The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 12, 2013

Now that is a letter

By Alan Guebert, Farm and Food File
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — There are ways to write a letter, and there are ways to write a letter.

One way includes pleasantries, ideas, even artful persuasion. Another features anger, bile and bricks. These differences were on display recently when two members of Congress wrote and sent letters of withering dissent.

One, from Collin Petersen, the ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee, to House Speaker John Boehner, was a two-page kettle of steaming contempt. The other, from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to the editors of the Wall Street Journal, was a tablespoon of honey-coated sarcasm.

Peterson, the 12-term Blue Dog Democrat from western Minnesota, sent his Jan. 3 letter to Boehner while still smarting from two weeks of shady, “fiscal cliff” maneuvering that left the nation without a 2012 farm bill.

Three years before, Peterson noted, Boehner had offered “noble words” on how he would operate the House of Representatives.

Those words “turned into empty promises,” because “the Republican Leadership was nothing but a stumbling block” for Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., to get the bipartisan farm bill to the House floor.

Worse, Peterson wrote, when the “fiscal cliff” bill was being negotiated, the same leaders “drafted alternatives in the Speaker’s and Majority Leader’s offices, bypassing both the Chairman (Lucas) and members of the Agriculture Committee and making a mockery of regular order,” the usual method to move legislation through the House.

And, warned Peterson, don’t dare explain that move by saying “the votes were not there to pass the bill” because “(t)hat is patently false.” He finished with a three-point flourish. First, he asked House Bosses for “a written commitment” to bring any new farm bill to the floor if the Ag Committee delivers one.

Second, House leaders need not worry about “finding the votes” to pass a farm bill; that “would fall” to Lucas, Boehner’s GOP colleague, him and committee members.

But, and third, Peterson concluded, “I see no reason why the House Agriculture Committee should undertake the fool’s errand to craft another long-term bill if the Republican Leadership refuses to give any assurances that our bipartisan work will be considered.”

Most House Ag Committee members, Repubs and Dems, agree with Peterson’s assessment of Boehner’s role in the 2012 farm bill belly flop. None of his ag colleagues, however, chose to join him in his pasting of the speaker.

Sanders’ note to the Journal — that objected to the paper’s endless opposition to wind subsidies — was a masterpiece of complaint: clever, direct, deadly.

The just re-elected independent from Vermont opened by admitting he had “been trying to figure out what principle underlies (the paper’s) opposition to encouraging the development of clean, renewable energy…

“Are you really worried about budget deficits?” he asked, quoting the editorial’s words to the editorialists.

Gee, why then “While railing again modest incentives for wind energy, you say nothing of the more than $113 billion in federal subsidies that will go to fossil-fuel industries over the next 10 years”?

It’s not like Big Oil needs the help, he needles. After all, oil’s five biggest firms “made a combined profit of $1 trillion over the last decade.”

Which letter will have greater impact? Neither — if you don’t follow-up with one or two of your own.


© 2013 ag com