via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.
Congressional Quarterly lists
some potential contenders
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before the Nov. 4 elections, the guessing game on who may fill the next
president's Cabinet has begun, notably with respected Congressional
Quarterly (CQ) taking a detailed look at all potential Cabinet positions
in either a John McCain or Barack Obama administration.
The following is the list of the names presented in CQ Weekly
for the next Agriculture Secretary, along with my comments:
-- Mark Sanford, Governor of South Carolina,
whose second term ends in 2010. He was not on the Agriculture
Committee during his six years in the House, but he is governor of a farming-intensive
My comments: Governors
have become popular picks for Ag Secretary, with the last two being
Mike Johanns (Nebraska) and Ed Schafer (North Dakota). Sanford was listed
as a potential candidate when Schafer was tapped to be Bush's Agriculture
chief. It's been a while since southern producers had "one of their
own" at the top spot for the business of agriculture.
-- Keith Collins, former long-time USDA
chief economist and now a self-employed consultant.
My Comments: Until his
recent warnings about going too far and too fast on the use of corn-based
ethanol, Collins had few if any dissenters. In fact, he still really
doesn't. In my over thirty years watching the agriculture, energy and
trade policy areas in Washington, I have never seen a more fair minded
and gifted economist willing to call it like it is. That is rare in
Washington -- and elsewhere. He has been through a lot of tough farm
bills and other issues -- enough to give him a lot of training in Beltway
politics, but others say he still may lack that "political bone"
needed for such a Cabinet position. Bottom line: he would excel at anything
-- Randy Russell, partner at Lesher, Russell
& Barron for over 20 years. Before that, he was chief
of staff to Agriculture Secretary John Block during the writing of the
1985 farm bill. Before that, he spent a year as a deputy assistant USDA
secretary for economics. He also has been a Senate Agriculture Committee
economist and a lobbyist for both the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
and the Pillsbury Company.
My comments: The thing
Washington needs so badly, bipartisanship and civility, Randy Russell
has in abundance. House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.)
picked Russell and National Farmers Union President Tom Buis (see
below) during the last Farm BIll debate to work out a country-of-origin
labeling (COOL) consensus for meat and meat products. On the social
front, Russell works hard in fighting global hunger. He is a very practical
person in a not-so-pragmatic town. The CQ story has a good
tag line for him: "Despite his special interest ties, he has few
enemies in Washington, industry and farm groups say." Ditto.
-- Charlie Stenholm, former top Democrat,
House Agriculture Committee, now at one of the top agricultural lobbying
firms — Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Bode Matz. A founding
member of the Blue Dog Coalition, whose pragmatic views on a host of agriculture
and trade policy issues are needed in the years ahead. If you want a clear
way to understand complex ag issues, his folksy ways are the way to go.
My comments: He is willing
to listen to all sides of an issue. President Bush considered nominating
him to run USDA in both 2000 and 2004. Animal-rights activists have
opposed his lobbying efforts against a bill to limit the sale of horses
for slaughter. He has a good understanding of southern and livestock
industry policy issues, two areas where current policy and personnel
are a bit lacking.
-- Marshall Matz, the McCain campaign’s
top agriculture adviser and a nutrition expert whose name is part of the
letterhead of Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Bode Matz.
While advising the Obama campaign, he is also shaping a platform for anti-hunger
groups and food service managers in anticipation of a debate in Congress
next year on rewriting the federal school lunch program. He spent five
years as general counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and
two years as special counsel to the Senate Agriculture Committee.
My Comments: Like so
many on this list, he has friends on both sides of the political aisle.
A very hard worker and a person able to communicate his passions. The
CQ article says his background as a lobbyist could work against
him,but I hope that silly litmus test ends when the elections are over.
He's not a dirt farmer, but he knows how to deal with the mud-slinging
ways of Washington.
-- Tom Buis, National Farmers Union president,
who built up the group's Washington office when he ran
its government relations office before being tapped to head the farm group
in 2006. For half a decade, he was senior agriculture policy adviser to
Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota. Buis has on-farm
experience as a grain and livestock farmer on his family’s Indiana
My comments: He is the
Democratic version of Randy Russell -- liked by all sides and very fair
minded. But unlike Russell, his views are sharply Democratic. He was
one of the early proponents of corn-based ethanol and renewable fuel
in general, as was his former boss, Sen. Daschle.
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