Jan 26, 2011
11:13 AMThe Wind Machine
State of the Union
● President Obama’s State of the Union Address, beyond the general issues of taxes, the budget, medical reform, education, foreign policy, etc., touched on some points I found of special interest to our work at the Northwest Horticultural Council. The president supports (1) a renewed effort at comprehensive immigration reform (my evaluation of chance for success this year: improbable); (2) passage of the Free Trade Agreement with Korea (probable); and (3) agency reform and consolidation (less than probable).
● In terms of federal agency reform, President Obama used the example of salmon. If in salt water, recovery is overseen by NOAA, an agency of the Department of Commerce. If in fresh water, recovery is overseen by NMFS, an agency of the Department of Interior. Currently the Minor Crop Farmer Alliance is working with NOAA, NMFS and the Environmental Protection Agency on how policy might be coordinated when it comes to agricultural chemicals and salmon recovery under the Endangered Species Act. Another area of likely agency reform is food safety, where jurisdiction is still split between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Food and Drug Administration.
● The declining importance of agriculture, in terms of national policy, was evidenced in the lack of mention of this sector in the President’s speech.
● I have attended one State of the Union speech, that of President Reagan on January 25, 1984. My ticket to the House of Representatives’ chamber was given to me by Tom Hale, then the president of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League, when we were in town for work on immigration issues. He had obtained two of the hard-to-get tickets from his local congressman, Tony Coelho, who soon afterwards served as House Majority Whip. While I cannot recall the words spoken by President Reagan that night, I vividly remember the tight security, small sitting area for visitors overlooking the chamber’s floor, and the overwhelming sense of concentrated political power; all the legislators, the president and vice-president, members of the Cabinet, justices of the Supreme Court, joint chiefs of staff, and ambassadors from other lands. All in one room, just below me.
POLITICAL FRUIT: “On the morning of Dec. 17, when other vendors say [municipal inspector] Ms. Hamdy tried to confiscate Mr. Bouazizi’s fruit, and then slapped him in the face for trying to yank back his apples, he became the hero—now the martyred hero—and she became the villain in a remarkable swirl of events in which Tunisians have risen up to topple a 23-year dictatorship and march on, demanding radical change in their government.” —The New York Times, January 22, 2011.