opened: a. COOL is in place ; b. exports markets also be in place, i. e., the Japanese marketplace is open 1st; c. make sure there are safeguards in place in Canada to prevent BSE from coming into the USA, again. We also met Laura Johnston, who grew up in Okemah, Oklahoma and is the Director of Communications for NFU. www.nfu.org

Jess Peterson, Director of Government Relations for R-Calf, spoke to the group about R-Calf policy. R-Calf’s motto is “From the herd in the country to being heard on the Hill”. Their 2005 goals and issues are: 1. Keeping and funding mandatory COOL, 2. getting proper rules in place for BSE, 3. Open export markets, 4. animal ID, 5. Ban on packer ownership, 6. captive reform act. R-Calf is committed to getting proper rules in place for BSE and they believe that the USDA rule now in place was flawed from the start. They believe that it puts Canada in a minimum risk rating and that they should be in a moderate risk rating, R-Calf’s view is that the USA leads in every category and needs to lead in this issue. They are working with Congress to nullify the current USDA rule and put a better policy in place. R-Calf believes we need open export markets and is committed to working with trading partners, they believe Creekstone should be able to do voluntary testing and that trade is a reality and that we need trade enhancement agreement, not detrimental trade agreements and that the USA needs trade agreements with beef importing countries. Mr. Peterson stated that the EU has unfair trade practices, that Brazil subsidizes their beef growers and that R-Calf will continue to ask Congress and the President to break down detrimental agreements. He stated that beef should be treated as a perishable and cyclical item and that TR Quotas should kick in to level the playing fields. CAFTA has no TRQ and that R-Calf wants a better agreement and that it needs to be rewritten. Mr. Peterson urged our group to contact our Congressmen and push for free but level and equal trade agreements. www.r-calfusa.com

 

Human Trafficking Issues and Implications for Agriculture

Lou deBaca, U. S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Counsel, addresses the topic “Human Trafficking Issues and Implications for Agriculture.” Mr. deBaca told us that we have “modern day slavery” in that humans are still forces to labor in the U. S. Some of the types of slave labor he discussed included brothels that move with the crops and jobs and work groups that are run or managed by a “boss” that controls the working group and sometimes mistreats the workers, who are usually afraid to inform or there might be and probably is a language barrier. There is not a cohesive flow between the States and Federal government and local law officials need training about the issue and also training in the languages. Mr. deBaca stated that Texas has passed an anti-trafficking law and expect and hopes other states will follow. http://www.usdoj.gov

Paul Gutierrez, Deputy Assistant Secretary U. S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Civil Rights, addressed the topic “Civil Rights Issues and Implications for Agriculture.” Mr. Gutierrez was the New Mexico Farm Service Agency State Director before taking his current position. He is going back to New Mexico to become the State Director of Rural Development. His goal in New Mexico in Rural Development will be to make an impact and help New Mexico, which is 50th in the nation in per capita income, with bio-diesels, niche farms, etc. He also told us that he is a 3rd generation Hispanic but does not speak Spanish. His current job is to administer title 7 and 6 and deal with discrimination by Federal agencies. They are working on language barriers and impediments in the FSA and RD programs, notification and accountability and studying who is participating in these programs by race, gender and national origin. http://www.usda.gov/cr

Ms. Kay N. Johnson, Vice President of, Animal Agriculture Alliance, informed us that her organization was the opposite of PETA and that she works to bring together all organizations to address issues of animal welfare. Ms. Johnson stated Animal Agriculture Alliance has a budget of $500,000 and that PETA and others have budgets of $210 billion and most are 501c3’s. Some of the items she shared:

  • HUSU has hired 6 litigation attorneys to sue farmers and rancher, see: www.hsus.org or www.meatrix.org

  • Harvard Professor Steven Wise “Rattling the Cage” says chimps are as 4 year olds and need to be protected.

  • Animal Guardian Initiatives – replaces “owners” and could be deemed “appointed to be speaker for the voiceless”, Kansas has a move in place to reclassify farm animals going into shelters to “pets”

  • PETA is buying stock in publicly owned companies to put in place shareholder resolutions sympathetic to PETA

  • Compassion over Killing – an animal care program filed suit that the stamp “animal care certified” on egg cartons are false and sued FTC, USDA, FDA

  • On farm welfare programs may have an impact on farmers and ranchers – there are many different types

  • There are a vast array of laws pertaining to animal welfare and are imposed by different agencies

  • There is a push to put in place international guidelines for animal welfare

Visit their web site and become educated and get involved and active. www.AminalAgAlliance.org

Ms. Bonnie Braun, Extension Policy Specialist, University of Maryland, addressed the topic “Food Security Matters: Links between Agriculture and Nutritional Policy.” Dr. Braun told us that U. S. Food Policy is to promote optimal human health and well being through improved nutrition and by 2010 to cut hunger and food insecurity in half or by nearly 18 million people. She told us that 90% of all children have been in the WIC program at some point in their lives. Food Security is the ability to access at all times enough food to meet nutritional requirements to live a healthy life. 11% of all households and 12% of rural households have food insecurity. 14.1% of Oklahoma households have food insecurity. Food stamps are the largest part of the Agricultural budget. Oklahoma had a 62% increase in food stamp participation from 2000 to 2004. In Oklahoma, the average monthly benefit per person is $80.49.

The Food Stamp Act of 1977 was an act to: strengthen the agricultural economy, help to achieve a fuller and more effective use of food abundances, provide for improved levels of nutrition among low incomes households through a cooperative federal-state program of food assistance. In November, 2004, Oklahoma had 411,840 individuals enrolled in the FSP with an average monthly value of $80.49 per person for a monthly flow of $398 million in federal dollars. $5 in federal funds will generate $10 in economic activity. For Oklahoma, the economic activity of the current flow of dollars is $796 million. The proposed cuts for FY 06 will have major impacts on Oklahoma. More data and information is available at: Bbraun@umd.edu; www. ruralfamilies.umn.edu; www.fns.usda.gov/pd/fsfypart.htm;

 

Friday, March 11
Scribe: Scott Eisenhauer

 

Based on Personal Observation

Oklahoma Ag Leadership Program Class XII began our Washington D.C. leg of this seminar on a cool, cloudy Sunday evening, and then awoke Monday morning to rain showers…..the trip ended Friday afternoon, again cloudy and rainy as we traveled on the bus back to Baltimore to the airport. But, I think everyone would agree, all of the time in between spent in our nation’s Capitol was very valuable, educational, and we had a great time with each other and those with which we interacted in D.C.

By Friday morning, we did have several members of our class tired and slightly ill….really ready to head back to the great state of Oklahoma!

Thursday and Friday were beautiful, sunny days for meandering around the city, which is absolutely phenomenal, full of all kinds of things to see. Friday morning was spent in a variety of ways by different members of our group. Most went on a few last minute sightseeing adventures to Arlington Cemetery, The Smithsonian, or some of the other multitudes of memorials and monuments around the city. Other members of the group scheduled some additional meetings with individuals or groups in D.C. for more information gathering in preparing our group project papers.

I think those in the class who had never been to D.C. previously would agree that we need to return to be able to see everything that we didn’t have time to go see. Now that we have spent some time there, almost everyone in the group is an expert with the Metro train system!

Everything went fairly smoothly at the airport as we left Baltimore. Flights seemed to be good, and we even made our short connection in Dallas/Fort Worth on time. As we arrived in Oklahoma City, there were a number of class members’ families and friends awaiting their arrival after this week-long adventure. Again, I think all would agree that this was an absolutely fabulous seminar, but it’s always good to get back home to Oklahoma!