Obama's Advice to Farmer Spurs Wild Goose Chase

Thursday, 18 Aug 2011 05:26 PM

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President Barack Obama’s advice to an Illinois farmer to call the U.S. Department of Agriculture to check out stories about new rules and regulations before worrying about them turns out to be a very time-consuming and useless recommendation.

Obama gave the advice during a town hall in Atkinson, Ill., after a farmer expressed concern about new rules about dust, noise, and water runoff that might affect his farm.

Obama, farm, Illinois, advice, politico
President Barack Obama, addressing Illinois residents during his Midwest bus tour Wednesday, told a farmer to call the USDA when he wonders about policies. The advice didn't work for a reporter, who became snarled in the bureaucracy. (AP Photo)
Obama said: “If you hear something is happening, but it hasn’t happened, don’t always believe what you hear.”

“Contact USDA,” he added, according to Politico. “Talk to them directly. Find out what it is that you’re concerned about. My suspicion is a lot of times they’re going to be able to answer your questions, and it will turn out that some of your fears are unfounded.”

Politico reporter MJ Lee decided to try the president’s advice and ended up in a bureaucratic morass over two days, bouncing from federal officials to state offices and never getting an answer. Lee left messages, was transferred from office to office and was even asked, “Did you Google this or anything?”

Even identifying oneself as a reporter was little help. An Illinois Natural Resources Conservation Service spokeswoman told Politico that “our particular agency does not deal with regulations. We deal with volunteers who voluntarily want to do things. I think the reason you got that response from the Cambridge office is because in regard to noise and dust regulation, we don’t have anything to do with that.”

The reporter’s final stop was the USDA’s main media relations department in Washington, which resulted in an email of boilerplate and no answer to the question.

“Secretary Vilsack continues to work closely with members of the Cabinet to help them engage with the agricultural community to ensure that we are separating fact from fiction on regulations because the Administration is committed to providing greater certainty for farmers and ranchers. Because the question that was posed did not fall within USDA jurisdiction, it does not provide a fair representation of USDA’s robust efforts to get the right information to our producers throughout the country.”

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