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25 May 2012 - Interesting Doings in D.C.

For the past 45 years, I have been making 8 to 10 trips every year to Washington, DC. I always find it an exciting, interesting city and as a media person, I do have the opportunity to visit with many people in the government agencies as well as on Capitol Hill.

I was there a few days ago in the middle of May to participate in what was billed “The National Policy Conference, The Politics of Food and the 2012 Farm Bill.” The event was hosted by Crop Life America, an organization whose membership is made up of manufacturers involved in the production and marketing of crop protection products to kill bugs and weeds, to make those farm fields more productive across America. Yes, it is made up of the leading chemical companies.

The agenda of the meeting, attended by nearly 200 people mostly involved in agricultural and food production, was fascinating because among the program presenters were three bloggers who billed themselves as ‘food activists’. One of them, a self-proclaimed organic farmer from North Carolina, was extremely critical of the crop protection industry, naming company names and telling the audience that the products of those firms harmed everybody and the environment and should not be used because we could produce enough food to feed the world without them. At the conclusion of the program I asked Jay Vroom, President of Crop Life America, “ Why do you have those people on the program when they are there to really slam the industry and destroy it?” He said “Because they reach a lot of people with their blogs and we need to hear what they are saying.”

Well, I listened, disagreed with practically everything they said, particularly when they starting mis-stating factual information. The North Carolina farmer, for example said “we are planting 200-million acres of corn this year and are covering all those acres with dangerous chemicals.” No sir, we are planting 96-million acres of corn this year and we do not “cover” fields with chemicals. He made several other factual mis-statements and my advice is if you’re going to promote a cause on a blog, you had better get your facts right.

In addition to that irritating part of the program, I did talk to Charlie Stenholm, former Texas Congressman, now a lobbyist who has worked on eight farm bills. I asked what the biggest difference is between the first farm bill he worked and this one and he said “It is the number of groups and organizations not involved in agriculture, who want to have input into the farm bill” and, he went on to say, “We’d better listen to them because they are going to play a major role in writing farm policy in the new bill.” He also lamented the decline of civility on Capitol Hill and the extreme bipartisanship that makes it practically impossible to write sound legislation.

Just another interesting day in Washington, D.C.

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