The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

Dan Glickman: Former Agriculture secretary urges less defensive, more inclusive approach to policy


Former Agriculture Secretary


Farmers and other agricultural leaders will have to get used to consumers, doctors and other activists becoming involved in agricultural policy, former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said in an interview with The Hagstrom Report.

Noting that agriculture affects our health, the national economy and the lives of people in other countries, Glickman said, “You’re going to end up seeing more and more people in the non‑ag world having an interest in all this stuff. . . . You can't be just in the defensive mode.”

Glickman, who represented the Wichita, Kans., area in the U.S. House of Representatives for 18 years before serving in the Clinton administration as Agriculture secretary from 1995 to 2001, left the agriculture field to become president of the Motion Picture Association of America from 2004 to 2010.

Now he has returned to agriculture and holds leadership positions in several organizations. Glickman’s main focus is global food security and agricultural research, but he also said in the interview that the United States needs prosperous farmers to assure an adequate food supply, that there will need to be a continuing role for government in agriculture and defended the U.S. ethanol industry.

Following are edited excerpts from the interview.

HAGSTROM: For several years when you were at the Motion Picture Association of America, you were outside agriculture. And you decided to come back into it.

GLICKMAN: Actually, I was always interested. I remained on the FRAC [the Food Research Action Center] board throughout the MPAA period, then [joined] the Friends of the World Food Program board and the board of the 4 H Council.

I got involved with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs when I was at MPAA. That was largely because of a call from [former U.N. World Food Program Executive Director] Catherine Bertini, who wanted [me] to join her as a co chair of the Chicago Council [agriculture] effort.

To a large extent, she’s responsible for getting me back into the game. That became a very intensive, high profile effort to feature global food security issues. The timing was perfect. It started in the Bush administration.

She said it would take very little of my time, and it ended up taking enormous amounts of time by her and then with the efforts of the Chicago Council, and [the Bill & Melissa] Gates Foundation funding, became a very intensive effort which resulted in our first report about a year and a half ago and our last report.

The impact that we had on the U.S. Agency for International Development “Feed the Future” initiative and the impact on the [Obama] administration, all those things facilitated me back into this picture. With that, I began to kind of essentially re-engage in the world of food and agriculture.

HAGSTROM: What do you consider to be the main point of the Chicago Council global agriculture development initiative?

GLICKMAN: To highlight the immense importance of global food security, which we did probably more significantly than anybody else had done in recent years, to focus on the efforts of the U.S. government in this area, and to try to reinforce the role that USAID has in food assistance and global food security. There was some continuity because Catherine had worked with [USAID Administrator] Raj[iv] Shah when he was at the Gates Foundation. Raj was very involved in these issues there. When he came to USAID, there were obviously great relationships between Catherine and the Chicago Council as well, because they had gotten resources from Gates.

I can’t tell you that the Chicago Council effort was the sole reason for “Feed the Future.” A lot of that was internally guided. Our report was a call to action on the part of the U.S. government to take these issues more seriously.

Then about a year ago, the Meridian [Institute] people came to me, and they talked about this multi-foundation effort [called AGree] to look at long-term issues of food and agriculture, domestic and international, but probably focusing more at least initially on the domestic side of the picture, and not so much on the current farm bill but longer term agriculture from structure of agriculture to rural development issues to research. I agreed to become a co-chair of that effort, which was a multi-year effort. You have every major foundation in the United States involved in that effort.

I expect that to take a lot of my time over the next couple, three years. We’re not staff people, but the chairs are engaged and expect to be involved in working on these issues.

Then the whole issue of diet got me involved. Lynn Parker, who works at the National Academies, asked me to chair this effort in the Institutes of Medicine on accelerating progress in obesity prevention. That’s one that I’m not as intimately involved with, because it’s largely a scientific report. I was kind of put on there as a way to make sure that the here and now of the real world didn’t totally escape that effort.

They are all very smart people, but as you look at a lot of issues, a lot of them have not been involved in the political arena.

HAGSTROM: When you left MPAA you had this very short tenure at Refugees International.

GLICKMAN: Refugees International is a very good organization, just the wrong move for me. One of the reasons I left is because I realized that if I wanted to be in this non-profit world, I might as well do what I really liked and knew, which was agriculture, as opposed to a world that I didn’t know as much about.

I went to the Bipartisan Policy Center, this effort that [former Senate Majority Leaders Robert] Dole, [R-Kansas] and [Tom] Daschle, [D-S.D.] and [George] Mitchell [D-Maine] and [Howard] Baker [R-Tenn.] started to promote bipartisanship.

When I came on board, I suggested that we do an initiative on nutrition and physical activity. We have formed that with three other Cabinet members: me, Donna Shalala [the Health and Human Services secretary in the Clinton administration], Mike Leavitt [Health and Human Services secretary in the George W. Bush administration], and Ann Veneman, [the Agriculture secretary in the George W. Bush administration].

The goal is sometime next year to prepare a report that touches on nutrition and physical activity, what we can do in the private sector, the public sector, and non profit sector [in] practical suggestions to move these issues along. We can recommend things the government can’t recommend, because we’re not inhibited by anything else.

HAGSTROM: You’ve just joined the board of Oxfam America. They have often been vigorously opposed to the U.S. farm program.

GLICKMAN: A lot of the work they are doing is in general development. They are an NGO [non-governmental organization]. Their views are not always consistent with the status quo.

Remember the old adage — the old turtle never makes progress unless he sticks his neck out.

With this complement of things, I’ve managed to keep myself engaged in these issues. I’m not as involved in what’s going in the next farm bill, however, because I don’t represent anybody in that world.

HAGSTROM: Many farmers are frustrated with the way that agriculture is portrayed in documentaries such as “Food, Inc.” Coming from MPAA, do you have any advice for them on how to handle that?

GLICKMAN: This comes from the creative side. I was on the business side.

Documentaries are considered a separate part of the film industry. Most of the people who are writing these documentaries have a clear view, it is not fair and balanced. The most you can try to do is to get your point of view across and hopefully they will listen. Most people doing documentaries have an investigative journalism perspective. These guys are pretty open. They may not have a frame of reference.

I saw one last night called “Lunch Line.” I thought that was pretty fair. “Food Inc.” and “Fast Food Nation” — these are pieces of advocacy.

HAGSTROM: You’re not doing any lobbying or law work?

GLICKMAN: I am not a registered lobbyist. I’m not affiliated with a law firm. I still am on the board of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. I’ve been on [that board] for many years now, but no lobbying work.

HAGSTROM: Are each of these projects individual, or at this point in your career, do you feel you have a kind of underlying philosophy that governs your activities?

GLICKMAN: I’m not terribly ideological about these things and tend to be fairly pragmatic and practical, but the more I get into the arena after I’ve left public service, I’ve realized that we rarely look at long term issues when it comes to agriculture. The debates always tend to be on what payments are going to be made, what payments are not going to be made, how we allocate existing resources, and how we protect in a sense the people who are getting the existing resources so they don’t suffer as much.

I used to fight those battles when I was in the House all the time, but now I look at them and say to myself I think I can add more value in the longer term picture — what do we need to do to maintain food production in the future and provide a healthy diet for people? I’ve kind of changed my perspective from should we keep direct payments or should we not keep direct payments to more of a picture as we have limited resources, how are we going to protect agriculture in the next 20 or 50 years as opposed to tomorrow.

I think [it was] John Maynard Keynes who once said, “The only difference between the short term and the long term is in the long term, we’re all dead.”

I recognize that the folks up on the Hill are working on short-term problems because a lot of folks are hurting or they have factored these dollars into their income or their land values. It does appear to me that we are entering a world where traditional government supports for farmers are diminishing, but at the same time, agriculture still needs resources for a couple of things primarily.

One is how can we develop a risk management system that makes sense and helps people when they need it — when they suffer, largely because of natural factors or maybe political decisions sometimes, but really more in terms of how they deal with drought, floods, climate, and pests, insects, pests, disease.

The second thing is how we can re-energize our public research dollars. In real terms, our public research dollars have been diminishing over the last decade or two.

Long-term trends affecting how we deal with disease and drought, climate, increasing yields to feed the world — all these things, less and less is being done in the public sector. Much of what’s being done is either being done by the private sector or directed by the private sector, and a lot of that research doesn’t impact these longer term problems.

It’s directed towards, let’s say, an initiative that somebody may have with respect to a certain seed variety or somebody may have with respect to proprietary interest they have, which is fine. I have no problem with that. I just think that public dollars ought to be spent largely to deal with the public needs over the long term, which is how we feed a hungry world in a much more complicated environment.

I say “environment” in both senses of the word, environment generally and climactic environment. My focus has become more longer-term than it clearly was when I was in the House.

Traditionally food and agriculture policy has been almost entirely production oriented, how you deal with producers. More and more, it’s becoming consumer oriented. It’s how are we going to feed a world, a hungry world, but also a world where diet patterns are changing, people’s eating habits are changing, and the relationship between food and health is becoming a much more profound issue than it ever was before.

That was never really part of the debate on agriculture. We do talk a bit in terms of feeding hungry people in our incoming programs, but rarely is it talked about in the concept of food, health, diet, longevity, disease. That’s an issue that also intrigues me a lot.

I’ll give you one example. [We have] our farm subsidy programs. Then we have our dietary guidelines, but I don’t think they’ve ever met each other before. The food we produce seems to have very little to do with what the government and health people are telling us to consume. Should that be the way it is? Should there be more of a tie between the two things? I don’t know the answer to that question, but clearly, our policies have been separated. .

Those are issues that the AGree initiative are going to take up.

You will need to have economically healthy producers, no matter what kind of system of food consumption there is, but it’s clear that the public is changing its diet. How that is going to impact production of agriculture is something that we don’t know yet.

It’s going to mean more than just produce more fruits and vegetables. That gives you a little bit at least of some of the longer term.

Napoleon said, “War is too important to be left to the generals.” Food and agriculture policy is too important to be left only to people in the production agriculture world. Obviously, it’s a big part of the equation, but it relates to our national health, individual health, balance of payments. It relates to our national economy. It relates to our trade policy and everything else.

You’re going to end up seeing more and more people in the non-ag world having an interest in all this stuff. That makes some folks in production agriculture very nervous. What are those people doing to us? But everybody has got to enter the debate. You can’t be just in the defensive mode.

When I was in the House, even I was sometimes guilty of this rhetoric: “Why don’t they know how important we are? Why don’t they know what we do?” Well, everybody kind of feels like that.

People have a lot more choices than they used to have. That’s the great thing about the world of food — if you don’t like this, you eat this. You might want organic, you might want natural, or you might want a much more balanced diet, which is all these things.

Agriculture has to be adaptable to deal with the marketplace where there are a million different ideas about what people want to eat. They have to meet those demands. It’s happening. You see that out there now. That’s a big change.

It’s probably going to change the structure of agriculture. It’s probably ultimately going to change what we produce and how we produce it. People are going to be more diversified either with what they produce or [because they are] more intimately involved with processing and marketing than they used to be as opposed to a monoculture agriculture that did one thing and that was it.

Agriculture is a modern business, and it’s still kind of glamorous. It’s all part of the American way of life. But it’s a business, and that’s the way it is.

HAGSTROM: Like most of America these days, agriculture is divided. I’ve never seen such bitter fights as there are today between the local organic producers and the conventional producers and the advocates for biotechnology. What do you make of these battles and this atmosphere?

GLICKMAN: One of the reasons that AGree was created is to try to see what we can do to bridge these gaps. I don’t want to prejudge that, because I think some of these battles are being fought on very aged and historic terms — it’s kind of my way or the highway, there’s only one way of doing business, and there isn’t. Jim Moseley [the Agriculture deputy secretary in the George W. Bush administration] [has] one son who is an organic farmer, and one son who is a commercial farmer.

My view is that the marketplace is changing, and therefore, it’s not worth having these battles about whether you’re for organic or against organic, for GMOs, against GMOs, or for traditional agriculture or non-traditional agriculture.

The battles ought to be based on having a good research infrastructure, good science, effective but fair regulation, and then realizing that the world is now a great consumer choice. No longer will the farmer be able to produce and just assume the consumer will buy it.

The consumer has a lot of options, and in any world, any manufacturing world, you have to meet the demands of the consumer. That’s what didn’t happen with General Motors and Ford in the 1970s and ‘80s, and they did go bankrupt.

The nice thing about us is that we lead the way in terms of crop development and in terms of new innovative technologies, so I think we can do that. But the defensiveness that I see by some in traditional production agriculture — not everybody, because a lot of the younger folks are really with it, they get it — but by some, it’s counterproductive.

It also misses the point. The point is it’s a world now where it’s much more complicated, and consumers have a lot more choices, and the challenges a lot greater than they used to be.

The other side of the coin is that we’ve probably never seen agriculture poised for such economic strength and for such dynamism. These are good times, not bad times. The glass is really half fully and not half empty.

HAGSTROM: To go back to the point you were making earlier that producers still need a safety net, while you were secretary, the idea of direct payments in the United States and the single payment scheme in Europe were very popular, particularly among trade advocates, because they said these programs don't interfere with markets.. Now this idea is becoming questioned, because farmers are getting money when they don’t need government assistance. Was this a bad approach? What do you think will happen with these systems in the future?

GLICKMAN: It was an evolutionary approach. We were in a system where the payments so interfered with the marketplace, that probably we had no choice to get away from that, both us and the Europeans.

The other side of the coin is that it defies the laws of nature for people to believe that folks ought to be getting money when they don’t need it. As they say, “That dog don’t hunt.” It doesn’t make sense. It’s not right with limited resources.

Always overhanging agriculture is that the sky can fall tomorrow, and sometimes it does.

As fast as prices go up, they can also go down. In the long term, we’re in a much more bullish world, even though we still could be in a period of great variability.

We’ve been exploring forever how you provide, especially during better times but recognizing volatility and climate and drought and all these things are still going to happen — how you provide sensible risk management protection without giving people something when they don’t need it and without materially interfering in the marketplace.

You are probably always going to interfere in the marketplace a little bit because if [farmers] gets insurance, they’re more likely to grow more stuff because they get insurance [just like] they’ll build more houses, they’ll buy more cars. That’s just the way of the world. Insurance is there to boost the economy, to provide stability.

So the question is how you do it, and the government will always have to pay a piece of that, just by the very nature of it, because the risks are so great. This is not like buying a house and buying homeowners insurance or flood insurance, because that never happens, except once in a blue moon. Here, it happens all the time, so you’ve got to be able to factor that in.

Great minds, whether it’s in the agriculture industry or the non agriculture industry, have to work together to come up with that kind of system and take these dollars. I don’t advocate taking all the dollars out of agriculture. I just think they need to be redirected into a system that is much more economically viable for producers and that the public will support.

The other big component is research, having an adequate research budget that deals with the long-term trends of agriculture. You obviously have other issues in this world of rural development and a myriad of other things, conservation initiatives, but if the fights always are on how much the payments will be, then it will be very hard for us to look long term at some of the issues that we’re going to find in terms of feeding the world.

Let me give you one example, which is not a big secret. We use about 75 percent of the water in this world to irrigate crops. The urban population is growing significantly, particularly in Asia, so there’s going to be more and more demands from city dwellers to use water. They’re going to be less interested in giving all that water to grow crops. Then, of course, in many places, we’re running out of water; in many places, we have too much water. This is a problem that not only affects Sub Saharan Africa. This is a big problem in the United States.

HAGSTROM: California.

GLICKMAN: Western Kansas, the whole High Plains area. We don’t have these reservoirs, giant reservoirs of underground water anymore.

What does this mean? I don’t know. One thing it means is that we need dramatically increased research efforts on crops that use less water. It means looking at brackish or saline water and finding ways to convert [it] that much better. It means growing crops that use less water, better irrigation techniques.

It may also mean looking at where the water is going today. Water is going, in many respects, to irrigate corn in the United States. Why? To feed the livestock industry. Now, livestock is half of the proceeds in American agriculture, so I certainly don’t advocate anything there, but what I’m saying is that we got to find ways to use less water to irrigate crops to feed livestock.

HAGSTROM: Since you brought up the corn going to livestock, what is your view on ethanol?

GLICKMAN: I get kind of irritated at people who take on ethanol as the pariah. In the 1970s, I was around. We had $1.60 corn, maybe less. We had surpluses as far as the eye could see, and we had oil embargoes. Ethanol was, and frankly still is, the only realistic alternative to put in our vehicles. I don’t slam the industry.

Given the fiscal situation where we are, we probably can’t afford the size of the credits that we have heretofore given. Nor do we probably need them, but we still need a robust ethanol industry. Again, as of today, it’s the only realistic alternative to put into our cars, and we are a car-driven society. And as much as we’d like to say we don’t want to be, it’s going to be long after I’m gone before that changes.

HAGSTROM: What do you make of the current fiscal situation and what impact it’s going to have both on agriculture and on international development on projects like “Feed the Future?”

GLICKMAN: The country is going to be going through a fiscal diet over the next decade, regardless of who’s president, who’s in Congress. The trick is how you prioritize your resources to spend what you’ve got more efficiently and effectively. Agriculture will probably not get the same amount of money that it did 5 years ago, nor should it given the fact the market prices are higher.

So the trick is will we try to protect the status quo or will we try to drive towards a more transformational view of agriculture and farming in terms of the government’s role? In the short term, we’re probably going to try to protect traditional production agriculture. The question is in the longer term, will we be able to kind of shake loose of that a little bit and look at some of these issues like water, conservation, research, diet, health, which are viewed as kind of side issues right now.

I’ve been really surprised at the fact that the research budgets have overall been rather listless; that they’re not muscular. They don’t tend to grow. There’s no great political pressure for some of these more cosmic problems.

If there were a massive drought in this country that covered 10 states for two years, maybe there would be. We tend to respond to crises when they happen. We haven’t had any kind of national crises. In fact, the last couple of years have been pretty good overall, except for pockets of drought or climate problems.

We just have to be smart about this and not just maintain the status quo. I think members of Congress get this. I think constituents get it. I don’t know what you found when you were out in Kansas [for the Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on the farm bill in August].

HAGSTROM: The people who show up at these events don’t know what they want. The prices are high, and on some level, the farm bill is just not a priority, something they’re thinking about.

On a political level, [House Agriculture Committee ranking member] Collin Peterson [D-Minn.] says that when times are tough, farmers worry about the farm program, and they vote Democratic, and when times are good, they worry about environmental regulation, and they vote Republican.

GLICKMAN: I spoke at Land O’Lakes much earlier this year. They’re a very progressive company. I gave this powerful speech about world hunger and the gap between production and consumption and what was happening in Sub Saharan Africa.

The first questions were “what are we going to do about the EPA?”

I don’t know whether the EPA is overreaching or not. I haven’t really gauged that discussion. I know that [Agriculture Secretary] Tom Vilsack is a very reasonable guy. I know he’s been working on these problems for a while. I also know that sometimes it’s easy to hit a problem with a sledgehammer as opposed to a scalpel, but what struck me as interesting — and I’ve talked about this with the head of Land O’Lakes — is that a lot of these producers are doing as well as they’ve ever had done, given market prices.

Yet this festering problem about what do we do with the EPA, now, whether that’s because politicians incite the problem or lobbyists incite the problem or whether it’s legitimate, I’m just not sure yet. I suspect there’s some overreaching by the regulatory agencies, and I suspect the political world is overreaching as well, so you’ve got both things happening.

There’s great distrust in rural America and among farmers about the role of the federal government generally.

Ironically, the farmer has been showered by tens of billions of dollars, maybe hundreds of billions of dollars.

On the one hand, I understand the frustration, particularly if the rules don’t make sense, which they may not at times.

On the other hand, it’s pretty hard to take all that money just without any strings whatsoever. My father used to give me money and used to have expectations about me, and he said, “If you don’t want the expectations, don’t take the money.”

I do think that as we’re in a longer-term period of stronger farm prices, higher demand in the world, greater improvements of income, it gives farmers a great chance to get weaned off this system of payments so that they don’t have to face this dilemma that they can’t stand, which is take the money but what rules go with the money. You’ll never get rid of that totally, because you’re always going to have some government involvement in agriculture. The test is can you make the rules that are there as reasonable and sensible as you possibly can.

When I was secretary — and nothing is ever perfect — I used to sit down with our Farm Service Agency people, [Natural Resources Conservation Service] people, and we would get complaints about how the [Conservation Reserve Program] was being run. I had a pretty good instinct about what worked and what didn’t.

If I heard a message 50 times in different parts of the country, I would pretty much say to my staff, “We got to fix this problem. This doesn’t make any sense. There’s too much of this going on.” It is incumbent upon policy makers to listen. You’ve got to do that.

Sometimes the rules don’t make any sense, and so the trick is to figure out how you can protect the public interest and at the same time not do stupid and foolish things from a regulatory perspective.

That’s been true since the beginning of time. That’s what our political system is supposed to be able to work out. That’s why, in some sense, the farm programs are unique because we have this decentralized group of people around the country that run the farm programs.

They don’t really have that if you think about it in any other area. One genius of our programs is that you have a committee-manned system, you have state directors, county committees, state committees. Probably it was a bureaucracy that was bigger than what we needed, but at the same time, it did keep the policy makers grounded, and we never want to get away from that. That’s really important.

But a little bit of the status quo has gotten even into that system as well. One of the reasons that it’s so hard to change our programs is because there’s this infrastructure built in. A lot of folks really don’t want to see it change, because it means a much leaner and meaner system of management.

HAGSTROM: They want to maintain the local county offices, even in places where the counties are very small.

GLICKMAN: I remember Elk County, Kansas, I used to drive through. [It] didn’t have very many people in it. When we tried to close it, I learned some of those political lessons.

But it’s an interesting part of governance as it affects agriculture that, by and large, that needs to be maintained.

I am enamored, based on my experience at USDA, fundamentally with the structural organization of how we run our programs. I think that there’s a great amount of decentralization there, and I think it works very well. But substantively, the programs have to reflect the economic realities of our time.

HAGSTROM: Preserving crop insurance is the top goal these days, but one problem with crop insurance is that as the crops become more valuable, both in terms of quantity of production and in price, the cost of crop insurance goes up, compared with the counter-cyclical programs where the cost of the program goes down. Do you have any concerns about crop insurance becoming too expensive a government activity?

GLICKMAN: If you are going to have a payment program, it needs to be counter-cyclical and not direct payments, even though that has some issues with respect to trade and tying it to production.

As a general matter of economics, the more expensive a product is, the more expensive the insurance is, because the replacement rate is higher, so you pay more coverage for it.

The question is, can you come up with a formula? That’s why the government is always going to need to be in this game to some degree, with some subsidization of the premium or the risk management system itself.

My only answer is that middle-income producers need to have the wherewithal to buy the program, to buy the insurance product. It probably will mean some federal subsidization of that product for certain income or certain size groups.

Obviously, it depends on the level of insurance and the level of payment and all those other kind of things.

Generally, the large general insurance companies have stayed out of the crop insurance business because it’s much riskier. This is a high-risk business.

I wish I had better answers in terms of how you actuarially set this up, because the devil is in the details in this one.

The best antidote is an effective, sound, long-term public research budget. You’ve got to be doing work on what kind of crops grow in hot weather, how do you grow soybeans when it’s very hot.

Our government needs to be looking at growing crops and looking out at the climate models in the future, and same thing with animals, too. What kind of animals survive better in periods of long water shortages?

I would be thinking about how to increase fruit and vegetable production in dryland agriculture more than we have been doing, how do you reduce the need for irrigation.

HAGSTROM: Agriculture Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics Catherine Woteki told me recently that the big increase in agricultural research is in China.

GLICKMAN: Yes, but look at the Chinese. They have about a 1.3 billion people, a vast movement into the middle class, diets changing rather rapidly. They just bought a large quantity of U.S. soybeans and corn. They hadn’t been in the corn market before to speak of.

This is a high urgency for them, because if they don’t solve it, they could have a revolution on their hands. I don’t think that’s going to happen here. What would happen here, it will impact prices very significantly.

HAGSTROM: When you were at MPAA, you said that you weren’t involved in partisan politics. What’s your situation now in terms of politics?

GLICKMAN: I was involved in bipartisan politics; that is, I had to raise [money for] both sides of the political aisle.

I’m not saying that politics is an extraterritorial profession for me, because I’m still a Democrat, but I’m at two places now where partisan politics is basically not part of the vocabulary of what I do.

The Aspen Institute congressional program — I do my best to get more Republicans to participate in our activities. The Bipartisan Policy Center which is by its very nature bipartisan.

I’m not actively involved in any partisan work whatsoever. I have been known to make a couple of campaign contributions but very rarely anymore. That was too much a part of my life. When I was at the MPAA, I gave thousands of dollars to both Republican and Democratic candidates. Those days are gone.

The truth is, going back to agriculture, historically agriculture has been one of the areas where the differences are not partisan. They’re not ideological. They’re regional. They’re personal sometimes, crop versus crop type of thing. Being back in this field is really an area where I’m not looking for excessively partisan solutions, so to speak.

HAGSTROM: How do you think the Obama administration is doing in all of these areas that you’re interested in now, in agriculture and international food aid?

GLICKMAN: The issues of international food development assistance, global food security, I think they’ve done very well. I think they’ve been good leaders in creating the “Feed the Future” initiative, participating in other global food security programs.

They have been supportive of adequate funds for food aid. I think AID has great leadership now. I think Secretary Vilsack has done a very good job, and I’ve done my best to stay out of his hair and tried to be as constructive as I can with him.

Listen, we’ve had very good economic times in rural America. I don’t think that they get the benefit that a Republican administration would have gotten given the same economic times we’re in.

HAGSTROM: Because of the basic Republican inclination?

GLICKMAN: Maybe. Maybe it has to do with the distrust of government generally, which has gotten far worse in the last few years.

I’ll tell you an interesting thing. Catherine Bertini and I went to Tanzania.

We met a group of people somewhere. They kept extolling the virtues. America is viewed very positively in Sub Saharan Africa. It is one of the few places where we are not a problem. This is an area where there is a real opportunity for us.

One guy came up to me, and he said, “You know, you’ve got three great Americans that we like very much,” and I said, “Who is that?” They said, “George Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.” I said, “Gee, there’s no place in the United States I could get anybody to say that. Why is that?”

[He said], “George Bush because of malaria and AIDS and the Global Fund.

“Bill Clinton because he understands our problems better than anybody in the history of America, and the Clinton Global Initiative and the Clinton Foundation has been working on these issues forever.

“And Barack Obama for two reasons. One is because he’s the first African-American president and second because of global food security, ‘Feed the Future’ initiatives.”

I thought to myself, there is real bipartisanship. It didn’t come from the United States; it came from over there.

It was the recognition of the role and power America has. As we look at all these budget problems that we’ve got, we’ve got to make the right decisions on our priorities.

Even in the area of food security and food assistance and globalization, when there is an economic emergency, they look to us, because largely we’ve led, and other places haven’t led as well, although there’s a lot of good things happening.

If we don’t lead, there is an enormous vacuum of power, and that’s not good for the world or anyplace else. I think we’ve spent a lot of resources in fighting wars that we could probably spend elsewhere more effectively, but that’s my own personal opinion.