When I was growing up on a farm in Arkansas, I looked forward to Christmas all year. My parents didn’t have a lot of money, but I knew I could count on Santa to leave something under the tree.
My three brothers and I usually woke up around 4 on Christmas morning. My parents would spend the next two hours trying to keep us corralled until my grandparents could walk across the road from their house and watch the excitement.
(When my grandparents arrived, they always said, “Christmas Eve gift,” which I learned years later was an expression dating back before the Civil War when slaves would gather outside the plantation manor on Christmas Eve and ask the owner for their gift. But I digress.)
Since then, I’ve learned it really is better to give than receive. In that spirit, I offer the following “gifts” to some folks in agriculture who deserve special “recognition” for their work in 2007.
• For Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, a Web site that lists contributors and the amounts they gave to the EWG so farmers could see how many tax-exempt dollars it received to lobby against farm programs.
• While he’s at it, Santa could give Cook and other environmentalist policy wonks a crystal ball so they could see how the Dorgan-Grassley payment limits would devastate medium-sized farms.
• For acting Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner — and his predecessor Mike Johanns — a T-shirt that says “USDA: The People’s Department,” to remind them of the sign on the Jamie L. Whitten USDA Headquarters Building in Washington.
• For members of the ag media, a mute button for killing the sound the next time Conner or his successor starts telling them what farmers said at the 48 farm bill forums USDA conducted.
• On a serious note, Santa could give Conner a job as a CEO in recognition of the talent the Bush administration obviously overlooked when it tabbed yet another Republican governor that nobody in agriculture ever heard of to be the next secretary.
• For Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, a T-shirt reading, “Did he really say that?” after Grassley opined “land values would likely decline by perhaps as much as 25 percent” if the Senate passed his payment limit amendment.
Grassley said it and seemed to be oblivious to the impact such a drop would have on farm lending and on farmer retirement plans. But, then, Grassley has his congressional retirement to fall back on.
• For corn farmers, a John D. Rockefeller “clone” who could do for the ethanol industry what the tycoon did at the end of the 19th century, creating a distribution system for oil that ushered in the modern transportation age.
• And for House and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairmen Collin Peterson and Tom Harkin, a round of cheer for giving farmers hope they may yet have a farm bill they can show their lenders in time for the 2008 crops.