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In defense of the Farm Bureau

by LARRY COMBEST Special to the Democrat-Gazette | May 29, 2016 at 2:09 a.m.

Michael Needham's column ("Acknowledging the game is rigged," May 8 in Perspective) was laughable.

Needham attacks the Farm Bureau as a big Washington establishment-lobbying outfit that spends boatloads of money defending U.S. farm policy. Yet nearly every Arkansan knows and respects the work of the Farm Bureau.

What Needham fails to mention is that he runs one of Washington's most powerful lobbying shops, with Charity Navigator reporting Needham's Heritage Action for America raked in over $96 million in 2014 alone.

Needham has become quite the Washington celebrity, having been described as an elite in the making with an insider's pedigree, born in Manhattan to a wealthy Wall Street banking family and educated in the Ivy league.

Having failed to disclose that Needham is apparently up to his eyeballs in the Washington he calls a "corrupt cesspool that exists solely to cater to well-connected special interests," under what moral authority does he attack the good name of the Farm Bureau?

Alongside his hypocrisy, Needham's memory and elite education also fail him.

He says U.S. farm policy is unpopular, but a recent poll says 92 percent of Americans support it, with 81 percent saying agriculture is important to our national security.

Needham expresses shock that farmers would form alliances with other groups, including hunters and fishermen, in order to pass a Farm Bill, but he says nothing of Heritage Action forming an alliance with environmental extremists to defeat the same legislation (Agri-Pulse, Dec. 10, 2012).

Needham says U.S. farm policy costs $100 billion per year, but the official budget scorekeeper says it was actually just 12 percent of that figure in 2015 and 16 percent if you throw in conservation.

Needham complains that agriculture policies under the Farm Bill should have been split off from Food Stamps, but what he does not tell you is that when the House of Representatives honored his request he and Heritage Action opposed the split.

Needham says economists on the political left and right have come to an agreement in their opposition to farm policy, but he forgets to mention that these economists were paid by the left and right to wage a campaign against the Farm Bill.

Needham presents himself and Heritage Action as the vanguard of conservatism, but the legislative fumbling and bumbling that they inspired has prevented Congress from blocking EPA's Waters of the U.S. regulation, perhaps the biggest attack upon private property rights in memory.

At bottom, Needham's entire column is smoke and mirrors.

U.S. farm policy, in one form or another, has been around since this country was founded. This policy responds to natural disasters that destroy crops and livestock and predatory trade practices used by countries like China to steal American jobs and industry.

To this, Needham falls back on his aristocratic laurels with a modern version of "let them eat cake." Writes Heritage Action's sister group, Heritage Foundation: "Many Americans worry that China is stealing jobs from the United States and will surpass America as the world's strongest economy. Heritage expert Derek Scissors explains why this simply isn't the case."

What planet are they on?

Needham reportedly backed a candidate for the GOP nomination who presumably embraces Heritage Action's give-American-jobs-and-industry-away program, which I expect is totally out of step with the views of most Arkansans.

And, based on his column, Needham is evidently not too happy that the political revolution in the countryside that he thought he was helping lead backed another leader instead. For his part, Mr. Trump has made it clear that he does not support Needham's give America away agenda which may be good for Heritage Action's wealthy donors but just as plainly not so good for hardworking Americans.

About the only thing that Needham managed to get right is that "[t]he people are not wrong, and their anger toward the Washington establishment is well-deserved." And perhaps none is more deserving of public anger than Michael Needham.

Larry Combest of Lubbock, Texas, a principal in Combest Sell & Associates, represented West Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives where he served as chairman of the Intelligence and Agriculture Committees and was consistently ranked among the most conservative lawmakers in Congress.

Editorial on 05/29/2016

Print Headline: In defense of the Farm Bureau


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