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Time for Harkin and Democrats to walk the talk on opposing Dorr appointment

By Al Krebs
Agribusiness Examiner

(Aug. 9, 2002 -- CropChoice guest commentary) -- It is time for Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Sen Tom Harkin (Dem.-Iowa) and his fellow Democrats on that committee to walk the talk.

When Harkin's committee sent Bush nominee Tom Dorr's name to be USDA Undersecretary for Rural Development out of committee to the full Senate with "no recommendation" Harkin and his Democrat Party colleagues warned administration officials against giving Dorr a temporary appointment to the USDA job, an action that presidents sometimes take during congressional recesses to bypass the Senate confirmation process.

Were that to happen during this month's recess, Harkin said, he would reopen his committee's investigation of Dorr's finances and issue subpoenas to the USDA for records that Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman refused earlier to turn over to the panel.

Now that the Bush administration, in disregarding the Senate's power to "advise and consent," has indeed appointed the unqualified Dorr to the USDA post it is time for Harkin to keep his word and in effect hang Dorr out to dry.

At the same time, however, it is also time for those who care about the future of family farm agriculture and rural America to hold Harkin and his Democrat committee members feet to the fire. The fight against Dorr's nomination is a defining moment in the struggle to maintain the culture in agriculture for it is not just opposing one man's job appointment, but it is a battle against agribusiness commodity group leaders' stubborn support for Dorr who has heaped nothing but contempt on the public's heartfelt and scientific concern for the future of family farm agriculture and rural America.

As Iowa farmer George Naylor rightfully points out: "It was clear to all, even the Republican members of the Committee, that the Tom Dorr the public came to know would have no chance to be confirmed by the Senate. His anti-family farm vision of rural America including his admiration of corporate hog production in North Carolina, his disparaging remarks about ethnic and religious diversity, and, last but not least, the official record of his cheating taxpayers by fraudulently avoiding farm program payment limitations surely would make no one proud of his appointment."

Clearly, if Harkin and the Democrat Party members of his committee do not follow up on their promise for a thorough and complete investigation and exposure of Tom Dorr they, like Dorr, will have become part of the problem rather than part of the solution, a fact that family farmers from their respective states should not let go unnoticed in the coming Senate elections.