The Corner

Call The Department of Agriculture

Yesterday, president Obama mildly mocked a farmer concerned about the feds imposing more regulations on his livelihood.

At Wednesday’s town hall in Atkinson, Ill., a local farmer who said he grows corn and soybeans expressed his concerns to President Barack Obama about “more rules and regulations” — including those concerning dust, noise and water runoff — that he heard would negatively affect his business.

The president, on day three of his Midwest bus tour, replied: “If you hear something is happening, but it hasn’t happened, don’t always believe what you hear.”

When the room broke into soft laughter, the president added, “No — and I’m serious about that.”

Saying that “folks in Washington” like to get “all ginned up” about things that aren’t necessarily happening (“Look what’s comin’ down the pipe!”), Obama’s advice was simple: “Contact USDA.”

So a reporter for Politico followed his advice. An excerpt:

Wednesday, 2:40 p.m. ET: After calling the USDA’s main line, I am told to call the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Here, I am patched through to a man who is identified as being in charge of “support services.” I leave a message.

3:53 p.m.: The man calls me back and recommends in a voicemail message that I call the Illinois Farm Bureau — a non-governmental organization.

4:02 p.m.: A woman at the Illinois Farm Bureau connects me to someone in the organization’s government affairs department. That person tells me they “don’t quite know who to refer you to.”

4:06 p.m.: I call the Illinois Department of Agriculture again, letting the person I spoke with earlier know that calling the Illinois Farm Bureau had not been fruitful. He says “those are the kinds of groups that are kind of on top of this or kind of follow things like this. We deal with pesticide here in our bureau.”

“You only deal with pesticides?” I ask.

“We deal with other things … but we mainly deal with pesticides here,” he says, and gives me the phone number for the office of the department’s director, where he says there are “policy people” as well as the director’s staff.

4:10 p.m.: Someone at the director’s office transfers me to the agriculture products inspection department, where a woman says their branch deals with things like animal feed, seed and fertilizer.

“I’m going to transfer you to one of the guys at environmental programs.”

It goes on and on.

I love this because you can tell that Obama really believes that criticisms of the government stem from slack-jawed yokels listening to too much Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. The idea that a farmer might understand the business-end of government-agriculture relations better than Barack Obama never occurs to him.  The questioner must be ignorant or misinformed because the question is inconvenient. And the solution is just as obvious. Simply call the government and you’ll get all the information you need.

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