A college friend once noted that everyone is missing one word from their personal vocabulary. “My missing word is modesty,” he pronounced.
True, Charlie was about as modest as an 8-carat diamond. “Yours,” he said pointing downhill to me, “is height.”
True again, his 6-foot and 5 inches of sarcasm hit its 5-foot-6-inch mark dead center.
Missing word. Charlie’s missing word rule came to mind when reading about, then listening online to, the speeches of the two featured speakers Jan. 8 at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s convention in Salt Lake City.
First up was Collin Peterson, newly-installed chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. On his heels followed Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns.
While neither brought electricity to the podium (think Lutheran sermons), the words missing in each of their Washington, D.C. vocabularies came through loud-and-clear in starkly contrasting talks.
Doha. For Peterson, the missing word is “Doha,” as in the World Trade Organization’s barely-breathing global trade talks. The Doha Round of WTO talks, Peterson emphatically announced to the strongest free trade-supporting farm group in America, is “dead, and I don’t see how (we) are going to resurrect it.”
It was and will be the final “amen” to any prayer that Doha will drive 2007 Farm Bill discussions. The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) got the message.
The next day, convention delegates “removed from AFBF policy the requirement that the current farm bill be extended until a new World Trade Organization agreement is reached,” the group’s Web site reported.
It was an obvious concession to an obvious reality. If there is any movement on the trade front in the now Democratically-controlled Congress it will be to inject labor and environmental standards – pure poison to Republican trade backers – into future WTO negotiations.
If the secretary was listening to Peterson’s speech, he didn’t let on when he later took center stage.
Trade. The first words uttered by Johanns dealt with, you guessed it, trade. So did almost every other reference – from biofuels to budgeting to Brazil to beef to even his youth on an Iowa dairy farm – in his 33-minute address.
Trade is Johanns’ story and he stuck to it. To further drive home his points, Johanns put faces on them.
There was Doug, Arnold, Luke and, yawn, Barry, Devon, Marion, Wendy, Jeremy and Cliff, “folks we heard at the Farm Bill Forums,” the year-long farm policy talkfest orchestrated by Johanns in “48 states
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