On Monday, October 21, 2013, Kansas State University had the privilege of welcoming 6 former United States Secretaries of Agriculture to the 163rd Landon Lecture. The Landon Lecture Series on Public Issues, named after Kansas governor Alf Landon (1933-1937), began in 1966 and is considered one of the most prestigious lecture series among America’s colleges and universities. Those present were John Block (‘81-‘86), Mike Espy (‘93-‘94), Kansas native Dan Glickman (‘95-’01), Ann Veneman (’01-’05), current senator Mike Johanns (’05-’08), and Ed Shafer (’08-’09). K-State agricultural economics professor Dr. Barry Flinchbaugh monitored the lecture.
The lecture began with each former secretary discussing their current views on U.S. agriculture, where it’s been, and where it is going. Secretary Glickman discussed the world population doubling in the next 4 decades and what kind of impact that that will have on the food production industry. Secretary Veneman also discussed how malnutrition is affecting citizens, especially children, here in the US and globally. Dr. Flinchbaugh then asked each secretary to discuss what their most significant issue while serving was. Secretaries Veneman and Johanns both agreed that the outbreak of BSE was, by far, the most significant issue during their terms. Secretary Block discussed that during his term President Reagan was shot, which negatively impacted his productivity. Among other topics discussed during the lecture were the impact of biotechnology and genetically modified foods on the global agriculture industry, nutrition in school and within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP), and the importance of keeping trade open between countries around the world. The lecture ended with questions from the audience. Questions included the impact of production on soil quality and lands set aside for conservation, government funding for research, and how to get young people to become sufficient producers without assistance from family members or friends.
Overall, the lecture was extremely interesting and very insightful to pressing issues within the agriculture industry on a local, national, and global level. Hearing the former secretaries recall the good moments, bad moments, and everything in between made for an enjoyable evening. This was my 3rd Landon Lecture I have attended, adding to the list of former President George W. Bush and current U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. I recommend attending the next lecture to anyone who is interesting in learning more about public issues. Dr. Flinchbaugh stated that by the end of the lecture, our faith in government would be restored. My complete faith might not have been restored but my excitement about the future of the agriculture industry has been rejuvenated!
P.S.- To view this lecture and previous Landon Lectures go to http://ome.ksu.edu/lectures/landon/history.html
Image cited: http://m.cjonline.com/news/business/2013-10-21/former-us-ag-secretaries-wade-policy-weeds