A timely focus on agriculture policy

Landon Lecture Series to feature expert panel

By The Mercury

The Landon Lecture Series is trying something different next month, and we hope area residents take advantage of it.

Instead of a single distinguished speaker, as has been the norm since former Kansas Gov. Alf Landon gave the first lecture in 1966, the series has invited six former U.S. secretaries of agriculture to participate in a question-and-answer session the evening of Oct. 21.

The guests will be Mike Johanns, who served from 2005 to 2008; Ann Veneman, who served from 2001 to 2005; Dan Glickman, who served from 1995 to 2001; Mike Espy, who served in 1993-94; Clayton Yeutter, who served from 1989 to 1991, and John Block, who served from 1981 to 1986.

The two best known to area residents are probably Mr. Glickman, who was a member of Congress for 18 years, and Mr. Johanns — now U.S. Sen. Johanns of Nebraska, who also has been that state’s governor.

In their various terms, the former secretaries dealt with multiple trade issues, including GATT — the General Agreements of Tariffs and Trade — and NAFTA, and efforts to reopen foreign markets to U.S. beef. Most also have dealt with U.S. farm bills. Even before he became agriculture secretary, Mr. Glickman was involved in the farm bills of 1997, 1981, 1985 and 1990.

Their collective thoughts on present farm bill negotiations could be illuminating. Kansas Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, speaking at the State Fair in Hutchinson over the weekend, expressed confidence that lawmakers would work something out on the farm bill, which sets policy on a host of agricultural measures, including farm subsidies and rural development projects. The stumbling block has been the level of federal funding that ought to go to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, once called food stamps and better known now simply as SNAP. We hope the senators’ confidence is justified.

Jackie Hartman, KSU’s chief of staff and director of community relations, called the presence of six former secretaries of agriculture on the same stage “nothing short of monumental.” She noted that the occasion will be “very fitting given our celebration of the university’s sesquicentennial” and the university’s mission as a Land-Grant institution.

Though some of these former agriculture secretaries may not have the name recognition of the former presidents, chiefs of staff and international heads of state who have taken the Landon podium,  they know their subject matter and they know politics. Their collaboration promises to be instructive and entertaining.

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