Political Appointments – Do they really matter?

I would say yes. Now of course many of you are going to say that since I was one, that I think who is appointed matters, but I hope to convince you that yes, who gets appointed matters.

I have seen good ones and I have seen really bad ones.  Two very recent ones by the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack caught my eye.

The first serves as a “Senior Advisor” to the Secretary in the areas of nutrition, specialty crops, food safety, livestock markets, and animal health.  Prior to joining USDA this person advised Nancy Pelosi from San Francisco on agriculture, veteran affairs, small business, and government oversight.  This individual used to be a democratic staffer and worked with the agricultural committee.  Education was from University of California, San Diego and a law degree from George Washington School of Law.  Yes this one is a lawyer.

The second is a Deputy Assistant.  Part of the resume includes “serving in a wide range of community organizing roles”.  Born in East L.A. and with an Associates Degree in Arts and a Political Science Degree University of California, San Diego.  I guess San Diego has a bunch of commercial production farms and ranches located in it.

Now I did not name these people.  They are probably really nice folks and are probably very good at politics.  I just wonder how much they really know about commercial production agriculture???  I also give them credit for being able to land a very good gig when they can get it.  I do question what are they really doing in the department of agriculture.  Remember Vilsack’s wife ran for Congress from Iowa last election cycle and I am sure she owes some favors to MS. Pelosi that need to be “paid back”.

And, I am not going to let the Republicans off the hook.  There were a couple of people who ended up in agriculture when I was there that I wondered how in the world that happened?  I do believe that there is more interaction between “career government workers” and the democrats since the types of people that want to make a career of government service tend to lean to the democratic side.

I also understand that after being appointed the first time the learning curve on how to “play the Game” is very steep.  That said it took me some time to get my feet under me and going.  Rookie mistakes were also made by many first timers including myself.  I am confident I could do a much better job and be much more effective from the start if I ever go back and do an appointed job again.  When I started I am sure the “smart” money was on me not lasting very long.  I had some good advice from not only republicans, but some good democrats and was able to navigate a very tricky course.

Back to appointments.  I just really like to see people who have had recent real world experience in commercial production agriculture.  There are many who think they understand farming and ranching but they just do not really have a clue.

Farmers and Ranchers just at times understand each other like many other professions do.  I know that I could talk to a farmer when the “careers” could not.  I also knew how farmers would react to policies and how to massage them into excepting the changes.  I also think we farmers and ranchers know when we will run to the politicians and commodity groups to change things.  In the end you just have to have been there and done that to understand it.  Not that someone without an agricultural degree can do it, it is just what other real life experiences give them the experience to understand what is really going on.

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