Former Secretary of Agriculture speaks on issues of production and food safety, energy

Sarah Passick

Sarah Passick

The future of agriculture and food protection will see fundamental change, said Dan Glickman, former United States Secretary of Agriculture, Nov. 8 at Donor Auditorium.

“A fundamental change of agriculture and food protection is the tie between the farmers and the ranchers and the consumers,” Glickman said.

He said to satisfy these demands, the relationship between the two groups would need to become in sync.

Farmers and ranchers will see more focus on agriculture as it relates to the preservation of land and natural resources, the former secretary said.

“Since the depression, we have focused on soil conservation as part of all our programs. For the most part, commodity agriculture, the programs, have dominated what we do in farm country,” Glickman said.

“We will see more and more focus into protecting our land base from wind and soil erosion, while providing wildlife management and reduction use in pesticides and herbicides and insecticides.”

Issues like farmland protection, protecting farmland from urban sprawl and wildlife protection will become much more dominate issues, Glickman said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised in years to come if you see most of the programs focus on providing those kinds of resources,” Glickman said.

“Agrowmedicine,” a term Glickman coined during his speech, is finding value beyond the rough crop production and its great economic value of great significance to farmers and ranchers.

The United States still imports over 50 percent of its crude oil, Glickman said. Americans use 25 percent of the petroleum for gasoline in the world in this country.

“Clearly energy is one of the great promises of agriculture production,” he said.

In a conversation with former president Bill Clinton, Clinton predicted that in 10 to 15 years, farmers and ranchers in this country will be a major factor in United States energy production, Glickman said.

“I wish that all farmers and ranchers could make a living of growing crops and raising animals and do nothing else, but some will not be able to do that without extra sources of income,” he said.

“That’s why we also have to focus on, in addition to farm programs, our rural development, water and sewer grants, highways, telecommunications, health care, transportation [and] education.”

“We do need to export about one out of every three acres of production in this country otherwise we have no place to put it,” the former secretary said.

“I think we need to provide reasonable protection for our own producers and growers.”

Public confidence in the safety of the food system is the key to the entire health of American agriculture, Glickman said.

“If people do not believe their food is safe they will not buy it, they care about this as much as anything else in the world,” he said.

Many fresh fruit and vegetables along with seafood are not inspected when they come into the United States, Glickman said.

With the possible threat of bio-terrorism and bio-safety, the government should improve food safety standards, he said.

“We have to have almost perfection when it comes to food safety in America,” he said. “And I gather that the economic health of American agriculture is at stake here and so we need more inspectors and a better organized system.”

Glickman has served almost six years as the nation’s 26th Secretary of Agriculture under the Clinton Administration.

Prior to that position, he spent 18 years in the House of Representatives from Kansas. He represented the United States at the World Food Summit in Rome in 1996, during which he pushed for reducing hunger and improving nutrition in the United States.