* Department of Agriculture Director Bob Flider has been under fire recently by Bruce Rauner because he is not a farmer…
While some farmers admit they like Flider, they question his level of agriculture experience.
“I like the young man who’s ag director, but he has no farm background. If you’re going to have an ag director, have one that knows the difference between a cow and pig. Does that make sense?” said Tom Donnell, a farmer from Coles County.
Rauner recently addressed a group of farmers and state agriculture industry leaders in Logan County
“The Department of Agriculture is not run right,” Rauner said.
He suggested the problem lies with the man in charge.
“How about we have farmers and farm families in charge of the Department of Agriculture. How about if we do that? Put competent people in charge of the government who are there for the right reasons,” Rauner said.
First of all, quoting a farmer at a Rauner event isn’t exactly dipping into a pool of average farmers, although considering that most are Republicans, it might actually be accurate.
* But should being a farmer be a necessary requirement to run Ag? Flider defends himself…
“As a legislator, I worked very closely in agriculture and one of the things I’m most proud of is that when I was appointed to this position, I had all the major ag groups support my confirmation,” Flider said. […]
“I know how to build partnerships and that’s what we’ve done. I think that’s what folks in agriculture would tell you. When times were tough during the drought, we worked with FDA to save hundreds of millions of dollars worth of corn that otherwise would have gone wasted,” Flider said.
* And former Republlican state Rep. Jim Sacia leapt to Flider’s defense in a recent op-ed…
Throughout Bob’s tenure, we served together on the Conservation & Agriculture Committee, as well as many others. I served as minority spokesman on Conservation & Agriculture, and regularly discussed issues affecting the ag community with Bob.
Bob is a thoughtful, dedicated, very hard-working public servant. His observations were always clear, concise and thought-through. I respected him then; I respect him now. The allegations that he was appointed by Governor Pat Quinn and is serving with no direct experience are totally without merit.
To insinuate that being a farmer would make one a better ag director ignores the importance of his strong rural roots, his prior leadership roles including Mayor of Mount Zion and his dedicated work as a state representative. Bob serves as the director of agriculture with dedication and exceptional competence. He listens to the issues, observes the lay of the land — pun intended — and acts decisively.
Though I retired from the House in October 2013, my involvement in agriculture and observation of the political process remain.
* The Champaign News-Gazette, however, piled on…
It is, of course, relatively common for ambitious politicos who find themselves between stints in elective office to take high-profile administrative jobs in government for which they have no real qualifications. For equivalent positions in the private sector, most of them wouldn’t make it past the first job interview.
Some defend this approach on the grounds that it’s impossible to separate politics from politics. But it ought not be impossible to separate the administration of government from politics. Illinois is virtually a failed state, and one reason for that is the extent to which our elected and appointed officials have made short-term, politically expedient decisions that have had disastrous long-term consequences.
That has to stop. One way to do so is by upgrading the administrative quality of state government and getting the biggest bang for the buck. That Rauner plans to do so speaks well of his vision for changing the current business-as-usual approach.
I think there’s a case to be made for appointing the “best and brightest” to state agency directorships. However, those policy wonks often don’t make great managers, and they often find out the hard way that navigating Illinois’ political waters can be treacherous. Flider was a lobster before he was a legislator, so he really knows the ropes. That’s a plus on his side.
* And if you actually read Rauner’s ag policy brief, he heaps lots of praise on the state’s all-important economic sector. He has one quibble…
When drafting rules and regulations, our agencies should utilize science-based decision-making, and not knee-jerk politics, both for crop farms and for livestock
Yet, he never explains what those damaging “knee-jerk politics” actually are. It’s empty rhetoric.
* One more item from his ag policy report…
Especially for small family farms, innovation and entrepreneurship can make the difference between getting by and having to give up the farm. Activities like making and selling apple butter from their own trees or baking pies from their own pumpkins are precisely the sorts of activities the state should be celebrating. Creative agri-tourism provides the opportunity for farmers to share their hard work with the rest of the world.
Isn’t that a bit like Mike Dukakis going to Iowa and preaching about growing cranberries to a bunch of corn farmers?
* But back to the topic at hand. Farmers, like pretty much all special interest constituencies, love to be pandered to. And telling farmers that only a farmer can run Ag is basically just that, a pander.